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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

by Harriet Jacobs

Family Theme

Slavery is a family affair in almost every sense of the word. Even more than race, it seems that what family you're born into determines your status. Family is an emotional anchor, but in that way it's a physical anchor as well—like how Linda's devotion to her children keeps her hiding out in a crawlspace for seven whole years. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is just as much about keeping her family together as it is about achieving personal freedom. And the best way to keep families happy? Abolish slavery.

Questions About Family

  1. Why is family so important to the slaves we meet?
  2. How do slave laws control African-American families?
  3. What are white families like in the novel? What are black families like?
  4. What does it mean that Linda’s story ends in freedom instead of marriage?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Slavery ruins families either by physically separating them, in the case of slave families, or corrupting them, in the case of white families.

Jacobs depicts slave families as being kind and loyal, while the white slave-holding families are greedy and cruel.

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