Linda Brent is a pseudonym for Harriet Jacobs in her slave narrative Incidents of a slave girl. The book is about Linda Brent’s life experience as a slave. The storyline is based on the account of her humiliations as she struggles by living a discontented life. The story also highlights the type of castigation that was witnessed in those dark days. Brent tries to stress the absurd punishments that were given to slaves because of simple mistakes at times mere misunderstandings that didn’t go well with the slave masters. Like many other slave narratives, the account is given by a slave who creates a lucid situation for any reader. Linda Brent mainly focuses on narrating the grave situations of young girls’ abuse that are not commonly highlighted in other slave narratives.
The analysis of this study is evaluating the character of Linda Brent to determine whether she was a hero or a victim of circumstances.
As a young girl, Linda grows up with a perception of a secure environment oblivious of her status in the society she’s living in. She is unaware because she was lucky to be born under considerate masters. The masters are kind enough to empower her with an education to the level of reading and writing. Her caring parents take good care of her but they shield her from reality (Jacobs 28).
Linda develops a bold and courageous character due to her lack of information. She develops a positive attitude in life unlike other slaves because she does not consider herself as someone’s belongings. As she grows older, she encounters new masters who treat her differently. Dr. Flint mistreats her but her positive attitude towards life enables her to endure the miserable life, and it gives her hope that she will one day lead a normal life like any other human being in happiness with her family. She is a selfless person ready to bear the burden of her children to safeguard them from the misery of slavery (Jacobs 72).
Brent is also a principled person and she continually refuses to recognize the legality of slavery. She bluntly rejects the idea that she is owned by her master. She has an autonomous will that keeps her going even when Dr. Flint sexually harasses her. Linda’s intelligence and rebellious nature lead her to a psychological war between her and Dr. Flint to discard the advances channeled towards her. She at times uses vicious contentment aimed at upsetting him.
Due to her carefree spirit, she sparks off an affair with Mr. Sands intending to hurt Dr. Flint and to prove that she is in charge of her sexuality. She does not love Mr. Sands she considers it wrong to have an affair with Mr. Sands, but it gives her the satisfaction of being in a position to choose her lover. This clearly shows her rebellious and manipulative character. She chooses to live uncomfortably in a small loft space for seven years instead of living contentedly as Dr. Flint’s concubine. She endures this situation to prove to herself that she is a free spirit (Jacobs 100).
When Linda becomes a mother, she changes her mutinous nature. She does not give up on her dream of being free but she becomes profoundly attached to her children who are ironically owned by Dr. Flint. The thought of dreadful things that might happen to them if she decides to escape from Dr. Flint makes her hesitate from escaping. Her maternal feelings create a predicament as she is faced with the biggest test of her life wondering whether she should stay with her children or finally get the freedom that she has longed for all her life. She finally opts to remain with her children and sacrifice her freedom.
Linda Brent can be described as a hero and also a victim of circumstances. She is a hero because she has lived as a free spirit all her life standing by her beliefs. She has an autonomous will that keeps her going even when Dr. Flint sexually harasses her. She also did a selfless act by choosing to remain with her children so that she could safeguard them from Dr. Flint instead of ensuring her freedom by running away.
Her rebellious character is also shown in various instances like when she sparks off an affair with Mr. Sands intending to hurt Dr. Flint and to prove that she is in charge of her sexuality. She does not love Mr. Sands. Just like any other black girl in those days, she is a victim of slavery but her situation was worse because she was sexually harassed by her master.
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents In The Life Of A Slave Girl. Boston: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.