The book’s protagonist and a pseudonym for the author. Linda begins
life innocently, unaware of her enslaved state. In the face of betrayal and
harassment at the hands of her white masters, she soon develops the knowledge,
skills, and determination that she needs to defend herself. Linda is torn
between a desire for personal freedom and a feeling of responsibility to her
family, particularly her children.
in-depth analysis of Linda Brent.
Linda’s master, enemy, and would-be lover. Although Dr. Flint has the
legal right to “use” Linda in any way he chooses, he seeks to seduce her by
means of threats and trickery rather than outright force. Linda’s rebelliousness
enrages him, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her will.
Throughout the long battle over Linda’s right to own herself, Dr. Flint never
shows any sign of remorse or understanding that she is a person with rights and
in-depth analysis of Dr. Flint.
Linda’s maternal grandmother and chief ally. Aunt Martha is pious and
patient, suffering silently as she watches her children and grandchildren sold
off and abused by their masters. Aunt Martha also represents a kind of maternal
selfishness, grieving when her loved ones escape to freedom because she will
never see them again. For her, family ties must be preserved at all costs, even
if it means a life spent in slavery.
in-depth analysis of Aunt Martha.
Linda’s mistress and Dr. Flint’s jealous wife. Mrs. Flint is
characterized mainly by her hypocrisy. She is a church woman who supposedly
suffers from weak nerves, but she treats her slaves with callousness and
brutality. Mrs. Flint demonstrates how the slave system has distorted the
character of southern women.
Linda’s white lover and the father of her children. Mr. Sands has a
kindlier nature than Dr. Flint, but he feels no real love or responsibility for
his mixed-race children. He repeatedly breaks his promises to Linda that he will
Linda’s beloved uncle, a slave who defies and beats his master and
then runs away. Uncle Benjamin’s successful escape inspires Linda, but also
shows her that to run away means to give up all family and community
Benny and Ellen
Linda’s children with Mr. Sands. Linda loves Benny and Ellen
passionately, and her feelings about them drive the book’s action. Benny and
Ellen are dutiful children but otherwise are not characterized in great
Linda’s other uncle, instrumental in her escape. Uncle Phillip is
reliable and moderate, remaining in the South with his family long after his
mother, Aunt Martha, buys his freedom.
Linda’s brother, to whom she is close. William’s escape from Mr.
Sands, his relatively “kind” master, shows that even a privileged slave desires
freedom above all else.
Linda’s maternal aunt and Mrs. Flint’s slave. A martyr figure, Aunt
Nancy is slowly killed by Mrs. Flint’s abuse.
A family friend who helps Linda escape. Peter urges Linda to risk the
escape he has planned rather than to remain in her attic
The “white benefactress”
An upper-class white friend of Aunt Martha’s who hides Linda for a
while. She is not named even with a pseudonym and is one of the few
genuinely sympathetic slave owners in the book.
A slave in the household of the white benefactress. Betty is
uneducated but an intelligent, loyal, and resourceful slave who provides
material assistance and encouragement to Linda.
A family friend who lives with Aunt Martha and helps Linda escape
An old slave woman who tells Aunt Martha to rejoice that William has
run away. Aggie provides a counterpoint to Aunt Martha’s reluctance to see her
loved ones escape to the North.
Dr. Flint’s daughter and Linda’s legal “owner.” Emily Flint serves
mainly as Dr. Flint’s puppet, sometimes writing Linda letters in her name,
trying to trick her into returning to Dr. Flint.
Emily Flint’s husband, who seeks to recapture Linda after Dr. Flint
dies. Although Mr. Dodge is northern by birth, entering southern society has
made him feel as floundering and desensitized as any native-born slave
Dr. Flint’s son. Nicholas is essentially a carbon copy of his father,
with the same lecherous tendencies toward his female slaves that Dr. Flint
Young Mrs. Flint
Nicholas’s bride. Seemingly kind at first, young Mrs. Flint provides
further evidence of the cruelty of slaveholding women when she orders an elderly
slave to eat grass.
Mr. Sands’s New York cousin, to whom he “gives” Ellen. Mrs. Hobbs is
a little slice of the Old South in Brooklyn, selfishly treating Ellen as
property and highlighting the continued danger for escaped slaves even after
they reach the Free States.
A southerner visiting Brooklyn who betrays Linda’s whereabouts to Dr.
Flint. Like Mrs. Hobbs, Mr. Thorne signals that a fugitive slave can never feel
Mrs. Bruce (#1)
Linda’s first employer in New York City. Mrs. Bruce is a kindly
Englishwoman who helps Linda hide from the Flints. She dies and is replaced by
Mrs. Bruce #2.
Mrs. Bruce’s husband, who takes Linda on a trip to
Mrs. Bruce (#2)
Mr. Bruce’s second wife. The second Mrs. Bruce is an abolitionist
American who protects Linda at great risk to herself and ultimately buys her
freedom from Mr. Dodge. Linda claims to be very grateful to Mrs. Bruce but is
also very upset at being purchased by her.
Amy and Isaac Post
Abolitionist antislavery friends of Linda’s in Rochester. The Posts
appear in the book under their real names. They show Linda that it is possible
for white people to treat her as an equal.
Reverend and Mrs. Durham
Free blacks, and the first people Linda meets in Philadelphia. The
Durhams, with their legitimate marriage and morally upstanding lives, remind
Linda that slavery has robbed her of the chance to have a normal
A slave friend of Linda’s with whom she escapes by boat to the North.
Fanny had the devastating experience of watching all of her children be sold to
An elderly woman and the sister of Aunt Martha’s mistress. Miss Fanny
buys and frees Aunt Martha when Dr. Sands puts her on the auction
An acquaintance of Linda’s from home whom she meets on the street in
New York. Luke has escaped by stealing money from his dead master, and Linda
uses him as an example of how slaves cannot be judged by the same moral
standards as free citizens.