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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl


by Harriet Jacobs

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Born in Chains

Linda realizes she's a slave when she's six years old. One of her mistresses teaches her how to read, and Linda starts getting ideas—like, maybe she shouldn't be a slave. In fact, maybe no one should be a slave.


Not-So-Sweet Nothings

When Linda is fifteen, Dr. Flint gets that special glint in his eye. He sends her creepy notes and whispers dirty things in her ear. To make the whole experience extra appealing, Dr. Flint insists that he'll never sell her to anyone else. She's going to belong to him forever.


16 and Pregnant... Again

Linda gets herself knocked up, hoping it'll gross Dr. Flint out enough that he'll sell her. No such luck. And now she's stuck, because she can't just jet off to the North and leave her kids behind. Even though she does finally run away, she hides herself in a tiny crawlspace for seven years just so she can be near them.


Follow the Drinking Gourd

Finally, Linda's friend Peter comes to her with a plan to board a ship sailing North. After some hemming and hawing, Linda heads for the boat and sails off toward an uncertain future.


New York, New York

Linda loves her new home and her new job, but she doesn't love that Dr. Flint is still after her. Seriously, he just can't take a hint. He tries one ploy after another, but Linda manages to evade him. The suspense rises when the U.S. government passes the Fugitive Slave Act, meaning that all the northerners helping Linda are now breaking the law.


What You Get for… $300

Finally, Linda's employer Mrs. Bruce convinces Dr. Flint's daughter to sell her. With the help of an elaborate community of family, friends, and random do-gooders, Linda has finally achieved one of the major goals of her life: freedom for herself and for her children.


There's No Place Like Home

But that's only one of her goals. At the end of Incidents, Linda is still not completely satisfied. What she really wants is the American Dream: to live in her own house with her children.

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