Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Linda Brent

An innocent young slave girl, Linda must grow up fast when she
finds herself in the clutches of a morally corrupt master. She begins life
with a secure attachment to her parents, who take excellent care of her for
her first six years. They don’t tell her she is a slave, which enables her
to develop a strong sense of self-worth that later allows her to overcome
major obstacles. Linda is confident and spirited, and she never really
accepts the fact that she is the property of another person. Although she is
exposed to the most degrading treatment at the hands of Dr. Flint, she never
loses her self-respect or her desire to have a normal home and family. She
is devoted to her children and willing to endure great suffering for their
Just as she refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the slave system,
Linda totally rejects her master’s claim that she is his property, body and
soul. She is an independent spirit, and Dr. Flint’s sexual harassment only
intensifies her desire to control her own life. Linda is clever, rebellious, and
strong-willed, and from the start, she lets Dr. Flint know that she will never
submit to his advances. She enters into a battle of wills with him and at times
even expresses a perverse satisfaction at tricking him or making him angry. Her
independence also leads her to have an affair with Mr. Sands, largely to spite
Flint and retain some control over her sexuality. Although she doesn’t love Mr.
Sands and believes that it is wrong to have sex with him, she takes satisfaction
in her ability to choose whom to sleep with. Similarly, when she hides in an
attic crawl space for seven years, substituting a life of physical suffering
over the relatively “easy” existence she would have had as Dr. Flint’s
concubine, Linda once again expresses her strong desire to be psychologically
and spiritually independent.
As Linda grows up, and particularly after she becomes a mother, her
rebellious and independent nature is somewhat modulated. As a young girl, Linda
dreams only of escaping slavery for a better life in the North. After becoming a
mother, she still wants freedom, but she also feels deeply attached to her
children, who are also Dr. Flint’s property. She is unwilling to leave them and
worries about what will become of them if she runs away. Unlike some of the male
characters in the book, she cannot simply sever all of her emotional ties and
start over in the North. Most of Linda’s actions are directed by this essential
emotional and moral conflict. She is torn between her independent nature and her
maternal feelings, which urge her to sacrifice her own opportunity for freedom
to save her children. In the end, motherhood wins out, although Linda’s bold
spirit is never extinguished.