Study Guide

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Chapter 4, The Slave who Dared to Feel Like a Man 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.
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Chapter 4, The Slave who Dared to Feel Like a Man Summary and Analysis

Linda's youngest uncle, Benjamin, has an independent and rebellious spirit which makes him particularly bitter about his life as a slave. Her brother, William, is still only twelve years old, but appears to be following in his uncle's footsteps.

William and Benjamin appear to derive their courage from an inner sense of self-worth—a deeply-rooted belief in their own rights as human beings that has been beaten down in most slaves. Their unusual self-assurance may be largely due to the influence of their mother/grandmother, Aunt Marthy, and of William's father, whose relative freedom has enabled them to view themselves as valid human beings rather than as chattel.

Dr. and Mrs. Flint evidently see signs of this same quality in Linda, because they make a concerted effort to humiliate her and put her in her place. Linda recounts a time when Mrs. Flint arbitrarily took way her new shoes (a gift from her grandmother) and made her walk barefoot through the snow.

Benjamin, now in his early twenties, resists the authority of his master. They get into a fight, resulting in the master being thrown to the ground. Knowing that there will be severe repercussions for this act, Benjamin escapes, but is captured on his way to the North and brought back. Upon his return, he is forced to spend several months in jail, where the infestation, poor food quality, and poor general living conditions take their toll on his health.

He is finally released from prison to be sold to a slave trader who promises not to sell him until he reaches New Orleans. Benjamin never reaches New Orleans, however. He escapes a second time—this time successfully reaching freedom in the North. His brother, Phillip later accompanies his master to New York, and happens to see Benjamin when he is there. Phillip is happy to find that his brother is free and happy. Benjamin asks Phillip to stay so they can work together in New York, but Phillip decides to return to the South and his family. This is the last that Linda and her family hear of Benjamin. Linda and her Grandmother are saddened that Benjamin is no longer a part of their lives, but understand that he is happier now that he is no longer a slave.

Benjamin's story gives the reader, early on in the story, a clearer understanding about what a slave risks by attempting to escape, and what is gained if the attempt is successful.

Later, Linda's grandmother is able to purchase Phillip and free him from slavery.

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