Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Compare between Dr. Flint in Jacbs' incidents and Schoolteacher in Morrison's Beloved

comparision between two slavemasters

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 2
Add Yours

"Although he is based on Harriet Jacobs’s real-life master, Dr. Flint often seems more like a melodramatic villain than a real man. He is morally bankrupt and lacks any redeeming qualities. He is thoroughly one-dimensional, totally corrupted by the power that the slave system grants him. He sees no reason not to use and abuse his slaves in any way he chooses, and he never shows any signs of sympathy for them or remorse for his crimes. If Dr. Flint expresses kindness, it is invariably a ruse to try to get Linda to sleep with him. Dr. Flint represents the cruelty, callousness, and treachery of the entire slave system.

Dr. Flint loves power above all else, and it often seems that forcing Linda to submit to him is more important to him than simply sleeping with her. He is galled and infuriated by her defiance, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her will. Rather than simply raping her, he persists in his efforts make her acknowledge his mastery. When Linda escapes, he pursues her relentlessly, putting himself hundreds of dollars in debt to chase her to New York. After his death, his venom and determination seem to be reincarnated in the form of his son-in-law, Mr. Dodge. Dr. Flint neither changes nor grows over the course of the narrative. His malice, representing all of the evils of slavery, appears to affect Linda even from beyond the grave." (1)

Pseudonym for Dr. James Norcom, Jacobs' master and tormentor. Obsessed with Linda, Dr. Flint relentlessly pursues her, forcing her to make some drastic decisions to avoid his physical and sexual control. (2)


(1) (2)

Following Mr. Garner’s death, schoolteacher takes charge of Sweet Home. Cold, sadistic, and vehemently racist, schoolteacher replaces what he views as Garner’s too-soft approach with an oppressive regime of rigid rules and punishment on the plantation. Schoolteacher’s own habits are extremely ascetic: he eats little, sleeps less, and works hard. His most insidious form of oppression is his “scientific” scrutiny of the slaves, which involves asking questions, taking physical measurements, and teaching lessons to his white pupils on the slaves’ “animal characteristics.” The lower-case s of schoolteacher’s appellation may have an ironic meaning: although he enjoys a position of extreme power over the slaves, they attribute no worth to him.(1)


"Mr. Garner's brother-in-law. Schoolteacher was a cruel and sadistic master, interested in ways to break the wills of his slaves. He conducted a pseudo-scientific study of the slaves, treating them in his study the way a biologist treats lab animals. His nephews held Sethe down and stole her milk while schoolteacher took notes. When it was discovered that Sethe told Mrs. Garner what they had done, schoolteacher had one of his nephews whip Sethe, giving her the distinctive scars on her back." (2)


(1) (2)