Summary and Analysis Chapter 39



Linda has lived in Boston for two years, and her brother, William, offers to send Ellen to boarding school. Although she is reluctant to part with her daughter, Linda eventually agrees that this would be in her daughter's best interest. The night before Ellen is scheduled to leave, Linda tells her the truth about her father, Mr. Sands. To her surprise, she discovers that Ellen has known the truth all along.

Linda is lonely without her daughter, and gratefully accepts an assignment as a seamstress for a neighboring family. Upon returning home, she finds a letter from William, asking her to help him establish an anti-slavery reading room in Rochester. She agrees to work with him, but the project doesn't receive broad community support and fails. Linda spends the next year with the family of Isaac and Amy Post, well-known anti-slavery advocates whose Rochester, New York, home, was a well-known station on the Underground Railroad.


After Linda tells Ellen the circumstances of her daughter's birth, Ellen confides that she was deeply hurt by the way her father favored his white child over her. But, again, readers see the recurring theme of the strength of the bonds within the black community; Ellen says to her mother, "But now I never think any thing about my father. All my love is for you." This chapter also clearly demonstrates that Linda is willing to make great sacrifice to ensure her daughter's advancement. Linda is dejected about her daughter's leaving, but although she must suffer another loss, she realizes the importance of the opportunity for Ellen to continue her education. Linda puts a high priority on knowledge as a means to personal power, and she has passed on this value to Ellen. Ellen hates to leave her mother alone, but knows that she must take the opportunity offered her: "I am almost sorry I am going, though I do want to improve myself."