Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
by Harriet Jacobs
In case we hadn't already figured out that slavery pollutes everything it touches, here comes Mrs. Flint to prove it.
Sure, Linda tells us that "Mrs. Flint, like many southern women, was totally deficient in energy. She had not strength to superintend her household affairs; but her nerves were so strong, that she could sit in her easy chair and see a woman whipped" (2).
Nice introduction, right? Obviously, we're not going to like Mrs. Flint. She's mean, petty (like when she spits in the pots to make sure that the slaves can't scrape out leftovers), and vindictive (like when she sends Linda on an errand, barefoot, in the snow).
But the thing is, Linda actually feels sorry for her. See, slavery destroys homes because it puts men in positions of absolute power over their female slaves. Linda explains:
The poor girls … To what disappointments are they destined! The young wife soon learns that the husband in whose hands she has placed her happiness pays no regard to his marriage vows. Children of every shade of complexion play with her own fair babies, and too well she knows that they are born unto him of his own household. Jealousy and hatred enter the flowery home, and it is ravaged of its loveliness. (6)
It might seem weird that Linda forgives Mrs. Flint, but it actually makes sense in terms of the way she's positioned her story. Remember, she's trying to convince Northern white women that they need to stand up for their enslaved sisters. So, it would probably be bad policy to go around saying that all women are pure and good, including slaves—oh, but wait, not Southern women. Nope, they're as bad as their masters. Instead, Linda makes the Southern women into just one more set of women corrupted by the evils of slavery.