Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl By Harriet A. Jacobs Summary and Analysis Chapter 33

Summary

Linda searches for work, but finds job hunting difficult, because potential employers require recommendations that she, as a fugitive, is unable to provide. Finally she meets Mrs. Bruce, a kindly English woman, who hires her as a nurse for her baby, Mary. Mrs. Bruce is a "true and sympathizing friend" to Linda. When Linda is unable to perform her duties because constant stair climbing causes her legs to swell, Mrs. Bruce brings in her personal physician to attend to Linda. Mrs. Bruce also offers Linda the opportunity to bring Ellen to live with her, but Linda declines her offer for fear of offending Mrs. Hobbs. Mrs. Bruce also offers to have her personal physician, Dr. Elliot, attend to Ellen, who is still experiencing problems with her eyes, a condition related to a bout of measles at age two. But when Linda asks Mrs. Hobbs' permission for Ellen to see Dr. Elliot, she refuses. Later, she informs Linda that she has employed her own doctor to attend to Ellen. Meanwhile, Linda, who is using her meager earnings to help provide for Ellen, grows increasingly anxious about her daughter's future.

The chapter ends brightly, because William, Linda's brother arrives in New York — dressed in sailor attire — and reunites with Linda and Ellen. The three easily re-establish the bonds among them, "There are no bonds so strong as those which are formed by suffering together."

Analysis

A key incident in this chapter revolves around Ellen's working for the Hobbs family. Ironically, Linda's daughter is in the same situation that Linda herself was in when she worked for Dr. Flint's family. Although both women are now living in the North, their subservient social status remains virtually unchanged.

In this chapter, a recurrent theme of the book again emerges: Blacks of the slavery era were often powerless to come to the aid of loved ones who needed help. Linda's status as a fugitive prevents her from inviting Ellen to live with her, because making such an arrangement might offend Mrs. Hobbs. Linda again must feel the powerlessness of being unable to protect her children. However, at the end of the chapter, a second recurring theme is highlighted: The ease with which Linda, William, and Ellen re-establish their bonds shows the comfort and support that members of the black community provided to one another.

This chapter also clearly demonstrates Linda's continued and understandable reluctance to trust whites, even though she is now living in the North. But she regrets that she must continue to be wary, especially with Mrs. Bruce. "I longed for someone to confide in; but I had been so deceived by white people, that I had lost all confidence in them." However, Linda's improved circumstances are beginning to heal her emotionally; she enjoys the opportunities for reading and intelligent conversation, and she says, "I gradually became more energetic and more cheerful."

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz