Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl By Harriet A. Jacobs Summary and Analysis Chapter 32

Summary

Linda reunites with her daughter Ellen, who has been living and working in New York with Mrs. Hobbs, a cousin of Mr. Sands. Overjoyed at seeing her daughter, Linda is dismayed to discover that Ellen has been neglected. Despite Mr. Sands' promise that Ellen would be sent to school, Linda finds that Ellen has not been given much of an opportunity to attend school, although she has lived with Mrs. Hobbs for two years. As Linda prepares to leave, Mrs. Hobbs tells her that Mr. Sands has given Ellen to her oldest daughter as her maid. Devastated that Mr. Sands has not kept his promise to free her children, Linda realizes that she will have no control over her children's future until she herself is legally free. Consequently, she writes to Dr. Flint and to his daughter to inquire about the terms of her sale. Dr. Flint responds that he will consider her request only if she returns to her rightful owners.

Analysis

Linda's comment concerning her preference for "a straightforward course" reveals her reluctance to resort to deceit and trickery to obtain her objectives, even though she knows that she has little or no choice in the matter. Her comment also reveals her moral conflict: As a Christian woman who has been instilled with a strict value system by her grandmother, she feels compelled to be honest and straightforward in her dealings with others, but as a slave who has been denied the right to make her own value judgments, she feels equally compelled to do whatever it takes to maintain her freedom. Thus, she finds herself in the painful position of having to compromise her morals in order to survive.

Enslaved men and women often had to resort to these tactics to ensure their own survival. And, historically, blacks were often stereotyped as sly and deceitful. Of course, the sly and deceitful tactics Dr. Flint uses to try to coerce Linda into submission make clear that the premise of such an illogical argument is rooted in racism.

Also significant is the incident with the hackman who attempts to exploit Fanny and Linda. Here again, Linda learns that freedom does not automatically lead to respect and dignity. However, she also realizes that she must learn to judge people by their actions rather than by their race, because several whites have stepped forward to help the two women.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

After Linda escapes from Mr. Flint's plantation, her relatives advise her to do what?




Quiz