Study Guide

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Chapter 1, Childhood Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 46 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
This section contains 453 words
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Chapter 1, Childhood Summary and Analysis

Here, Linda relates the details of her early childhood, which she admits is an unusually happy one for a slave child. For the first six years of her life, Linda lives in a house with her mother and father. Although both of her parents are slaves, they have been granted an extraordinary amount of freedom, being allowed to live together and raise their family with little interference from their masters. Her father is even able to work independently and earn his own income, so long as he pays his mistress an annual fee of $200 for this privilege. During this time, Linda is not even aware that she and her family are slaves.

When Linda is six, her mother becomes ill and passes away. It is at this time that she first discovers that she is legally a slave. However, aside from her grief over the loss of her mother, Linda's life continues relatively happily. Her mistress takes Linda into her own home, treats her kindly, and teaches her how to read and write. However, this kind mistress passes away when Linda is twelve years old. Since Linda has never been treated like a slave, she is hopeful that she will be granted her freedom. When she discovers that she has been bequeathed to her mistress's five-year-old niece, Linda is made to feel like a piece of property for the first time, and feels bitterly betrayed by the mistress she had dearly loved.

Linda's unusually free and happy childhood will prove to be both an advantage and a disservice throughout her life. It will be a disservice because it will make it extremely difficult for her to function as someone else's slave when she has been raised to expect humane and respectful treatment (other members of her family, notably Benjamin and William, suffer the from the same difficulty in adjustment). However, the fact that her parents and first mistress raised her and her brother "to feel that they were human beings" undoubtedly contributes to the self-assurance that enables Linda to resist Dr. Flint's advances, and helps her to eventually extricate herself and her children from slavery.

In this chapter the reader also learns the history of Linda's maternal grandmother. Aunt Marthy, as she is called by the townspeople, was legally granted her freedom during childhood, but was later recaptured and sold back into slavery. She was purchased by a slave-holding family who seem more humane than most, and is evidently treated fairly well, but is unable to save her children from the auction block. Her youngest son, Benjamin is sold to a neighboring family at the age of ten, much to his mother's dismay.

This section contains 453 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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