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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Chapter 40, The Fugitive Slave Law Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 43 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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After the failure of the anti-slavery reading room endeavor, William decides to move to California and to take Benny (who evidently has returned from the whaling expedition) with him. Ellen is happy at her boarding school, and Linda is once again alone.

Mr. Bruce is remarried, and he and his second wife have a new infant child. Linda is again offered the position of nursemaid to this family and she gladly takes it, although she feels far less secure in New York than she did in Boston. In New York she is much more likely to be captured and turned over to Dr. Flint.

Linda finds that she likes the second Mrs. Bruce as well as the first. The new Mrs. Bruce, while being an American of an aristocratic upbringing, appears to be as devoid of racial prejudice as her English predecessor. She is also an avid abolitionist who actively protects Linda from the Fugitive Slave Law. The Fugitive Slave Law was passed shortly before Linda returned to the Bruce household and required all free states to hand known fugitive slaves over to authorities in the states from which they escaped.

Linda runs into an escaped slave from her hometown, named Luke, who had been particularly abused by his late master. She asks him if he is aware of the dangers he faces while walking the streets of New York, and asks if he has enough money to pay for his passage to Canada. Luke informs her of a scheme of his which allowed him to justify stealing the sufficient cash from his master upon his death. While Linda agrees that Luke is entitled to the money, and much more, for serving the master for many years without pay, she laments on the way in which slavery warps the moral reasoning of all those involved.

Eventually, Linda becomes afraid to leave the house when sent on errands by her mistress, for fear of being apprehended. Mrs. Bruce happily sends Linda into hiding in the country for a month and tells her to carry the child with her for protection. Linda is deeply moved that Mrs. Bruce would part with her child in the interests of protecting a poor fugitive slave. Mrs. Bruce states that she is aware that the penalty for harboring a fugitive slave is imprisonment and a $1,000 fine, but that she would gladly risk this punishment rather than compromise her beliefs. Linda returns to New York when she feels the danger has passed.

This section contains 428 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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