uncle toms cabin

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BARRON'S BOOK NOTES HARRIET BEECHER STOWE'S UNCLE TOM'S CABIN ^^^^^^^^^^HARRIET BEECHER STOWE: THE AUTHOR AND HER TIMES Isabella Jones Beecher was furious. It was bad enough that Southerners persisted in enslaving people, but now they were forcing Northerners to do their dirty work. The Fugitive Slave Law passed as part of the Compromise of 1850 required residents of nonslave states to cooperate in returning runaway slaves to the South. In Boston, where Isabella lived with her husband, the Reverend Edward Beecher, everyone was talking about the awful new law. Black and white abolitionists had met at historic Faneuil Hall to pledge that no fugitive slave would ever be taken from Massachusetts. The Beechers had been strongly antislavery for years. Thinking about what she could do to protest this new outrage, Isabella Beecher sent a letter to her sister-in-law, Harriet Beecher Stowe, a housewife with six children who occasionally wrote for magazines. "If I could use a pen as you can," she wrote, "I would write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is." As Charles Stowe tells the story, his mother read the letter aloud to her children in their parlor in Brunswick, Maine. She rose from her chair and "with an expression on her face that stamped itself on the mind of her child, said: 'I will write something. I will if I live.'" The "something" was Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe intended to write a tale of slavery in three or four episodes, and she arranged for publication in the National Era, an antislavery paper that had printed some of her earlier work. As it happened, she wrote considerably more. The serial ran from June 1851 to April 1852. Readers couldn't get enough of it, and protested to the editors on the rare occasions when Stowe missed a week's installment. When Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, was published in book form in March 1852, the first 5000 copies were bought in two days. By the end of the year, more than 300,000 copies had been sold. Uncle Tom's Cabin was a runaway best-seller. In some ways, Harriet Beecher Stowe seemed like an unlikely person to produce such a phenomenon--an extremely popular book on an extremely serious issue. She turned out magazine sketches, it's true, to make extra money, since she had six children, including a set of twins, and her husband didn't earn much of a living. Prior to writing Uncle Tom's Cabin she had published a collection of New England local color pieces. Frequently overwhelmed by family responsibilities, she once wrote her husband, who was away on business, that she was "sick of the smell of sour milk and sour meat, and sour everything." But in other ways, Stowe was ideally placed to write about the great issue of her time. She was born in 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut, into one of the first families of American religion. Her father, Lyman Beecher, had a considerable reputation as a Protestant preacher when she was growing up. The early nineteenth century was a time of upheaval in American Protestantism. Charles Grandison Finney developed a new kind of revival preaching that swept New York State. His doctrine that sin could be avoided led many of his converts into reform movements as well as into church. Although Lyman Beecher differed from Finney on some points--he was much closer to the mainstream of the Presbyterian Church--Beecher, too, was a stirring revival preacher. And he, too, was drawn to reform, especially to the temperance movement (the movement to reduce alcohol consumption). Moving from Litchfield to Boston when Harriet was in her teens, Beecher campaigned against what he considered the overly liberal Unitarians. Beecher communicated his interests to his children. His six sons became ministers, some of them distinguished, and three of his four daughters, barred from that career, became reformers. Harriet was four when her mother died, and she was raised by aunts and a stepmother. She was a lonely, serious child, and her father's high theological standards sometimes burdened her. When she told him at age fourteen that she had taken Jesus as her savior, he encouraged her to look deep within herself to make certain that she was really saved. Like many educated young women of her day, she began teaching at the same age in a school run by her older sister Catharine. Eventually Harriet and her younger brother, Henry Ward Beecher, came to believe in a God more loving and accessible than their father's. In 1832 Lyman Beecher became president of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. But trouble soon erupted. In 1834, Theodore Weld, a convert of Finney's, came to the school to study for the ministry. Weld had become an abolitionist, and in a series of stormy discussions he turned most of his fellow students against Beecher's view that sending blacks to colonies in Africa was the answer to the problem of slavery. A large group of students left Lane for newly established Oberlin College, and neither Beecher nor Lane Seminary ever quite recovered. The Lane debates were part of the birth pangs of the American abolitionist movement. As early as the eighteenth century, some Americans had opposed slavery. In the years after the American Revolution, slavery was banned in Northern states, and the Constitution abolished the slave trade from Africa as of 1808. Beyond that, organized opposition was confined to groups like the Quakers (members of the Society of Friends), who disapprove of slavery on religious grounds. (Quakers hold that the divine Inner Light resides in every human, regardless of race or sex.) In 1817 some distinguished political leaders founded the American Colonization Society, whose goal was to raise money to buy slaves from their owners and send them to Africa. But that movement failed, in large part because the free blacks of the North viewed themselves as Americans and had no desire to settle on a continent they had never seen. In the 1830s, however, American attitudes toward slavery underwent a revolution. In 1830 the merchant Arthur Tappan formed an antislavery organization. The next year William Lloyd Garrison, a Boston journalist, began to publish The Liberator, a militant antislavery newspaper whose first supporters and subscribers were Northern free blacks. In 1833, following the abolition of slavery in the British empire, Garrison and the Tappan group joined to form the American Antislavery Society (AASS). Throughout the 1830s, they organized rallies, conventions, and revivals over the North. Some people responded to the abolitionist view of slavery as a sin because of what they'd heard at Finney's revivals, but the abolitionists were not generally popular. Speakers were mobbed and occasionally murdered (as was Edward Beecher's friend Elijah Lovejoy in 1837) and printing presses were burned. But the persistent agitation convinced many Americans, regardless of how they felt about abolition or the abolitionists, that slavery was an issue that could not be ignored. In 1840 the movement split into two branches, when a group withdrew from the AASS to form the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison's group saw the abolition of slavery as part of a fundamental reform of American society; more conservative abolitionists believed that slavery alone was the problem. Abolitionists differed, too, on such questions as the role of women in the movement. Garrisonians favored full participation by women, while conservatives wanted to avoid embracing stands that would alienate Northern public opinion. Followers of Garrison agreed with him that slavery had to be abolished by changing public opinion rather than by working through the U.S. Congress; his opponents used conventional political methods. Besides the abolitionists, a growing number of Northerners in the 1840s and 1850s came to oppose the expansion of slavery to the territories that were entering the Union as states. They disliked slavery, but did not necessarily believe that it could or should be ended in the South. These people were called antislavery rather than abolitionist, and Harriet Beecher Stowe could be characterized as one of them. The fight against slavery attracted the energies of a number of American women, who soon discovered that within that movement for liberation they were second-class citizens. Women had to fight for the right to speak at abolitionist meetings, to hold office in organizations, and to be seated as delegates at conventions. (Debates about their proper place in the movement had contributed to the split in 1840.) In 1848, a group of women who had been excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention eight years earlier met at Seneca Falls, N.Y., to proclaim that, in words that recalled the Declaration of Independence, "all men and women are created equal." Most early leaders of the American women's movement of the nineteenth century were abolitionists (just as most leaders of the American women's movement that began in the 1960s emerged from the civil rights movement). Harriet Beecher Stowe had a ringside seat for the religious and political agitation of her day. In 1836 she married Calvin Stowe, a Professor at Lane Seminary. In addition to her exposure to religious and moral reform currents through her father, and to abolitionism through her connection with Lane, Stowe remained close to her sister Catharine, at whose school in Cincinnati she had taught before her marriage. Catharine Beecher was not a feminist in the mold of the women's rights activists who met in the pathbreaking convention at Seneca Falls, in 1848. She believed that men and women lived in separate worlds, and she worked to increase the power of women in their sphere, the home, rather than in the world at large. Catharine Beecher saw childrearing and home management as sciences worthy of respect, and she wrote many books (one, The American Woman's Home, in collaboration with Harriet in 1869) to that effect. Like many reformers the sisters believed that women had a higher morality than men, and that it was their duty to raise the rest of society to women's level. The feminists of the late twentieth century are the descendants of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the women of Seneca Falls, not of Catharine Beecher, and they argue over whether Catharine and her sisters were feminists. Whether or not they were feminists in today's terms, both were dedicated to improving the lot of women. In Cincinnati, Harriet Beecher Stowe had a closer view of slavery than she would have had back in Connecticut. Located on the Ohio River across from the slave state of Kentucky, the city was filled with former slaves and slaveholders. In conversations with black women who worked as servants in her home, Stowe heard many stories of slave life that found their way into Uncle Tom's Cabin. In 1839 the Stowes hired a servant who had been brought to Ohio by her mistress, and was therefore technically free. Learning several months later that the young woman's former master was looking for her, Calvin Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher took her to a safe house in the country in the dead of night. This episode showed up years later in the novel as Eliza's rescue by Senator Bird. In its last chapter Stowe attempts to prove the capability of black people by listing the free blacks of Cincinnati with whom her husband had dealings. Part of Uncle Tom's Cabin was based on Stowe's reading of abolitionist books and pamphlets and slave narratives, some of which were ghostwritten by abolitionists. But at least some of the book came from her own observations of black Cincinnatians with personal experience of slavery. In writing about slavery Stowe went beyond what was acceptable for a woman novelist in the United States. Other women writers of her day wrote decorous tales of domestic life under names like "Fanny Fern" and "Grace Greenwood." Like them, Stowe focused on female characters and values. But unlike them, she wrote under her own name about the most pressing issue of the time. She wrote--as did many male American authors, but not female writers--in dialect rather than refined prose. And the dialect was spoken by sympathetic black characters! No wonder one reader called her a "foul-mouthed hag." Stowe got around the point by insisting that she wasn't really the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. "The Lord himself wrote it, and I was but the humblest of instruments in His hand," she said. Like much of what Harriet Beecher Stowe said, that statement contains two messages: "I'm not much, I'm just writing this down for God," on the one hand, and on the other--"Listen to me, God speaks through my voice." A nineteenth-century woman was not supposed to be proud of her ability, except as a mother. Stowe found a way of disclaiming responsibility for her success and glorifying it at the same time. Right from the start, people either loved or hated Uncle Tom's Cabin, which appeared in book form in 1852. Enthusiastic letters poured in to Stowe from around the country and the world. The American poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier wrote congratulatory letters. Ralph Waldo Emerson noted in his journal that everyone read it, including "the lady, the cook, and the chambermaid." From abroad came praise from the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, the French novelist George Sand, and the German poet Heinrich Heine. Although abolitionists were not satisfied with Uncle Tom's Cabin because it endorsed sending free blacks to Africa, leaders of the movement like William Lloyd Garrison and Thomas Wentworth Higginson told Stowe they were glad she had written it. A stage version of Uncle Tom's Cabin written by Charles W. Taylor appeared shortly after the novel was published, and a few years later George L. Aiken produced the version that was frequently performed in the late nineteenth century. Millions of Americans saw the play--even more than read the novel--but as the years passed, the drama had less to do with either Stowe or her original story. The play, performed by white actors in blackface, stressed the comic and melodramatic parts of the novel. By the 1870s, it was, according to one observer, "half a minstrel show and half a circus." By 1880 some productions included live bloodhounds chasing Eliza across the ice. In addition to its impressive sales--precise records were not kept in the nineteenth century, but the book is thought to have sold more than two million copies in English and in translation--the influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin was astonishing. As a friend of Stowe's told her, "I thought I was a thorough-going abolitionist before, but your book has awakened so strong a feeling of indignation and of compassion that I never seem to have had any feeling on this subject until now." Because Uncle Tom's Cabin appealed to the emotions of nineteenth-century readers through pitiful scenes of children torn away from their mothers and melodramatic plot devices, it made many people think of slaves as people for the first time. The influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin is reflected in the story (probably apocryphal) that President Lincoln greeted Stowe in 1863 by saying, "So this is the little lady who made this big war." Even if Lincoln was exaggerating the book's influence, Uncle Tom's Cabin did contribute to the climate of opinion in the North that made the continued existence of slavery unacceptable. Many Southerners claimed that Uncle Tom's Cabin gave a misleading picture of slavery. Stowe, who had tried to make the book accurate and fair to the South--Mrs. Shelby, George Shelby, and Augustine and Eva St. Clare are extremely sympathetic characters, and the book's villain, Simon Legree, is from New England--was stung by these attacks. Uncle Tom's Cabin, as you'll see, is full of Stowe's little lectures about the truthfulness and source of various details. The year after it was published, Stowe produced A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, which answered the critics point by point and supplied further documentation for her stories. In 1856 she wrote another novel about slavery, Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. Today, the debate about the accuracy of Uncle Tom's Cabin has largely been resolved in Stowe's favor. Recent historians like Herbert Gutman (in The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925) and Eugene G. Genovese (in Roll, Jordan, Roll) paint a picture of slavery that is not appreciably different from the one in Stowe's novel. Like Stowe, modern historians acknowledge that slaveowners' treatment of their property varied enormously, and that masters as cruel as Simon Legree were rare. But most of them would agree with Stowe that the possibility of being sold to a Simon Legree weighed heavily on the minds of slaves. The description in Uncle Tom's Cabin of life on the Shelby plantation is largely accurate for an operation of its type, according to what we now know about slavery. In the relationship between Eliza and Mrs. Shelby and between Uncle Tom and his wife Aunt Chloe and young George Shelby, Stowe shows the warm mutual feeling that could develop between slaves and masters. In the characters of Sam and Andy, she demonstrates the pattern of slave behavior that contemporary historians, like slaves, call "putting on ol' Massa." She shows the way slaves shared information about life on the plantation. She points to the existence of a slave community, and shows that religion was important in maintaining both group feeling and an individual sense of worth and hope. However, she doesn't seem to have known much about black music; she has Tom sing standard Methodist hymns much more often than the slave sorrow songs, or spirituals. Her portrayal of the St. Clare household shows some of the differences between plantation slavery and slavery in the cities. In Adolph and Rosa, she shows how some house servants identified with the social style of their owners, and saw themselves as a cut above the other slaves. Although Stowe's depiction of slavery is accurate in its general outlines, it is not correct in every detail. Many of Stowe's inaccuracies show up in her efforts to make black characters appealing to white readers. For example, it is true that babies were sometimes sold away from their mothers. (Since records of this sort were not kept, it is impossible to generalize with statistical accuracy, except about small specific populations that historians have been able to study.) And it is true that every slave mother lived with the threat of losing her child. However, in Uncle Tom's Cabin, nearly all the black female characters lose, or (like Eliza) are at risk of losing, their children. This seems like an attempt to tug at the heartstrings of Northern female readers rather than provide an accurate description. Another way in which Stowe attempted to engage her readers' sympathies was by making two of her leading characters, George and Eliza Harris, light-skinned enough to pass for white. Their color serves the plot, since it makes it easier for George and Eliza to escape. But in their characters, Stowe associates lightness of skin with attractiveness, intelligence, and energy. George and Eliza are very much like white people, which may have engaged the sympathies of white readers. Although there were no doubt some slaves like George and Eliza, skin color in fact is not an indication of attractiveness or ability. Some readers have objected to what they see as Stowe's use of racial stereotypes in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Black novelist James Baldwin, for example, criticized the linking of light skin with high intelligence in the characters of George and Eliza. He also blasted the book for praising black submissiveness in the character of Uncle Tom. Other black readers agree. During the 1960s blacks who put too much energy into maintaining good relations with whites were dismissed by militants as "Uncle Toms." In your reading of the book, you'll have to decide whether that interpretation is accurate. By the late nineteenth century Uncle Tom's Cabin had gone out of print in the United States, although it was still read widely in Europe and Russia. It was not reissued in the United States until 1948. It is possible that, in the years after the Civil War, Americans were tired of the moral passion of the crusade against slavery--and that by the late 1940s, with the renewal of the struggle for black civil rights, they were ready to embrace those passions again. The book gained new popularity during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Readers are still drawn to the vividness of the characters of Uncle Tom, Simon Legree, little Eva, and Topsy, and to the excitement of the story. Uncle Tom's Cabin gives modern readers a reasonably accurate look at life under slavery, and it also provides an absolutely compelling demonstration of how Americans, and especially American women, felt about slavery. Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin today will help you understand what drew women to reform movements in the nineteenth century, and why Americans fought the Civil War. Uncle Tom's Cabin changed Harriet Beecher Stowe's life. Although she had negotiated a poor royalty arrangement, she earned $10,000, enough money to live comfortably. She traveled frequently to Europe, where both she and her book were highly esteemed. Nothing else she wrote attained the popularity of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Although she completed a fine novel about life in New England, The Minister's Wooing (1859), the noted critic Edmund Wilson had a point when he wrote, "If there is something to be said for the author's claim that Uncle Tom's Cabin was written by God, it is evident that the nine novels which followed it were produced without divine intervention by Harriet Beecher Stowe herself." After her husband's death, Stowe returned to Hartford, Connecticut, where her house today is open to visitors. She died there in 1896. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: THE PLOT Mr. Shelby, a kindly Kentucky plantation owner, is forced by debt to sell two of his slaves to an unsavory trader named Haley. Uncle Tom, the religious and good-hearted manager of the plantation, understands why he must be sold. He says good-bye to his wife, Aunt Chloe, and their children, and leaves with Haley for the slave market in New Orleans. The other slave marked for sale is Harry, a four-year-old. His mother, Mrs. Shelby's servant, Eliza, overhears the news and runs away with the little boy. She makes her way to the Ohio River, the boundary with the free state of Ohio. The early spring ice is breaking up, and she crosses the river with her son in her arms by jumping from cake to cake. In Ohio, Eliza is sheltered by a series of kind people. At a Quaker settlement, she is reunited with her husband, George Harris. George's master abused him even though George was intelligent and hard-working, and he had decided to escape. The recent passage of the Fugitive Slave Law required citizens of free states to help return runaway slaves to their owners. George and Eliza find friends who are willing to help runaway slaves in spite of the new law. But they would not be safe, even in the North. In fact, they are followed by Marks and Loker, slave-catchers in partnership with the trader, Haley. With Marks and Loker in hot pursuit, the Quakers drive George, Eliza, and their son toward Sandusky, so that they can catch a ferry for Canada, where slavery is forbidden and American laws do not apply. Meanwhile, Uncle Tom is headed down the river, deeper into slavery. On the boat, he makes friends with Evangeline St. Clare--little Eva--a beautiful and religious white child. After Tom rescues little Eva from near-drowning, Eva's father, Augustine St. Clare, buys him. St. Clare is charming and intelligent, an indulgent master, and life in the household is carefree. Its other white members include Marie St. Clare, Augustine's selfish, whiny wife, and Ophelia, his cousin from Vermont. Ophelia has just moved to New Orleans, and she and Augustine argue long and hard about slavery, he defending it, she opposing it. Augustine buys Topsy for Ophelia to raise in order to test her theories about education. Topsy is bright and energetic but has no sense of right and wrong. Ophelia is almost ready to give up on her when little Eva shows her how to reach Topsy. Tom and Eva study the Bible together and share a belief in a loving God. But Eva becomes ill and dies. Her death, and her example, transform the lives of many of the people around her. Even her father becomes more religious. Unfortunately he is accidentally killed before he can fulfill his promise to Eva to free Tom, and Tom is sold again. This time Tom is not so lucky. He is bought by Simon Legree, who owns an isolated plantation on the Red River. Legree is cruel and sadistic, and his plantation is a living hell for his slaves. They are worked so hard they have no time to think or feel, and Legree sets them against each other. Missing are the family ties of the Shelby plantation in Kentucky or the gaiety of the St. Clare household in New Orleans. Tom almost loses his faith in God, but recovers it and continues his work among the other slaves. He becomes friends with Cassy, a good but despairing woman who has been Legree's mistress. Cassy arranges for her and Emmeline, the girl Legree has chosen as his next mistress, to escape, and she urges Tom to join them. He will not, but he allows himself to be savagely beaten by Legree rather than reveal what he knows about the women's whereabouts. The Shelby's son, George, arrives at Legree's plantation to rescue Tom, but it is too late. Tom is dying. George confronts Legree and knocks him down. He buries Tom, and swears on his grave that he will do everything he can to end slavery. On his way back to Kentucky, George Shelby meets Madame de Thoux, who turns out to be George Harris' sister. It is also discovered that Cassy, who is on the same boat, is Eliza's mother. George Shelby goes home and frees his slaves, telling them they owe their freedom to Uncle Tom. Madame de Thoux, Cassy, and Emmeline continue on to Montreal, where George Harris and Eliza are now living with Harry and their baby daughter. The reunited family moves to France, where George attends the university, and then to Africa, where he believes he can do the most good for his people. Uncle Tom's Cabin has many characters. The following discussion groups them by the geographical area they're principally associated with in the novel. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: UNCLE TOM Uncle Tom manages the Shelby plantation. Strong, intelligent, capable, good, and kind, he is the most heroic figure in the novel that bears his name. The list of Tom's virtues is endless. He is a good father to his own children, especially the baby, Polly, and also nurtures the children of his masters, George Shelby and Eva St. Clare. From Stowe's description of his voice, "tender as a woman's," and his "gentle, domestic heart," you might almost suspect that he is a woman disguised as a muscular black man. Tom's most important characteristic, from Stowe's point of view, is his Christian faith. The Bible--which George Shelby has taught him to read--is alive for him, and he makes it live for the people around him. He preaches at the service in his native Kentucky. And he makes the people he encounters, black and white--Prue, Augustine St. Clare, Cassy--feel and believe in the love of Jesus. Tom doesn't just talk about religion, he lives it. Through his example, and then by his death, he makes converts. Religion is very simple for Tom. It means loving all of God's creatures and serving God by helping them. Tom feels real compassion for others, as he demonstrates when St. Clare drinks too much. He is always willing to help--by jumping into the Mississippi to save Eva or by putting cotton in Lucy's bag. Tom also feels responsible for other people. He refuses to escape from the Shelby plantation with Eliza, because he knows that his sale will make it possible for Mr. Shelby to keep running it, and to save the other slaves. He will not escape from Legree's plantation with Cassy and Emmeline because he feels that he has work among the slaves there, and he dies rather than betray them to Legree. God has given Tom an extraordinary ability. He can forgive the evil done to him, even by the beastly Legree. His self-sacrificing love for others has been called motherly. It has also been called truly Christian. Many readers feel that the character of Uncle Tom seems too good to be true. For black readers especially, Uncle Tom has become a symbol of black accommodation and defeat. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, blacks who were seen as too cautious, too unwilling to alienate whites, were called "Uncle Toms." The most famous attack on the character of Uncle Tom came from a black novelist and intellectual, James Baldwin. Writing in 1949, Baldwin deplored the fact that "Tom,... [Stowe's] only black man, has been robbed of his humanity and divested of his sex." Many modern readers agree with Baldwin. Others argue that you have to see Tom in Stowe's terms, not our own. For her, Tom was a hero, and his decision to suffer rather than to fight or flee was not the result of cowardice but his only moral choice. Stowe believed--and frequently announced in the novel--that blacks were morally superior to whites, and that their acceptance of their oppression would earn them a place in heaven. The debate over the character of Uncle Tom resembles in some ways the evolution of the American civil rights movement that began in the 1950s. During the movement's early days, civil rights leaders adopted a moral tone. Demonstrators knelt in prayer while they were attacked by police with dogs or hoses. The idea was to demonstrate the kind of moral superiority and forgiveness that Uncle Tom showed Simon Legree. As time passed, however, some people in the civil rights movement found the religious stance demeaning. Black people, they said, had to fight back when they were attacked. They must meet violence with violence. In the aftermath of the movement--and as black people make greater strides in American society--black power has come to mean much more than just spiritual nobility. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: AUNT CHLOE Aunt Chloe, Uncle Tom's wife, is fat, warm, and jolly. She is a good housekeeper and a superb cook, and justly proud of her skill. She loves Tom, and urges him to escape to Canada rather than to go South with Haley. After Tom is sold, she convinces the Shelbys to hire her out to a baker in Louisville and to use her wages to buy Tom's freedom. She is heartbroken to learn of his death. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: MOSE, PETE, AND POLLY Mose, Pete, and Polly, the children of Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe, are playful and rambunctious. Polly is Tom's special favorite, and she loves to bury her tiny hands in his hair. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: ELIZA HARRIS Eliza Harris is raised by her mistress, Mrs. Shelby, to be pious and good. Described as light-skinned and pretty, Eliza dearly loves her husband, George Harris, and their little boy, Harry. When she learns that Harry is about to be sold, Eliza carries him in her arms to the Ohio River, which she crosses on cakes of ice. Although generally a modest and retiring young woman, Eliza becomes extraordinarily brave because of her love for her son. When her family has been reunited and is safely settled in Canada, Eliza keeps a good home and gives birth to a daughter. At the novel's end, she learns that Cassy is her long-lost mother. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: GEORGE HARRIS George Harris, portrayed as a light-skinned and intelligent slave, belongs to a man named Harris. He is married to Eliza, who lives on the Shelby plantation, and they have a son, Harry. When Harris withdraws George from the factory where he has been working--and where he has invented a machine--and urges him to move in with another woman, George runs away. He eventually escapes to Montreal, Canada, where he works in a machinist's shop and tries to improve himself by reading. When his long-lost sister reappears and offers him money, George asks for an education. After studying in France for four years, he decides to move to Africa with his family, where he believes he can accomplish the most for blacks. George is in some respects the opposite of Uncle Tom. Although he respects his wife's religion, he himself is not a Christian. He is not opposed to violence and vows that he will not be taken alive by the slave-catchers. George believes that he is as strong and as intelligent as white men, and therefore deserves the same rights. He claims that America is not his country because the promises contained in its Declaration of Independence and Constitution do not apply to him. By the novel's end, George calls himself a Christian. By moving to Africa, he removes himself from the slaveowners he could never forgive in the United States. Although he agrees with Stowe's position in the end, George never embraces the instinctive Christianity of Uncle Tom. You see less of George Harris than of Uncle Tom, and he is a less significant character in the novel. But you may find him easier to understand and to respect than Uncle Tom. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: HARRY AND LITTLE ELIZA Harry and little Eliza are the children of George and Eliza Harris. Harry, born a slave on the Shelby Plantation, is bright and cute, and sings and dances for Mr. Shelby and Haley. He is so beautiful that he is disguised as a girl in order to escape into Canada. Once there, he does very well in school. Little Eliza is born free in Canada. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: SAM AND ANDY Sam and Andy, slaves on the Shelby plantation, provide comic relief through their mispronunciations and deliberate mishaps. Andy, who likes to make speeches, is meant to satirize politicians. But Sam and Andy make an important contribution to the novel's plot--their clowning allows Eliza to escape across the Ohio River. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: MR. SHELBY Mr. Shelby, the owner of a Kentucky plantation, generally treats his slaves well, but he decides to sell two of them, Uncle Tom and little Harry, to pay off a debt. Although he regrets the sale, Shelby feels he has no other choice. His wife disagrees. Do you think she's right? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: MRS. SHELBY Mrs. Shelby, a kind, religious woman, tries to raise the family's slaves with Christian values. She attempts to convince her husband not to sell Tom and Harry, and she helps Eliza escape. Warm-hearted Mrs. Shelby treats her slaves like people, crying with Aunt Chloe when Uncle Tom leaves and consoling her when they learn he is dead. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: GEORGE SHELBY George Shelby, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Shelby, is thirteen years old when the novel begins, and eighteen when it ends. He likes to spend time with Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe, basking in their kindness and attention. He teaches Uncle Tom to read and write, and reads the Bible at the slaves' religious meeting. On Uncle Tom's grave, he swears to do whatever he can to fight against slavery, and he begins by freeing the slaves on his own plantation. George is one of the few characters who changes during the course of Uncle Tom's Cabin, as he develops from a good-hearted but somewhat self-centered boy into a noble and effective man. Stowe probably wished other slaveowners would follow George's example. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: HALEY, TOM LOKER, AND MARKS Haley, Tom Loker, and Marks are among the worst villains in the novel--slave-traders. But Stowe (and a number of characters in the book) points out that slave-traders couldn't stay in business if nice people didn't buy slaves. Haley sets the plot of Uncle Tom's Cabin in motion by insisting that Mr. Shelby sell him Tom and little Harry. Haley curses, smokes, drinks, and dresses badly. He claims to be humane because he is not completely cruel to the slaves he buys. But you can see that he's a nasty person. He doesn't believe slaves have feelings, so he doesn't think twice about separating a mother and child--like Eliza and little Harry, or about the woman who jumps off the steamboat on the Ohio River after he sells her baby. Haley can't understand why these things keep happening to him. Tom Loker and Marks are crude fellows, who make their living catching escaped slaves. You often see them in taverns. Tom Loker is shot by George Harris, but the Harrises and the Quakers forgive him, and he is nursed back to health in the Quaker settlement. He gives the Quakers the information that helps George and Eliza disguise themselves so they can elude Marks at the Sandusky ferry. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: MR. AND MRS. BIRD Mr. and Mrs. Bird live in Ohio with their three children. Tiny Mrs. Bird is a wonderful housekeeper and mother. Mr. Bird, a senator, has just voted for the Fugitive Slave Law. Mrs. Bird tries to convince him that he is wrong, and that one must allow the heart to guide the head. The appearance of Eliza on their doorstep makes him realize that he isn't capable of turning in a fugitive. One of the Birds' children has recently died, and their loss makes them more sympathetic to Eliza. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: RACHEL HALLIDAY, SIMEON HALLIDAY, RUTH STEDMAN, DORCAS, AND PHINEAS FLETCHER These Quakers practice their religious beliefs in their daily lives. They risk fines by helping escaped slaves. Rachel Halliday and Ruth Stedman are motherly and sympathetic; Simeon and Phineas are quietly brave. They take good care of George and Eliza and make it possible for them to escape to Canada. Dorcas nurses Tom Loker back to health after George Harris shoots him. She doesn't quite convert him to her beliefs, but she does get him to give up slave-catching. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: AUGUSTINE ST. CLARE Augustine St. Clare, Tom's second master, is handsome, worldly, and charming. He indulges his slaves in his elegant New Orleans house and debates the issue of slavery with his cousin from Vermont. Most of all, St. Clare hates hypocrisy. Believing that slavery is wrong, he left the plantation he inherited with his twin brother because he didn't really want to be a slavemaster. St. Clare thinks black people will eventually gain their freedom, but he isn't sure how it will come about. In the meantime, he rails with equal fervor against Southern ministers who claim slavery is supported by the Bible, and Northerners who criticize slavery but won't let black children into their schools. Although he is not religious, Augustine has good qualities. As she did with Tom, Stowe calls Augustine womanish; his elegance and love of finery make him seem effeminate. Augustine loves his little daughter, Eva, and is devastated by her death. He is moved by Tom's religious belief, and seems to respond to it when he is killed. Augustine treasures the memory of his saintly mother, who is clearly the source of his compassion, and he cries out her name when he dies. Yet for all St. Clare's decency and charm, he has not provided for his slaves in his will, and they are sold when he dies. Augustine St. Clare seems in some ways to be Harriet Beecher Stowe's favorite character, and many readers are fond of him as well. Have you ever known anyone like him--charming and cynical on the surface, yet good underneath? Does he seem realistic to you? Given his beliefs, why do you think St. Clare doesn't free his slaves? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: EVANGELINE ST. CLARE Evangeline St. Clare is a beautiful child, spiritually as well as physically. She is filled with goodness and love. Her kindness to those around her, especially the slaves, brightens their lives, and leads some of them to embrace the Christianity she so instinctively radiates. Eva is responsible for St. Clare's purchase of Uncle Tom, and Tom becomes her special friend. The two spend hours poring over the Bible and discussing religion. The black slave and the little blonde girl are kindred spirits. But Eva--whose name suggests the Evangelist--becomes ill and dies. On her deathbed, she distributes locks of her hair and loving wishes to everyone around her. Is little Eva a real child? Do you think she ever got angry or fell down and tore her dress? Few of Stowe's major characters have much interior life, but to many readers little Eva seems to be the least realistic of all, a symbol with blonde curls rather than an actual person. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: MARIE ST. CLARE Marie St. Clare is a beautiful but spoiled woman who ignores everyone's feelings but her own and takes advantage of her servants. A hypochondriac, constantly claiming to have headaches, she cannot understand either her husband or their daughter. She doesn't pay much attention to either of them, except to complain. Because Marie can't act for anyone but herself, she fails to prevent Uncle Tom's sale to Simon Legree. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: OPHELIA Ophelia St. Clare comes from Vermont to manage her cousin Augustine's New Orleans household. Her thrifty New England ways contrast with the easy-going St. Clare style. One of Ophelia's functions in the novel is to contrast the North and the South. An abolitionist, Ophelia finds slavery "perfectly horrible," and she rails against it in her running debate with Augustine. Although she hates slavery, she doesn't like slaves very much either. Augustine is quick to point this out, and she agrees. Her experience with Topsy nearly causes her to give up on the young slave. But little Eva's example shows Ophelia how to love Topsy, and her love produces the positive results that scolding Topsy never could have achieved. Forceful, efficient, and good, Ophelia takes Topsy back to Vermont after St. Clare's death. Her letter to Mrs. Shelby results eventually in George Shelby's attempt to rescue Uncle Tom. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: ALFRED AND HENRIQUE ST. CLARE Alfred St. Clare, Augustine's dark, forceful twin brother, is a stern but decent slaveowner. The contrast between the twins contrasts their two approaches to slavery. Similarly, dark, handsome, proud, and angry Henrique, Alfred's son, contrasts with his blonde, loving cousin Eva. Henrique is cruel to his slave, Dodo, but Eva reaches him with her love. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: TOPSY Ignorant but energetic, Topsy is brought by Augustine into the St. Clare household to see whether the high-principled Ophelia is actually capable of managing a slave. Topsy, who can't tell the difference between right and wrong, tries Ophelia's patience. Raised without parents (or belief in God--"I spect I grow'd," Topsy says), she finds it hard to form ties with other people. She senses that Ophelia cannot accept her because she is black. Little Eva's love for Topsy begins to change the girl's heart, and it eventually softens Ophelia as well. Ophelia secures Topsy's freedom, and after St. Clare's death they move to Vermont, where Topsy joins the church and eventually becomes a missionary. Why do you think so many readers of Uncle Tom's Cabin cite Topsy as their favorite character? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: ADOLPHE, ROSA, JANE, DINAH, AND MAMMY The well-treated slaves in the St. Clare household seem to be divided into two groups. Some, such as Adolphe, Rosa, and Jane, are light-skinned servants who borrow the St. Clare family's airs as well as much of its wardrobe. Others, such as Dinah the cook, and Mammy, are dark-skinned, hardworking, and realistic. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: PRUE A worn-out, hard-drinking woman, Prue is beaten to death by her owners. Tom discovers the cause of her misery--like so many other slave women, she has lost her children to the slave-trader. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: SIMON LEGREE Simon Legree is the owner of a plantation on the Red River in Louisiana. Sadistic and cruel, he breaks his slaves in body and soul and works them to death. Legree has no real human ties. He has sexual relations with slave women whom he buys for that purpose, and his main companions are the barbaric Sambo and Quimbo. Legree is interested in growing as much cotton as he can, as his bet with several other plantation owners indicates, but he also seems to enjoy abusing his slaves, particularly Uncle Tom. Simon Legree comes from New England, where he was raised by a loving and God-fearing mother. At one time, the forces of good and evil struggled in his soul, but evil has long since won out. Stowe uses Legree's memories of his mother to explain why he is so superstitious--a weakness on which the plot depends. Not only does Legree drink and swear--important sins in Stowe's eyes--he displays a deeper evil as well. Her descriptions of the creepy, rotting plantation and the hanging moss, the wild carousing of Legree and his lieutenants, suggest that Legree may be the devil himself. Legree reinforces this suspicion when he urges Tom to "join my church." ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CASSY Cassy, the daughter of a wealthy white man and a slave woman, is sheltered and convent-educated. The death of her father results in her sale to a man who becomes her lover, and whom she adores. But after some years, he sells her and her children to pay a gambling debt. Cassy is driven half-mad by the loss of her son and daughter, and searches in vain for them. She is owned by a series of masters. By one of them she has a son, whom she kills with an overdose of opium rather than face the pain of losing another child to slavery. When you meet Cassy at Legree's plantation, she has been his mistress for several years. The two fight constantly, and he has just sent her back to work in the fields, where her work is better than anyone else's. The superstitious Legree fears her, calling her a "she-devil." Cassy's emotional instability strengthens this impression, but Cassy also understands Legree well, and she manipulates him to achieve her ends. Eventually she uses her hold over Legree to enable herself and Emmeline to escape. Cassy is good-hearted, as you see from her kindness to Emmeline and to Tom (whom she cares for after he is whipped). But the loss of her children and her experience as the mistress of men she doesn't love have hardened her. Cassy continually tells Emmeline to submit to Legree because there is no hope, and she tells Tom that his faith is in vain--God is nowhere on the Legree plantation. Yet, because of Tom's Christ-like influence, she learns to hope again. At Tom's deathbed, she cries for the first time in years and embraces religion. She escapes and eventually is reunited with her daughter--who turns out to be Eliza Harris--and her son. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: SUSAN, EMMELINE, AND LUCY Susan, Emmeline, and Lucy are sold in the New Orleans slave market with Uncle Tom and the rest of the St. Clare family slaves. Susan and Emmeline, a religious mother and daughter, are heartbroken when they are separated and sold. Legree buys Emmeline to be his mistress, but she resists him. Her innocent sense of right and wrong contrasts with Cassy's worldly wisdom. For example, Emmeline thinks it's wrong for Cassy to steal money from Legree's jacket pocket, but this money pays their steamboat fare North. Emmeline marries a crew member on the ship that carries the Harris family, Madame de Thoux, and Cassy to France. Lucy is purchased by Legree as a mistress for his second-in-command, Sambo, although she had a husband and children in New Orleans. Lucy finds it difficult to work in the fields, and Tom helps her by secretly putting cotton into her bag so that she will be able to turn in the required amount of cotton each day. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: SAMBO AND QUIMBO Sambo and Quimbo are Simon Legree's black lieutenants. Brutal and ignorant, they lord it over the other slaves. Legree manipulates them so that they fight with each other too. Both Sambo and Quimbo whip and otherwise abuse Tom, but they are converted by him in the end. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: MADAME DE THOUX A "French lady" whom Cassy and George Shelby meet on their trip up the Mississippi River, Madame de Thoux turns out to be George Harris' long-lost sister, Emily. Sold as a girl at the New Orleans slave market, she was bought by a man who freed her, married her, and brought her to the West Indies. Now a wealthy widow, she travels with her daughter in search of her brother. With George Shelby's help, she tracks him down in Montreal and offers to share her fortune with him. Madame de Thoux accompanies the Harrises first to France and then to Africa. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: SETTING Most of the action in Uncle Tom's Cabin occurs at three locations: the Shelby plantation in Kentucky (both the "big house" and Uncle Tom's cabin), the St. Clare house in New Orleans, and Simon Legree's plantation on the Red River in Louisiana. The slave system operated differently in each place, and the three locales together will give you an idea of the variety of slavery in the United States. There are also a number of less important settings--the Bird home in Ohio, the Quaker settlement, a Mississippi River steamboat, the St. Clare summer house on Lake Pontchartrain, and George and Eliza's Montreal apartment. Most of these places are described realistically, with the exception of Legree's plantation, which sounds like the outskirts of hell. In general, Stowe is not especially interested in physical description, although she pays more attention to characters' appearance than to setting. She is more concerned with interiors than with exteriors, and she devotes more attention to a table laid for tea than to a forest. Indeed, most of the action of the novel takes place indoors. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: THEMES The following are themes of Uncle Tom's Cabin. 1. THE EVIL OF SLAVERY Stowe's aim in writing Uncle Tom's Cabin was to convince Americans that slavery was evil, and she hammers her point home on almost every page. Stowe shows not only the horrors that slaves endure--the separation of husbands and wives and mothers and children, overwork, physical punishment--but also the effect of slavery on the characters of the masters, like Alfred St. Clare and his son, Henrique. The worst thing about slavery, as Stowe points out, is that it destroys the family. Slave mothers who have lost their children appear in almost every chapter. In addition, slavery destroys the soul. Several characters--Prue, Cassy, and to some extent, George Harris--have been so embittered by their experience that they no longer believe in God. Even Tom has to struggle to maintain his faith. Although she indicts slavery as evil, Stowe also has harsh words for the Northerners who are unwilling to accept black people. She cannot decide how slavery should be abolished, except by the actions of individual slaveowners like George Shelby. But she fears that if slavery continues, America will be severely punished by God. 2. MOTHERHOOD AND FEMALE VALUES Many of the characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin are mothers, and most of the black mothers have been separated from their children. Stowe appeals to the mothers among her readers to have sympathy for slave women. Motherhood, she both implies and states explicitly, teaches women to care about others as well as their own families. The beliefs and qualities that Stowe values most--kindness, generosity, gentleness--were associated with women in the nineteenth century. (They were also all identified with Christianity.) Stowe portrays women as being morally superior to men. Women like Mrs. Shelby and Mrs. Bird try to convince their husbands of what is right. (They must persuade gently, however, and never fight against their husbands.) The male heroes of the novel--Uncle Tom and Augustine St. Clare--are both explicitly described as womanly, and George Shelby is portrayed as being close to his mother. If Harriet Beecher Stowe ran the world, men would be much more like women. Although Stowe places female values at the center of her novel, how much power do the women characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin really have? Women in the novel certainly help each other reliably, but some readers have pointed out that Mrs. Bird and Mrs. Shelby aren't able to convince their husbands to do what is right. The only woman who really has power over a man, they point out, is Cassy, and she holds it because Legree fears she is half-crazy. (When Cassy is reunited with her daughter--when she becomes a whole woman again--her mental state improves.) One reader has pointed out that Eliza cannot even enter Canada, the land of freedom, as a woman. She must cut her hair and disguise herself as a man to take active steps toward gaining her freedom. 3. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY "What a thing it is to be a Christian!" Uncle Tom exclaims as he dies. Tom's religious faith is his outstanding characteristic. Stowe demonstrates the effect Tom's beliefs have both on his life and on those of the people around him. As practiced by Tom and little Eva, Christianity means love and forgiveness for all people. Tom adds self-sacrifice to this formula. He is willing to be sold and eventually to die for the good of others. Stowe distinguishes Christianity both from the nonreligious attitudes of characters like George Harris and Cassy, who are bitter and potentially violent, and from the false Christianity of ministers who follow popular fashions, like "Dr. B." whose church Marie St. Clare attends. The Christian values of love and self-sacrifice resemble closely the feelings of mothers. Some readers feel that Harriet Beecher Stowe equates being a good mother with being a good Christian. 4. THE IMPORTANCE OF HOME You can see Stowe's interest in homes in her descriptions of domestic interiors. For Stowe, home was the most important place on earth, the place where people learn to love each other and to love God. In Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe contrasts good homes--the Shelby plantation, the Birds', the Hallidays', the Harris' Montreal apartment--with bad homes like the St. Clares' (where the kitchen is in chaos and money is wasted), and Legree's crumbling plantation. For most of the novel, after they leave Kentucky, neither Tom nor George and Eliza have a real home. This is one of the evils of slavery--black people are never at home because they always dread being sold. In another sense, home means heaven in Uncle Tom's Cabin. The dying St. Clare tells his doctor that his mind is coming home, at last, and the dying Tom lets George Shelby know that the Lord is taking him home, to a better place than Kentucky. Although blacks may be homeless on earth, heaven is their eternal home, just as it is for whites. (Stowe suggests they have a greater claim to heaven than whites.) 5. THE INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY What responsibility do individuals have to the people around them? How can you live morally if your society is corrupt? For Stowe, slavery was an evil that poisoned personal relationships. Even in its mildest form, on the Shelby plantation or in the St. Clare home, slavery substituted money for love as the foundation of human relations. Because of slavery, good men like Mr. Shelby and Augustine St. Clare became responsible for the destruction of families and the sexual exploitation of young women. In its harsher forms, as on the Legree plantation, slavery was murderous and soul-destroying, a compact with the devil. The characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin respond differently to the troublesome question of individual morality in a corrupt society. The purest characters, Uncle Tom and little Eva, transcend their society, applying a Christian morality of love and forgiveness to the people around them and turning the other cheek to evil. Both Tom and little Eva feel responsibility for the community of slaves. Eva simply treats slaves with affection and kindness, although in her society this isn't simple to do. Tom has a more serious responsibility. In allowing himself to be sold by Shelby rather than escaping, in refusing to join Cassy and Emmeline in their escape from Legree's plantation, and in concealing the women's whereabouts, Tom sacrifices his comfort and finally his life for the good of others. Unlike Tom, Eva, and the Quakers, whose social conduct stems from their religious beliefs, another set of characters draw their morality from their emotions, treating the world as their family. Mrs. Shelby and Mrs. Bird extend their motherly goodness from their children to their communities. Mrs. Shelby treats her family's slaves kindly, and Mrs. Bird responds warmly to fugitive slaves. Ophelia, perhaps because she is not a mother, acts responsibly, but not warmly. Augustine St. Clare also attempts to care for the people around him. But he is not a good father, either to Eva or to his slave family. He is loving, but too indulgent. Thus, his slaves put on airs that will cause them trouble after his death. In addition, they are sold because he is not responsible enough to provide for them in his will. Can one man or woman change society? Stowe doesn't think so. She urges her readers to behave morally--to help fugitive slaves, for example. At the end of the book, she tells them to always act so that they feel right. But she doesn't seem to have any idea of how to eliminate slavery, except through the actions of individuals like George Shelby. Neither does Stowe seem interested in social movements or religious institutions. She doesn't think highly of abolitionists: the character of Ophelia and Augustine's story about his father's brother show that abolitionists don't like black people or treat them well in the North. She doesn't approve of the church, since her characters, especially Augustine, criticize it frequently for condoning slavery. It seems to Stowe that people can't act responsibly in groups. Individual morality (family feeling) and individual saintliness (sacrifice) are the only ways to live responsibly in society. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: STYLE Many readers think Harriet Beecher Stowe's writing style is the greatest weakness of Uncle Tom's Cabin. You may sometimes find the long sentences a little hard to take. For example: Mrs. Bird, looking the very picture of delight, was superintending the arrangements of the table, ever and anon mingling admonitory remarks to a number of frolicsome juveniles, who were effervescing in all those modes of untold gambol and mischief that have astonished mothers since the flood. Readers also object to the stilted language: An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night, and the night of the just to an eternal day. We have walked with our humble friend thus far in the valley of slavery; first through flowery fields of ease and indulgence, then through heart-breaking separations from all that man holds dear. Again, we have waited with him in a sunny island, where generous hands concealed his chains with flowers.... Others are upset by frequent quotations from sentimental poetry: It is a beautiful belief, / That ever round our head / Are hovering, on angel wings, / The spirits of the dead. Still others are bothered by Stowe's sentimentality: Ah, Legree! that golden tress was charmed; each hair had in it a spell of terror and remorse for thee, and was used by a mightier power to bind thy cruel hands from inflicting uttermost evil on the helpless! Finally, frequent invocations of "Mother! Mother!" as characters are wounded or die, strike many readers as artificial. Stowe's characters are always talking. Sometimes they give you information, as when George Harris tells Eliza that their marriage is not legally binding, which she must surely know. On other occasions, they argue the issue of slavery. Not only Augustine St. Clare and Ophelia do this, but also the steamboat passengers. Stowe makes some effort to distinguish the speech of her characters. The slaves speak in dialect--except for mulattoes like Eliza and George Harris--and characters like Tom Loker and Marks talk in a rough river slang. The Quakers use slightly old-fashioned language, with many "thee's" and "thou's"; while most of the speech of the white characters is formal and flowery. Few readers would claim that Uncle Tom's Cabin is beautifully written. The author's son, Charles Stowe, called the novel "an outburst of deep feeling" and explained that "the writer no more thought of style or literary excellence than the mother who rushes into the street and cries for help to save her children from a burning house...." Yet the novel has enormous power. Uncle Tom's Cabin may be a tearjerker, but it succeeds. Many readers find their eyes filling up as Eliza climbs up the Ohio riverbank, or George Shelby pledges to do "what one man can" to fight slavery. Stowe wanted to convince people that slavery was wrong, to engage their emotions. Her overheated style accomplishes that, perhaps better than more controlled writing would have been able to. It is hard not to respond when Stowe asks you, If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, tomorrow morning... how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours... the little sleepy head on your shoulder,--the small soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck? Readers argue over the style of Uncle Tom's Cabin--is it simply awful, or is it crude but effective? Does Stowe write more feelingly about some subjects, or some characters, than about others? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: POINT OF VIEW The story of Uncle Tom is presented by an omniscient narrator who tells you everything the characters say and do--and what she thinks about it. Stowe's opinions are clear from her chapter titles as well as from her descriptions of the characters' wardrobes, taste in interior decoration, and degree of neatness. If these broad hints are not enough, Stowe addresses you, in aside after aside, telling you what you should think and feel about what you are reading. There is no question--as there is in some novels--that the voice of the narrator belongs to the author. In the last chapter, she reveals that she has based several characters on anecdotes she heard from her brother and her husband. Uncle Tom's Cabin contains a few autobiographical incidents. Like the Birds, for example, the Stowes had black servants, helped fugitives, and lost a child. None of the characters, however, represents Harriet Beecher Stowe. Augustine St. Clare probably comes closer to expressing Stowe's ideas about slavery than any other character, but the novel is not told from his point of view. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: FORM AND STRUCTURE Uncle Tom's Cabin consists of forty-five chapters of varying lengths. Each recounts an incident or discussion. The flow of the narrative is somewhat choppy and repetitious, probably because each chapter originally appeared as a weekly installment in the National Era magazine. The structure of Uncle Tom's Cabin is relatively simple for a novel that contains so many characters. The book begins and ends with an escape--Eliza's at the opening, Cassy and Emmeline's at the close. The novel is structured around two journeys, one (George and Eliza's) north toward freedom, the other (Tom's) south toward more oppressive slavery and death. Descriptions of the two journeys alternate, although characters are followed for several chapters. Minor characters and subplots echo the major themes of maternal loss, the importance of home, and the evil of slavery. In addition, suspenseful or serious episodes--like Eliza's flight or the lengthy debates between Ophelia and Augustine about slavery--are interrupted by comic interludes like Sam and Andy's escapades or Topsy's description of how she "jest growed." Only in the final, grim, third of the book does the comic element disappear. These alternating patterns were typical in the fiction of Stowe's time. The novel is also structured around physical locations. It consists of three main sections--Kentucky, New Orleans, and the Red River, the sites of the plantations of Tom's three owners. The first section (Kentucky) depicts the happy domestic life of slaves under a kind master, Eliza and George's flight, and the courageous Ohioans who help them on their way. The second section (New Orleans) introduces Augustine St. Clare and little Eva, and you get to know Uncle Tom in a way you haven't before. This section contains most of the intellectual content of the book--the discussions of religion (Uncle Tom and Eva) and of slavery (Augustine and Ophelia). The third section (the Red River), much darker in tone, shows the worst aspects of slavery. Uncle Tom is sorely tried, but he eventually triumphs. Each section of the novel contains a climax. In the first section, it is Eliza's escape. In the second, it is the deaths of Eva and Augustine. The climax of the third section is Uncle Tom's death. If Stowe had been writing a play, she might have brought down the curtain after chapter 41, where Uncle Tom dies and George Shelby knocks Legree to the ground and then vows to devote his life to fighting slavery. Instead, Stowe spends the next four chapters resolving her subplots and lecturing about the novel's authenticity. The book ends on a dramatic note, however, as Stowe imagines what will happen to this country if slavery is not abolished. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: IN WHICH THE READER IS INTRODUCED TO A MAN OF HUMANITY In the opening scene of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Mr. Shelby and Haley, a slave-trader, discuss which of Mr. Shelby's slaves Haley will buy. Because Haley holds notes Mr. Shelby has signed, Mr. Shelby is in Haley's debt. Mr. Shelby wants to pay off his obligations by selling a pious slave named Tom, who manages his farm. Haley acknowledges that religion can be "a valeyable thing in a nigger," meaning that it raises a slave's price, but he insists he wants another slave as well as Tom. Just then a beautiful, light-skinned, four-year-old slave boy bursts into the room. At Shelby's request, he sings and dances for the men. NOTE: This is your first introduction to Uncle Tom. Mr. Shelby calls him "steady, honest, capable." Tom is a Christian, he tells Haley, who got religion at a camp meeting--an open-air revival. Since then, he has trusted Tom with large sums of money. Once he sent Tom on business to Cincinnati, across the Ohio River in the free state of Ohio. Tom could have used Shelby's money to continue north to Canada--part of the British Empire, where slavery was abolished in 1833. But Tom, proud of his master's trust, returned home. Remember this episode when you read the last chapter of the novel, where Tom has a chance to escape from Simon Legree's plantation. Haley asks for the boy in addition to Tom to complete the deal. NOTE: MR. SHELBY AND THE SLAVE-TRADER Stowe lets you know from the start that Haley, the slave-trader, is a villain. He can't be called a gentleman, she announces in the second paragraph, and she doesn't give him the title of "Mr." He has coarse features, dresses gaudily, wears too many rings, and speaks ungrammatically. Yet the worst thing about him is what Stowe shows you rather than tells you--he puts a cash value on the most important human qualities. Although he boasts of his humanity--the source of the chapter's title--he only means that it's more profitable not to be totally cruel. Although Mr. Shelby seems to be a better man than Haley (at least, Stowe tells you, "he had the appearances of a gentleman"--which may mean that he really isn't one either), you can see that he has many failings. For one thing, he speculated himself into debt. For another, he is willing to sell a trusted slave like Tom to Haley, despite his poor opinion of the slave-trader. People like Haley couldn't continue in business unless gentlemen like Mr. Shelby sold them slaves. And although Mr. Shelby's values are not quite the same as Haley's--Mr. Shelby, you'll see, believes that blacks have feelings--he does treat little Harry like a pet, calling him "Jim Crow" and encouraging him to do tricks. In addition, Mr. Shelby seems to measure Tom's piety in dollars, just as Haley does--it's Shelby who first suggests that Tom is more valuable because he's a Christian. Eliza, one of the house servants, comes looking for little Harry, who is her son. Having overheard part of the conversation between Mr. Shelby and Haley, she tearfully begs Mrs. Shelby not to sell the child. Mrs. Shelby, a kind-hearted and religious woman who knows nothing of her husband's business, assures Eliza that the boy will never be sold. NOTE: THE EVILS OF SLAVERY In her first chapter, Stowe points to some of the worst aspects of slavery. She acknowledges that slaves in Kentucky were not so badly off--this balanced view angered the abolitionists. Kentucky farmers planted a variety of crops rather than just cotton, resulting in easier work in the fields. And Kentucky masters tended to be kinder to their slaves (Mr. Shelby says he spoils his) than were masters further south. Nevertheless, it is clear that slaves are never safe, even in Kentucky. For slaves there and in the rest of the upper South (including Virginia and Maryland) being sold down the river--south along the Mississippi--was a constant fear. Even good masters like Mr. Shelby could fall into debt and have to sell their slaves to a trader. All that protected slaves was chance and the character of their owners. This chapter also reveals some of the dreadful things that can happen to slaves. Little children like Harry can be sold away from their mothers. Haley explains to Mr. Shelby that slave mothers sometimes fuss when their children are taken from them, but that they can easily be distracted. He doesn't believe black mothers have the same feelings for their babies as their white counterparts. In addition, Haley's response to Eliza suggests another evil of slavery. He looks her up and down so openly that she blushes. Light-skinned women like Eliza, who were considered pretty by white men, were frequently sold for large sums of money to white men who used them sexually. Little Harry, Haley explains, would go to a dealer who raised young, handsome, light-skinned black boys to be waiters and butlers. The young male slaves, like the young women, were seen as a commodity--like pedigreed dogs--rather than as people. Notice that Mrs. Shelby is more high-minded and religious than her husband. Shelby is an average man, not especially pious, who leaves questions of morality to his wife. He also leaves her most of the responsibility for taking care of the slaves. How much power does Mrs. Shelby really have, and how will she use it? You'll find out in the next few chapters. As the novel unfolds, you'll also discover whether the relationship between the Shelbys is typical of a Southern slaveowner and his wife. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 2. THE MOTHER Mrs. Shelby had made sure that Eliza had not been sexually exploited, as so many pretty slave girls were. Eliza had married George Harris, an intelligent and light-skinned man from a neighboring plantation. NOTE: RACIAL STEREOTYPES Some black readers have criticized Stowe for making two of her main characters, Eliza and George, light-skinned. Doing so, they say, reveals a racist preference for blacks who have some white parentage. Stowe remarks that light-skinned women like Eliza are often especially pretty and refined. This is one stereotype that white people have often held about blacks. As you read Uncle Tom's Cabin, watch for others. The lightness of Eliza's and George's skin eventually contributes to the plot. Because they are light enough to pass for white, it is easier for them to escape. Do you think that's the only reason Stowe described them that way? George Harris was "hired out" by his owner to a nearby factory. Under the hiring-out system--more common in Southern cities than in the countryside--a slave worked, usually as a skilled craftsperson, for the owner of a business. His or her wages belonged to his master. Thus, in some cities, slaves worked as carpenters or unloaded boats. Later in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Tom's wife, Aunt Chloe, takes a job with a baker in Louisville. By hiring out slaves, a master could sometimes make more money from an especially capable slave than he could by keeping him or her in the fields. George worked hard and the factory owner thought highly of him. George even invented a machine that made the work go more quickly. On a visit to the factory, George's owner was furious to see George so successful and proud--it made him conscious, Stowe says, of his own inferiority. He decided to return George to the fields. NOTE: THE REALISM OF UNCLE TOM'S CABIN Stowe takes pains in this chapter, and throughout the novel, to assure you that her story is true. Living for years in Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, Stowe met many former slaves. She also read former slaves' descriptions of their experiences. She tells you that she based Eliza on a young woman she had met in Kentucky. In a footnote she adds that a Kentucky slave really did invent a machine like the one she credits to George Harris. The last chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin is filled with such assurances. Some Southerners claimed that Uncle Tom's Cabin presented an inaccurate picture of slavery. In response, Stowe published The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853)--a collection of stories and documents to prove the novel's accuracy. This is Stowe's first indication that a character is based on a real person or that a practice really is common, but it certainly won't be her last. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 3. THE HUSBAND AND FATHER George Harris visits his wife, Eliza, to tell her that he has decided to attempt to escape to Canada, where he will work to buy Eliza's and little Harry's freedom from the Shelbys. George's description of how his master torments him shows you more about the evils of slavery. Not only has the master taken George out of the factory, but he piles on so much work that George has no time to himself, even at night. The master also drowned the dog Eliza gave George for a present. Worst of all, he ordered George to move in with another slave woman, and threatened to sell him down the river if he refused. Eliza protests that she and George were married by a minister, "as much as if you'd been a white man." But George reminds her--and you--that slave marriages are not protected by law. The discussion between George and Eliza reveals two views of slavery. George sees slavery as wrong because it denies the equality of all men. "What right has he to me?" George asks. "I'm a man as much as he is." Most abolitionists, who thought slavery should be ended immediately, shared this view. Eliza, however, takes a different approach. "I always thought that I must obey my master and mistress, or I couldn't be a Christian," she tells George. Eliza sees slaves and masters as part of the same family. She owes the same obedience to her master as a child does to its father, as part of her religious duty. Some slaves, as well as slaveholders, shared Eliza's view. The other half of this equation was that masters had responsibilities to their slaves. George and Eliza's differing perspectives on slavery represent two distinct ways of looking at the world. George sees people as equal, free to move about and to enter into relationships with anyone they choose. In Eliza's view, people are born into relationships with each other. Some will always have more power, some less. Eliza is a Christian, and George seems not to be. But you could also say that George's vision of life is more modern and Eliza's more old-fashioned. Rather than betray their marriage, George plans to escape, and he tells Eliza that he will not be taken alive. "The husband and wife were parted," Stowe recounts, letting you know that she considers George and Eliza as husband and wife, even if the law doesn't. Here is another sin of slavery--it tears husbands and wives from each other. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 4. AN EVENING IN UNCLE TOM'S CABIN Uncle Tom and his wife, Aunt Chloe, live with their small sons, Mose and Pete, and their baby daughter, Polly, in a log cabin not far from the Shelbys' "big house." After Aunt Chloe prepares the Shelbys' evening meal, she returns home to cook for her own family. George, the Shelbys' thirteen-year-old son, comes to Uncle Tom's cabin for supper. He likes Aunt Chloe's cooking and the way both Chloe and Tom fuss over him. While Aunt Chloe fixes the meal, boasting about her skills, George teaches Tom how to write. The scene is extremely domestic, with Aunt Chloe baking pound cake, the little boys wrestling with each other, and Uncle Tom carrying the baby around on his shoulders while she buries her hands in his hair. Stowe wants you to recognize them as a happy family. NOTE: AT HOME WITH UNCLE TOM AND AUNT CHLOE Harriet Beecher Stowe was extremely interested in the way people lived. With her sister, Catharine Beecher, she would later write The American Woman's Home, or Principles of Domestic Science (1869). Uncle Tom's Cabin is filled with careful descriptions of home and family life. Read them carefully, and watch for the connection between how people manage their kitchens and how they manage their souls. The description of Uncle Tom's home is the first extended description of domestic life in the book. It's especially important because this chapter is one source of the novel's title. What is there in Uncle Tom's cabin that is so central to the book's meaning? The cabin, clean and well-organized, is surrounded by flowers and a garden full of fruits and vegetables. Although the furnishings are not elegant--the table legs are shaky and the pattern on the teacups is too gaudy--they are comfortable. Aunt Chloe is a superb cook and manager. She is easy and affectionate with her husband and children. Uncle Tom, too, loves his family. He is full of "kindness and benevolence." But more than Aunt Chloe, he has another interest, religion. The cabin is also the site of prayer-meetings for the slaves. Uncle Tom's cabin, then, celebrates Christian family life. It is filled with good cooking and housekeeping, the love of husband, wife, and children--as well as the love of learning and of God. After serving dinner to George and Tom, Chloe feeds herself and her children (whom she and Tom seem to ignore in favor of George for most of the evening). Following the meal, slaves from the Shelbys' and several neighboring plantations arrive for a "meeting." The slaves exchange news, listen while George reads the Bible, and sing hymns. Uncle Tom is the "patriarch" and "a sort of minister," the spiritual center of the group. While the meeting progresses, Mr. Shelby and Haley draw up the final payments for Tom's sale. The peace of Uncle Tom's cabin will soon be shattered. NOTE: RACIAL STEREOTYPES (CONT.) Unlike George and Eliza, who are light-skinned enough to pass for white, Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe are described as quite black, "truly African." But the two couples differ in more than the color of their skin. While George is proud and fierce, Uncle Tom displays a "humble simplicity" along with his self-respect. While Eliza is delicate and sensitive, Aunt Chloe is fat, warm, and jolly. Chloe and Tom speak in dialect, while Eliza and George use standard English. Stowe's light-skinned blacks, in other words, resemble white people, while the darker ones resemble racial stereotypes of blacks. Stowe pokes gentle fun at Aunt Chloe and her surroundings. She seems to be amused by Aunt Chloe's pride in her excellence as a cook, and most readers are amused by her description here. The picture of George Washington hanging on the wall "would certainly have astonished that hero," and the pattern of the cups is "brilliant." Although Aunt Chloe and Uncle Tom are extremely good people, they are also childlike. When Aunt Chloe comments admiringly on George's reading ability--"How easy white folks al'us does things!", she is not currying favor with the master's son. She really means it. Describing the religious singing in the cabin, Stowe explains that "the negro mind, impassioned and imaginative, always attaches itself to hymns and expressions of a vivid and pictorial nature." In the 1850s, people who opposed slavery didn't necessarily see blacks and whites as equals. Stowe's views were not uncommon among Northern antislavery men and women. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: SHOWING THE FEELINGS OF LIVING PROPERTY ON CHANGING OWNERS Mrs. Shelby is horrified to learn that her husband has sold Tom and little Harry. She pleads with him to keep them, but Mr. Shelby, somewhat self-righteously, explains that he has no other choice. Mrs. Shelby's response to the news of the sale echoes the theme that slavery destroys the family: "I have taught them the duties of the family, of parent and child, and husband and wife; and how can I bear to have this open acknowledgment that we care for no tie, no duty, no relation, however sacred, compared with money?" Stowe asks you to identify with the slaves on the basis of your own family feelings. Uncle Tom's tears on hearing the news are "just such tears, sir, as you dropped into the coffin where lay your first-born son; such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your dying babe." Mrs. Shelby is a good woman, one who never really approved of slavery but tried to make the best of it that she could. As you read Uncle Tom's Cabin, you'll meet other such slaveholders. What is Stowe's attitude toward Southerners in general? What does she think of Northerners--particularly abolitionists? This scene offers several important clues. Eliza, overhearing the Shelbys' conversation, decides to take Harry away. Picking up her sleeping son, she leaves the Shelbys' house, and makes her way to Uncle Tom's cabin. Aunt Chloe urges Tom to flee with Eliza, but he refuses. According to Eliza's account of what she heard, Mr. Shelby claimed that he had a choice between selling two slaves to Haley or losing the entire plantation. Tom sees his sale as protecting the rest of the slaves, and he's willing to make the sacrifice. Eliza disappears into the darkness. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 6. DISCOVERY The next morning the Shelbys discover that Eliza is gone. Mr. Shelby sees her escape as a blight on his honor, but Mrs. Shelby is delighted to think that Eliza may save her child. When Haley arrives to collect his property, Mr. Shelby offers to aid him in catching Eliza and Harry. But Sam and Andy, the two slaves sent to saddle Mr. Shelby's horses, have figured out that Mrs. Shelby wants Eliza to escape. While pretending to help, they arrange for everything to go wrong. Sam slips a beechnut under the saddle of Haley's horse, so the animal bucks when he is mounted. Sam and Andy manage to drive all the animals into a frenzy under the pretext of attempting to catch the runaway. The horses cannot be ridden until they have cooled down--and the hunt for Eliza has been delayed for a few precious hours. NOTE: "PUTTIN' ON OL' MASSA" Slaves usually knew a great deal about what their masters were up to. In this chapter, Mr. and Mrs. Shelby are surrounded by a slave communications network. Andy brings Mr. Shelby his shaving water and overhears their conversation about Eliza's escape. Slave children watch Haley's approach from the front porch. Eliza herself was able to rescue her son from Haley because she listened in on the Shelbys. By closely observing what happened in the big house, and by communicating this intelligence to one another, slaves were often able to protect themselves. This episode also reveals another feature of slave life. Sam and Andy demonstrate what was sometimes called "puttin' on ol' Massa." While pretending to do what they were told, they actually did just the opposite. In this case, Sam and Andy realized that Mrs. Shelby, if not her husband, wanted to buy time for Eliza's escape. But this method could be used to achieve the slaves' ends as well as the masters'. Working slowly, breaking equipment, having "accidents"--slaves could exercise some control over what happened on the plantation. Sam and Andy's escapades offer some comic relief in the dramatic story of Eliza's flight to freedom. They are familiar characters in literature--think of such Shakespearean comedies as A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like it, for example--simple country people whose pretensions amuse us, but who nevertheless express important truths. What is unusual here is that these characters are black slaves. Stowe explicitly compares Sam's self-interested posturing to that of white politicians in Washington. When Sam tells Andy that "bobservation makes all de difference in niggers," he is ignoring the fact that Andy told him how Mrs. Shelby really felt. Yet Sam is right--slaves constantly observed their masters. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 7. THE MOTHER'S STRUGGLE Carrying Harry in her arms, Eliza hurries through the night toward the Ohio River. Because she and the child were both light-skinned, people who saw them did not immediately conclude that they were runaway slaves. In the late afternoon, Eliza arrives in a river town, only to learn that the ferry is not running. Because it is early spring, the ice is beginning to break up. She and Harry stop to rest in a tavern. The force that drives Eliza, Stowe tells you, is "maternal love." The women she meets along the way--the farm woman from whom she buys dinner, or the woman at the tavern--help her because they are mothers, too. For example, Eliza tells the woman at the river that she needs to cross immediately because her child is sick, and the other's "motherly sympathies were much aroused." Stowe also appeals to the reader's parental feelings: "If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader... how fast could you walk?" Eliza is helped up the bank on the Ohio side of the river by a man whom she recognizes and to whom she appeals in the same way: "Oh, Mr. Symmes, you've got a little boy!" But the people who most reliably help Eliza are women. They do so because motherhood has taught them compassion for other mothers and their children. As Stowe wrote to her youngest son, twenty-five years later, "I well remember the winter you were a baby and I was writing Uncle Tom's Cabin... I remember many a night weeping over you as you lay sleeping beside me and I thought of the slave mothers whose babes were torn from them." How do the men and women in Uncle Tom's Cabin differ in their approach to slavery and to conduct in general? How do men in the novel learn to be good? Which characters are sympathetic and which villainous? You'll need to deal with all of these questions as you continue to read Uncle Tom's Cabin. Back at the Shelbys', the kitchen staff prepares the noon meal for Haley in the same spirit that Sam and Andy readied the horses. Accidents keep happening, Aunt Chloe refuses to be rushed, and the meal proceeds extremely slowly. When the search party finally sets off, Sam and Andy cleverly steer Haley down a dead-end dirt road, gaining a few more hours for Eliza. As they arrive at the tavern in which Eliza is waiting, Sam spies her and causes a commotion that alerts Eliza to the danger. With Harry in her arms, Eliza runs desperately to the river. As Haley, Sam, and Andy watch, she jumps from cake to cake of ice until she finally reaches the Ohio shore. The man who helps her up the bank is a neighbor of the Shelbys' who admires Eliza's courage. He feels--as many people did after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law--that "I don't see no kind of 'casion for me to be hunter and catcher for other folks, neither." Stowe cannot help emphasizing the point: "So spoke this poor, heathenish Kentuckian, who had not been instructed in his constitutional relations, and consequently was betrayed into acting in a sort of Christianized manner." The Fugitive Slave Law, in other words, violates fundamental Christian impulses. As Eliza makes her way toward freedom, Uncle Tom prepares himself to move deeper into slavery. When Aunt Chloe curses slave-traders, Uncle Tom instructs her to "Pray for them that 'spitefully use you." Tom claims a spiritual superiority over Haley, telling Chloe that he would rather be sold ten thousand times over than to have to answer to God for Haley's sins. Mr. Shelby, calling him "boy," gives Tom the rest of the day off before he must leave with Haley. His wife promises to buy Tom back as soon as possible. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 8. ELIZA'S ESCAPE In the tavern on the Kentucky side of the river, Haley encounters Tom Loker and Marks. Drinking, smoking, and conversing in a rough river dialect, Loker and Marks agree to chase Eliza and Harry. They will return the boy to Haley and sell the woman themselves in New Orleans. Discussing Haley's experience, the men complain that slave women cause great inconvenience by caring so much about their children. Haley tells the story of a young woman who drowned herself and the child in her arms rather than give the baby to Haley, who had traded him for a barrel of whiskey. The men's conversation reminds you of what is obvious--slavery tears babies from their mothers, and slave-traders are profoundly evil. In another swipe at the Fugitive Slave Law, Stowe suggests sardonically that if the whole country has become a slave market, the trader and catcher may form a new aristocracy. Sam and Andy return to the Shelby plantation with news of Eliza's escape. After a mock scolding from Mr. Shelby and a good dinner from Aunt Chloe, Sam entertains the other slaves with the story of Eliza's feat. Once again, Sam's comic behavior breaks the tension of Eliza's life-and-death struggle. NOTE: SLAVE SONGS Sam's remark to Mrs. Shelby that Eliza's "clar 'cross Jordan... in the land o' Canaan" supports his claim that God supervised her escape and may remind you of the singing at the prayer-meeting in Uncle Tom's cabin in chapter 4. Stowe, in her best schoolmarm manner, announced that "the Negro mind, impassioned and imaginative, always attaches itself to hymns and expressions of a vivid and pictorial nature." But despite herself, she recognized the power of the image in the spiritual (or, as slaves sometimes called this type of hymn, sorrow song), when she described Eliza's first glance at the Ohio River, "which lay, like Jordan, between her and the Canaan of her liberty...." Stowe tells you that Tom sings "about the New Jerusalem and bright angels, and the land of Canaan" to little Eva; one of the first signs of Eva's impending death is that she tells Tom that she's seen the sights he sings about. Many of the songs Tom sings later in the book are standard Methodist hymns (which, despite his usual dialect speech, he sings in standard English). In his last days on the Legree plantation, he tortures his master with lines like "Let cares like a wild deluge come, / And storms of sorrow fall" and sings, with perfect diction, a hymn recognized as "Amazing Grace." Stowe shows you almost nothing of life in the slave quarters. Because her knowledge of that life, and of the music that grew out of it, must have been limited, slave songs play only a small role in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Nevertheless, they give you some sense of the power of black religion and its role in humanizing the slaves' lives. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 9. IN WHICH IT APPEARS THAT A SENATOR IS BUT A MAN Senator and Mrs. Bird take tea in their cozy parlor as their children play around them. Like Uncle Tom's cabin, the Birds' home is a well-kept domestic haven. But the Senator and his wife are arguing about the Fugitive Slave Law, for which he has just voted. Tiny and gentle, focused on her family, Mrs. Bird is the "true woman" of the nineteenth-century women's magazines. But Mrs. Bird cannot imagine turning "homeless, houseless creatures" away from her door. "I don't know anything about politics," she tells her husband, "but I can read my Bible and there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate." The Senator insists that Christian duty lies in substituting public for private concerns and obeying the law. NOTE: THE FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW AND THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 The Fugitive Slave Law that Senator and Mrs. Bird are discussing is an Ohio version of the national law that prompted Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was part of a package of legislation known as the Compromise of 1850. At the close of the Mexican War in 1848, the United States seized an enormous amount of land, stretching from the Great Plains to the Pacific. But Congress had to decide whether the states and territories carved out of it would be admitted to the Union as slave or free. Southerners, led by Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, claimed that the people of the new territories ought to make up their own minds. Northerners insisted that slavery should be banned in all former Mexican territories. That debate, ten years before the start of the Civil War, almost tore the country apart. Then Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky stepped forward with a compromise. California would be admitted as a free state, while New Mexico and Utah, which also included the current states of Colorado and Arizona, would be organized as territories without restrictions on slavery. Texas would give up claims to some land in New Mexico, and in return the United States would assume Texas' debt. The slave trade--although not slavery itself--would be abolished in the District of Columbia. Finally, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1790, which was almost never enforced, would be greatly strengthened. If someone swore that another person was his escaped slave, this would be sufficient to establish ownership. Fugitive slaves would be returned to their masters, and those who helped the runaway slaves would be liable for fines of up to $1,000 and six months in prison. Nobody really liked the Compromise of 1850. Southerners thought it didn't give them enough in return for allowing another vote against them (California's) in Congress; Northerners, as you have seen, hated the Fugitive Slave Law. But the Compromise passed. In the end, the Compromise of 1850 may have made it harder instead of easier to save the Union. The Fugitive Slave Law did more to rouse Northerners' anger than it did to return blacks to the South. By 1854, when Kansas and Nebraska applied for territorial status, the question of slavery in the West had to be decided all over again. The Birds' argument is interrupted by Eliza's appearance. For all his political argument, Senator Bird's heart goes out to her. Eliza enlists their sympathy by asking if they have ever lost a child. In fact they have, recently, and the entire family dissolves in tears. Senator Bird even suggests that his wife give Harry the dead boy's clothing, and he himself brings Eliza, in the middle of the night, to the home of John Van Trompe--a former slaveholder who now shelters fugitives. "Your heart is better than your head," Mrs. Bird tells her husband. NOTE: "A LITTLE GRAVE" Stowe has frequently urged her readers to identify with Eliza on the basis of their feelings for their own children. In this chapter, she intensifies the theme: mothers whose children have died should see Eliza, as Mrs. Bird does, as a mother "more heartbroken and sorrowful than I am." Senator Bird's responses when he sees little Harry wearing "his lost boy's little well-known cap" or to "a closet, the opening of which has been to you like the opening again of a little grave" sound silly to us as modern readers. But nineteenth-century America was a dangerous place for children, and many of Stowe's readers knew firsthand what she was talking about. Stowe herself lost her infant son Charley during a cholera epidemic in 1849. The strong feelings of maternal loss that appear again and again in Uncle Tom's Cabin may originate in Stowe's own experience. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 10. THE PROPERTY IS CARRIED OFF As Chloe tearfully packs Tom's clothing and Mrs. Shelby sobs in the corner, Haley comes to take Tom away. Young George, who has been away from home for several days, catches up with them on the road and promises to redeem Tom as soon as he can. Speaking in a voice "as tender as a woman's," Tom urges George to "keep close to yer mother." Driving the point home, Stowe says that black people "are not naturally daring and enterprising, but home-loving and affectionate." Uncle Tom has "the full, the gentle, domestic heart" typical of "his unhappy race." ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: IN WHICH PROPERTY GETS INTO AN IMPROPER STATE OF MIND A "Spanish-looking gentleman" appears at a Kentucky tavern and takes a room. Of course, it is George Harris in disguise. Recognizing Mr. Wilson, the owner of the factory where he worked, George invites him in for a private talk. Mr. Wilson sympathizes with George, but warns him that he is breaking the law of his country. "Mr. Wilson, you have a country," George cries, "but what country have I...? What laws are there for us?" He recalls listening to Fourth-of-July speeches that quote the Declaration of Independence. "Can't a fellow think, that hears such things?" he demands. George's story, as he tells it to Mr. Wilson, is familiar. His father was a white slaveholder; his mother and sisters were sold at auction after his father's death. He speaks of them, and of his wife, with great affection and respect. He tells Mr. Wilson that he intends to go to Canada. Like Senator Bird, Mr. Wilson's feelings prove stronger than his beliefs, and he promises to send a message to Eliza. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 12. SELECT INCIDENT OF LAWFUL TRADE Haley takes Tom to Washington, Kentucky, where he buys more slaves. At an auction, Tom sees more families being torn apart. Then Haley, Tom, and the newly bought slaves--grieving for their wives, mothers, sisters, and children--board a steamboat for the journey south. The white passengers on the boat argue about the human cargo. One woman claims that slavery commits "outrages on the feelings and affections" like separating families. Another responds that blacks do not have the same feelings as whites. Two ministers enter the quarrel. One cites the biblical verse, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be," in defense of slavery. The other states that the relevant biblical citation is the golden rule--treat others the way you would be treated--and that it argues against slavery. NOTE: SLAVERY AND THE CHURCH American religious denominations were torn by the struggle over slavery. Some, like the Baptists, eventually split into two denominations, North and South. Harriet Beecher Stowe knew firsthand the religious debate over slavery, since some of it had been conducted in her own home. Lyman Beecher, Stowe's father, opposed slavery. But unlike some other Congregational ministers, he did not support immediate abolition. In 1834, most of the students became abolitionists and withdrew in protest from Lane Theological Seminary, which Beecher ran. Harriet Beecher Stowe was not a thoroughgoing abolitionist like Theodore Weld, one of the ministers who left Lane but she strongly believed that slavery was un-Christian. Uncle Tom's Cabin contains many statements to that effect: from Mrs. Bird and Mrs. Shelby, among others, as well as in Stowe's own voice. Partly at issue, for her, was the nature of Christianity. Is feeling worth more than doctrine? Are people saved through fear or through love? Is the church as an institution more important than personal religious belief? As the daughter, sister, and wife of ministers, Stowe struggled all her life with these questions. Eventually she embraced a set of beliefs very different from her father's. Toward the end of her life, she became an Episcopalian. As you read Uncle Tom's Cabin, ask yourself what Christianity means to the various characters. What are Christian values? How should a Christian behave? In this chapter, for example, Tom comforts another slave by telling her about "a heart of love in the skies, of a pitying Jesus, and an eternal home." However, Stowe remarks sarcastically, if Tom had "only been instructed by certain ministers of Christianity," he might have seen the slave trade as "the vital support of an institution which some American divines tell us has no evils...." In one of the river towns, Haley buys a young woman and her infant son. Haley sells the baby when the young woman leaves him for a moment to try to catch sight of her husband as they dock in Louisville. Heartbroken, she then drowns herself. This echoes the story Haley told Marks and Loker in the tavern the day Eliza escaped. It proves that the white passenger who asserted that slave mothers have no feelings for their children was totally mistaken. NOTE: A LAWFUL TRADE The last paragraph of this chapter refers to the opposition of "our great men" to the foreign slave trade. Congress ended the foreign slave trade in 1808. After that, it was illegal to sell slaves from Africa. In the prosperous years following the War of 1812, however, many slaves were sold from the upper South (Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky) to the rapidly growing lower South (Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana). Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) and William Wilberforce (1759-1833) were British antislavery activists who helped bring about the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1833. Stowe's point is that the "lawful" domestic slave trade is pretty awful. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 13. THE QUAKER SETTLEMENT Eliza has reached a Quaker village. Here, as at the Birds', goodness is equated with domestic order. The tablecloth glistens, the tea kettle hums, and Rachel Halliday passes the cake with "motherliness." Ruth Stedman, another of the Quaker women who cares for Eliza, explains that "If I didn't love John [her husband] and the baby, I should not know how to feel for her." George Harris arrives at the settlement, and the family is reunited. In the past, George has viewed Christianity as submission to slavery. In this domestic heaven, however, he begins to feel the love of God. "This indeed was a home,--home,--a word that George had never yet known a meaning for; and a belief in God... began to encircle his heart." Because George and Eliza are being pursued by Marks and Loker, the Quakers lead them to the next settlement. NOTE: QUAKERS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST SLAVERY Members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, arrived in Boston in 1656. Their belief in God as an Inner Light in every man and woman and their democratic lack of ministers or church government made them as threatening to the Puritans of Massachusetts as they had been to their English counterparts. In 1681, a Quaker named William Penn established a meeting (as the Quaker worship service is called) in Philadelphia. In Pennsylvania and the other mid-Atlantic colonies, the Quakers began to thrive. Because they believed that everyone, regardless of sex or race, shared the Inner Light, it was natural that Quakers would oppose slavery. In fact, the very first protest against slavery in America was organized by Germantown, Pennsylvania, Quakers in 1688. Many wealthy Quakers, however, were slaveholders. Throughout the eighteenth century, Quaker meetings in Pennsylvania, as well as in New York and New England, struggled with the issue. By the 1770s, Quakers in North Carolina and Virginia had vowed not to buy more slaves, and Northern Quakers had given up slaveholding. (Pennsylvania abolished slavery in 1780.) Quakers started the first antislavery society in America, in 1775, and they dominated the early antislavery movement. Quaker Anthony Benezet started a school for black children in Philadelphia in the 1780s, and on his death his entire estate went to fund black education. During the nineteenth century, Quakers, like other opponents of slavery, had to choose between abolitionism and milder forms of protest. A few Quaker radicals became prominent, among them Isaac Hopper of New York; Lucretia Mott of Massachusetts; Levi Coffin of Indiana; poet John Greenleaf Whittier; Elias Hicks, who led a Quaker boycott of crops and goods produced by slave labor; and Thomas Garrett of Wilmington, Delaware, who helped 2700 slaves escape and was claimed by Stowe as one of her models for Simeon Halliday. Although Quakers were more inclined to favor a gradual end to slavery than immediate abolition, almost all were ready to help an escaped slave with money, clothing, and shelter. Philadelphia Quakers defied the Society's ban on reading novels in order to devour Uncle Tom's Cabin. But their newspaper, the Philadelphia Friend, gave the book a bad review. It called the book inflammatory and likely to stir up Southern resistance; it was necessary, the reviewer said, to appeal to the South with love. Still, many Quakers were proud to identify themselves as the "real" Rachel or Simeon Halliday. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 14. EVANGELINE One of the passengers on the trip down the Mississippi is an ethereal six-year-old girl, dressed all in white and resembling "a sunbeam or a summer breeze." The beautiful and sensitive child brings fruit and candy to the slaves on board, and Tom charms her by making her toys. Tom "who had the soft, impressible nature of his kindly race, ever yearning toward the simple and childlike" thought that Evangeline St. Clare, called Eva, was "something almost divine." When Eva falls overboard, Tom rescues her; in gratitude, her father buys him. Handsome, charming, worldly Mr. St. Clare mocks Haley's attempt to raise the price because Tom is so pious. St. Clare jokes that he may make Tom the family chaplain, since there's not much religion in their home. In the end, Tom becomes his coachman. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 15. OF TOM'S NEW MASTER, AND VARIOUS OTHER MATTERS Augustine St. Clare's family originated in Canada. His father married a French Huguenot (Protestant) named Evangeline, and they settled in Louisiana. His father's brother settled in Vermont, where Augustine lived with him for many years. Augustine had a "sensitiveness of character, more akin to the softness of woman than the ordinary hardness of his own sex." Disappointed in love with a Northern woman, Augustine married the vain, insensitive, and spoiled Marie. After the birth of their daughter, named Evangeline for Augustine's mother, Marie became a hypochondriac, constantly bedridden with "sick headaches." Augustine had traveled to Vermont to persuade his cousin, Ophelia, to return to New Orleans and take charge of his household. A strong-minded, capable spinster of forty-five, Ophelia loves order and hates what she calls shiftlessness. Although she is the opposite of the lazy, carefree Augustine, she loves her cousin dearly. Stowe presents the St. Clare mansion through both Ophelia's and Tom's eyes. Tom finds it beautiful ("The Negro, it must be remembered... has a passion for all that is splendid, rich, and fanciful"), while Ophelia thinks it's "rather old and heathenish." The St. Clare family servants are, for the most part, elegant and spoiled. Adolphe, the butler, borrows St. Clare's sophistication as well as most of his clothing. But Mammy embraces Eva warmly, unlike Eva's mother, who claims the girl is giving her a headache. Ophelia tells Augustine that she is disgusted by the way Eva kisses the slaves. NOTE: VERMONT AND LOUISIANA By placing a branch of the St. Clare family in Vermont--and having Augustine spend part of his boyhood there--Stowe points out that Northerners and Southerners are literally brothers. Augustine's experience enables him to compare Northern and Southern attitudes toward slavery. In addition, Ophelia displays both the strengths and limitations of Northerners in the way they view the South. Stowe, who grew up in Connecticut, writes about New England villages with love. Of all the domestic settings she has praised, this is the finest: The large farm-house, with its clean-swept grassy yard, shaded by the dense and massive foliage of the sugar-maple:... the air of order and stillness... Nothing lost, or out of order... There are no servants in the house, but the lady in the snowy cap, with the spectacles, who sits sewing every afternoon among her daughters.... ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 16. TOM'S MISTRESS AND HER OPINIONS Selfish Marie St. Clare acts as if slaves have no feelings. She criticizes Mammy for sleeping soundly at night--Mammy should wake up more readily to care for her. She also faults Mammy for objecting to her separation from her own children, who live on Marie's parents' plantation. Pitted against Marie's selfish view of slavery are the views of Ophelia, Augustine, and Eva. Ophelia objects to slavery on principle. "Don't you believe that the Lord made them one of blood with us?" she asks Marie. Later she announces her belief that "You ought to educate your slaves, and treat them like reasonable creatures." But, as Augustine points out, for all her principles Ophelia doesn't like black people. She cringes when she sees Eva playing with Tom. "You [Northerners] would not have them abused; but you don't want to have anything to do with them yourselves," Augustine tells his cousin. She admits that he has a point. Augustine explains that he respects the argument that slavery is economically necessary to the South, but that he distrusts religious justifications for slavery. He refuses to worship with Marie, because the church "can bend and turn... to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society." Eva, however, has the last word. She tells her father that she likes slavery because "it makes so many more round you to love." Eva, like Tom, is instinctively religious. NOTE: "IT'S WE, MISTRESSES, THAT ARE THE SLAVES" Marie St. Clare tells cousin Ophelia that "it's we, mistresses, that are the slaves, down here." Marie expresses enormous self-pity, but her sentiments were sometimes shared by real Southern women. In November 1861--some ten years after Uncle Tom's Cabin appeared--Mary Boykin Chesnut contrasted the experience of Southern women with that of Northerners like Harriet Beecher Stowe. Chesnut, the wife of a U.S. Senator who resigned to become a Confederate general, uses language that echoes Stowe's description of the typical New England village. And some of her ideas resemble Marie St. Clare's: On one side Mrs. Stowe [and other antislavery writers]... live in nice New England homes, clean, sweet-smelling, shut up in libraries, writing books which ease their hearts of their bitterness against us... Now consider what I have seen of my mother's life, my grandmother's, my mother-in-law's.... They have the same ideas of right and wrong, and high-bred, lovely, good, pious, doing their duty as they conceive it. They live in Negro villages.... Bookmaking which leads you to a round of visits among crowned heads is an easier way to be a saint than martyrdom down here, doing unpleasant duty among the Negroes.... ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 17. THE FREEMAN'S DEFENCE George, Eliza, and Harry, accompanied by another former slave, Jim Selden, who returned to Kentucky to rescue his mother, prepare to leave the Quaker settlement. The kindly Quakers provide them with food, warm clothing for Canada, and the faith in God by which they live their daily lives. NOTE: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD The Hallidays and their friends are conductors on what was called the Underground Railroad or Liberty Line, an informal network of Northerners who helped escaped slaves reach Canada. Quakers had been assisting slaves in this way as early as the 1780s, and by the 1830s the activity had become more common. Southerners saw the Underground Railroad as a vast conspiracy, and some estimated that as many as 100,000 slaves were spirited off. In fact, modern historians think that fewer than 1000 slaves a year "followed the drinking gourd" (the North Star) to freedom. But the Underground Railroad affected the morale of slaves and masters out of proportion to the numbers who actually traveled it. Conducting on the Underground Railroad took enormous courage, especially after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Participating in the rescue of fugitive slaves was one of the few ways citizens could actively oppose slavery; it was more satisfying and seemed more effective than signing endless antislavery petitions. John Rankin, a native of Tennessee, moved to Ripley, Ohio, on the banks of the Ohio River, in the 1830s. His Underground Railroad station was probably known to Harriet Beecher Stowe in nearby Cincinnati. Some historians believe that when the "real" Eliza crossed the ice, it was Rankin (not "Mr. Symmes," the Shelbys' neighbor) who helped her onto the Ohio shore. The bravest Underground Railroad conductors, however, were the black men and women who themselves risked capture to help escaping slaves. The character Jim Selden, who returns from Canada to rescue his mother, had real-life counterparts. One of them was Harriet Tubman, who fled to Pennsylvania from Maryland in 1849. Starting in 1850, she made nineteen trips into the deep South to rescue slaves. Their pursuers follow them closely. George, who has a pistol, resolves that Eliza will be returned to slavery over his dead body. Phineas, the Quaker driver, is nonviolent but willing to allow George and Jim to defend themselves and their families. Everyone hides behind the large rock at the summit of a hill to await Marks, Tom Loker, and the rest of the drunken band of slave-catchers. George makes his stand: "We stand here as free, under God's sky, as you are," he challenges them. (Stowe remarks that a Hungarian youth defending freedom as George did would be considered a hero by most Americans; a fugitive slave doing the same thing was not.) George shoots Tom Loker, and Phineas pushes him into a crevice between the rocks, while the other slave-hunters run off. The others begin to pity Loker (who in his pain calls out his mother's name) and decide to take him to the Quaker settlement for medical treatment. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 18. MISS OPHELIA'S EXPERIENCES AND OPINIONS Dinah, like Aunt Chloe, is an excellent cook. But while Chloe is orderly and methodical, Dinah is totally chaotic. Ophelia's attempt to impose order on Dinah's kitchen is comically defeated by the cook's systematic confusion. Ophelia is appalled by the waste and disorder in the St. Clare household, but Augustine doesn't mind. Why save time or money, he asks, when there's plenty of both? He believes that slavery makes black people dishonest ("Cunning and deception become necessary, inevitable habits") and that they shouldn't be punished for it. Dinah, he believes, should be judged for her delicious dishes. St. Clare's theory is illustrated by most of the members of his household. Adolphe, Rosa, Jane, and several of the other household servants are frivolous and spoiled. They are preparing for a ball for the light-skinned, house-servant slave aristocracy of New Orleans. They ridicule dark-skinned Dinah, who has no use for them. NOTE: HOUSE SLAVES AND FIELD SLAVES Legend has it that house slaves and field slaves were very different from each other. House slaves were light-skinned, sometimes educated, close to their masters, whose values they shared, and contemptuous of the field slaves. Field hands were supposed to be dark-skinned, illiterate, and lazy. Like most legends, this one contains some truth. But like most generalizations about areas as varied as the American South and institutions as complicated as American black slavery, it also contains many inaccuracies. The legend comes closest to fact in describing slavery in the cities, and in particular in the Sea Island cotton, rice, and sugar-growing areas (off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida). Thus, the St. Clare family slaves seem to fit this pattern. There's only one problem with applying the house servant-field hand distinction to Uncle Tom's Cabin--virtually all the slaves in the novel are house servants. Although Stowe fusses about the comparative skin color of slaves, even the darker characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin--Chloe and Tom, Sam and Andy, Dinah and Mammy--work inside the house. You practically never meet anyone in the novel who works in the fields. On Legree's plantation, of course, everyone but the current mistress picks cotton. But the characters Stowe focuses on--Tom, Cassy, Emmeline, and Lucy--formerly worked in houses, and all but Tom are city-bred. Thus the differences between Dinah and Adolphe, for example, resemble the house-field distinction, but aren't really part of it. As Eugene D. Genovese shows in Roll, Jordan, Roll, working in the Big House had its costs as well as its rewards. House servants had better food and quarters than field workers. Their physical and often emotional closeness to their masters sometimes made them feel more secure, although neither Tom nor the St. Clare servants are protected by that intimacy. Field hands, however, had more leisure time than house servants, who were always at the beck and call (and always in the sight) of whites. Field hands also enjoyed a greater sense of community. For these reasons some slaves, according to Genovese, preferred working in the fields. House servants and field hands usually saw themselves as part of the same family. First, they often were literally brothers and sisters. In addition, house servants often married field hands. And house servants, who often overheard conversations among the whites, frequently warned field hands of an impending sale so that they could escape. (Eliza does this in Uncle Tom's Cabin, although Tom is not a field hand.) The former slaves whom Harriet Beecher Stowe met had probably been house servants. More skilled and privileged than field hands, they had more opportunities to flee. Closer to whites in manners and sometimes in appearance, house servants were probably easier for her to identify with. If Adolphe and the others illustrate one possible effect of slavery, old Prue represents another. Prue delivers baked goods for her master, but often uses the proceeds to get drunk. Ophelia, who always knows what's right and wrong, scolds her. But Tom, more compassionate, discovers why Prue drinks. All her children were sold away from her except one, who died because her mistress wouldn't let her take care of it. Tom assures Prue that Jesus loves her and that she'll find rest in heaven. This chapter examines the fundamental values of the major characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Augustine St. Clare wastes money and time. One night when he comes in drunk, Tom chides him for not taking better care of himself. Ophelia, his opposite, saves time and money. She puts good management above human feelings. For Tom and Eva, however, the most important consideration is love. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: MISS OPHELIA'S EXPERIENCES AND OPINIONS (CONTINUED) The news of Prue's death leads Ophelia and Augustine into another round of their continuing debate about slavery. This time Augustine talks more openly and more seriously than he ever has. Much to his cousin's surprise, Augustine tells her that slavery "comes from the devil." It is based on the power of the strong over the weak: "Why, because my brother Quashy is ignorant and weak, and I am intelligent and strong--because I know how, and can do it,--therefore, I may steal all he has, keep it, and give him only such and so much as suits my fancy. Whatever is too hard, too dirty, too disagreeable, for me, I may set Quashy to doing.... Talk of the abuses of slavery!... The thing itself is the essence of all abuse!" Does Augustine St. Clare's description of slavery surprise you? Is it consistent with his character? Do you think he speaks for the author? How do his views differ from Ophelia's? Augustine unfolds a bit of family history for Ophelia. In so doing, he describes two sets of brothers--Ophelia's father and his own; and his twin brother, Alfred, and himself. The two pairs of brothers illustrate two distinct facts about slavery. As Augustine tells his cousin, Ophelia's father and his own were very similar men, "upright, energetic, and noble minded." One settled in Vermont, the other in Louisiana. Augustine's father was a "born aristocrat," who drove his slaves hard and believed them less than human. His overseer--another Vermonter--treated the slaves cruelly. Augustine and his mother often pleaded with his father to show mercy to the slaves. Ophelia's father, on the other hand, settled in Vermont and joined the church and the Abolition Society. But, Augustine argues, the Vermonter has the same "overbearing, dominant spirit as his Southern brother." He owns no slaves, but everyone in the village knows that he looks down on them. "Though he has fallen on democratic times, and embraced a democratic theory, he is to the heart an aristocrat, as much as my father." Augustine's brother, Alfred, resembled his father and uncle. But Augustine was more like his mother. ("She was divine!" he oozes. "Oh, mother! mother!") Alfred had dark eyes and hair, and an active temperament, while Augustine was blond, blue-eyed, and dreamy. NOTE: "SHE WAS DIVINE" Harriet Beecher was only four years old when her mother died. Although her father remarried, his first wife, Roxanna, remained his favorite, and her memory lived on in the household. Henry Ward Beecher, Harriet's younger brother, once wrote--in a phrase that Augustine St. Clare would recognize--"My mother is to me what the Virgin Mary is to a devout Catholic." When their father died, Augustine and Alfred divided the property, but Augustine hated running a plantation. Augustine, whom Alfred called a "womanish sentimentalist," moved to New Orleans and lived off the family's stocks. He took with him only the old family house servants, whom he treated kindly and did not overwork. But Alfred, Augustine notes, takes care of his slaves even though he drives them hard. Augustine upholds his brother's claim that he treats his slaves better than English factory owners treat their workers (although that, he adds, does not justify slavery). However, he foresees a day of reckoning that will end the evil of slavery forever. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 20. TOPSY In order to test his cousin's theories about education, Augustine buys Ophelia a slave child to raise. The little girl, Topsy, is bright and energetic, but she has been badly treated and frequently whipped by her masters. Stowe's description of Topsy fits the racial stereotype. The child is extremely black, filthy and ragged, and her hair is worked into many braids. She has a cunning expression, and sings and dances wildly. Ophelia doesn't want to take the child on, but Augustine convinces her that it will be missionary work. And Ophelia is shocked by Topsy's answers to her questions. She doesn't remember her mother or father, and she denies that she was created by God--"I spect I grow'd." Ophelia finds that Topsy cannot tell right from wrong. Topsy challenges Ophelia, who cannot figure out how to teach her. Ophelia tries whipping, but Topsy has been whipped before, and Ophelia soon finds that whipping is like a drug--more and more is needed to achieve the same effect. Eva's kindness to Topsy makes more of an impression. Eventually Topsy learns to make beds and not to steal, but she requires Ophelia's constant attention. NOTE: TOPSY Topsy serves a number of functions in Uncle Tom's Cabin. First, as Augustine intended, she shows Northern readers that it is harder to educate a child born into slavery than they would like to think. Ophelia learns, as Stowe intends you to also, that many theories may not be workable in reality. Topsy also provides comic relief; this chapter is one of the funniest in the novel. Finally, Topsy provides a comparison with Eva. Have you ever known a child like Topsy? How did you treat him or her? Were you able to get through to the child? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 21. KENTUCK Mrs. Shelby, on learning that Chloe had heard from Tom (Augustine wrote a letter for him), wants Mr. Shelby to buy him back. She offers to give music lessons to raise the money, but Mr. Shelby won't hear of it. Chloe asks that she be hired out to a baker--or as she calls it, a "perfectioner" (confectioner)--in Louisville, and that her wages be used to redeem Tom. The Shelbys agree to this plan. Two years have passed since Tom left Kentucky. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 22. "THE GRASS WITHERETH--THE FLOWER FADETH" Tom's friendship with Eva deepens. She helps him to read the letter George Shelby sends in response to his, full of news of his family. Tom and Eva also read the Bible together, especially Revelations and Prophecies. But Tom and Miss Ophelia are aware that Eva is becoming weaker. Augustine refuses to acknowledge it, though, and Marie is too self-absorbed to care. Eva claims to see the new Jerusalem Tom sings about in the clouds. "I'm going there," she tells Tom, pointing heavenward. NOTE: A CHILD LIKE EVA "Has there ever been a child like Eva?" Stowe asks. "Yes... but their names are always on gravestones." She claims that there are certain spiritual children who are not long for this world. You may wonder, too, whether there has ever been a child like Eva. Eva seems too religious, too good, to be real. She never fights or misbehaves or dirties her white dresses. To many readers, Eva seems to be a symbol rather than a real character. Compare Stowe's description of Eva to those of other children--Topsy, for example, or Tom's sons Mose and Pete, or the children in the Quaker settlement. Do the other children in the novel seem more realistic than Eva? Have you ever known anyone like her? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 23. HENRIQUE The visit of Augustine's brother Alfred with his son, Henrique, to the St. Clare summer home on Lake Pontchartrain provides an occasion for more contrasts and further debates. Henrique, dark and handsome like his father, rides a black pony; Eva, fair and blonde like her father, rides a white one. Henrique bullies his slave, Dodo, and accuses him of lying; Eva is kind to him. (The slave boy had been taken from his mother only weeks before.) While Eva lectures her cousin about how to treat servants (the Bible tells us to love everyone, she tells him), the two brothers continue their discussion about slavery. Augustine maintains that having slaves around hurts the character of Southern children. Alfred tends to agree and says that he will have Henrique educated in the North. Augustine anticipates an eventual slave uprising, while Alfred maintains that Anglo-Saxons will always rule the world (although as Augustine points out, most slaves have some white ancestry). NOTE: HAITI In August 1791, in the aftermath of the French Revolution, black slaves and mulattoes (persons of mixed ancestry) in the French West Indian colony of Haiti rose against their masters. There were abuses on both sides, and thousands of whites were killed or forced into exile. The example of Haiti frightened white Southerners, and made them, some historians believe, less likely to consider freeing their own slaves. Slaveowners also used the example of Haiti to prove that slaves were inherently violent. Augustine St. Clare makes a different point--that people are only as good as their rulers make them. What practical measure is he advocating, therefore? (San Domingo, to which Augustine refers, is an earlier name for Haiti.) ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 24. FORESHADOWINGS Foreseeing her death, Eva begs her father to free their slaves, and especially Tom. Marie refuses to acknowledge Eva's sickness, because she is too absorbed by her own imagined pain. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 25. THE LITTLE EVANGELIST Topsy has misbehaved once too often and Ophelia wants to be rid of her. Marie tells her that she should have whipped the child. Eva takes a different approach, asking Topsy whether she's ever loved anyone. She hasn't, Topsy replies, and no one has loved her. Ophelia would love her if she were good, Eva explains. But Topsy answers that Ophelia can't stand to touch her. Eva tells Topsy that she loves her and that Jesus does, too. She says that she is about to die and would be pleased if Topsy behaved for her sake. Topsy cries and promises to try. Watching her, Ophelia admits her prejudice, but says she hadn't known that Topsy was aware of it. She calls Eva "Christ-like"--the source of the chapter's title, for, like Christ, little Evangeline is an evangelist. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 26. DEATH Sensing that death is near, Eva bids good-bye to the family servants. She gives each a lock of hair, saying she loves them and has prayed for them, and that they must try to be Christians. Augustine asks his daughter what it means to be a Christian. "Loving Christ most of all," Eva responds. On her deathbed, with Ophelia, Augustine, and Tom around her, Eva cries, "Oh love,--joy,--peace!" NOTE: "LOVING CHRIST MOST OF ALL" Eva's definition of being Christian might not be everyone's, but it does not sound strange to us. However, such ideas were just beginning to be heard at the time that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. The New England Calvinism that dominated the country's religious life during its first two centuries--and that Stowe's father, Lyman Beecher, still preached in its third century--imposed more rigorous standards than simply "loving Christ most of all." For old-fashioned Calvinists, becoming Christian was a life-long struggle, requiring prayer, good works, and constant self-examination. The kind of Christianity that Eva and Uncle Tom embody was a rejection of Lyman Beecher's creed. American Protestantism was changing in the nineteenth century, becoming more accepting, forgiving, and accessible. Harriet Beecher Stowe was part of that shift. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 27. "THIS IS THE LAST OF EARTH" The members of the St. Clare household react to Eva's death. The slaves weep over her, and Topsy feels especially bad because, as she says, Eva was the only one who ever loved her. Ophelia promises that she will try to love Topsy, because she has learned something of Christ's love from Eva. Tom tries to comfort his master, assuring Augustine that there is a God and that Jesus loves him. Although Augustine is touched by Tom's faith, he himself is not yet ready to believe. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 28. REUNION Everybody in the St. Clare household becomes better and more religious as a result of Eva's death. Topsy stops misbehaving and Ophelia is softer and more generous. She presses Augustine to make her Topsy's legal owner, so that she can bring the girl north and free her. Augustine is making arrangements to free Tom as well. He is somewhat hurt by Tom's eager anticipation of freedom. You could never live as comfortably as you do here, Augustine argues. No, Tom replies, but I would be free. Augustine spends more and more time with Tom, praying, reading, and talking about Christianity. Tom believes that taking care of God's "critturs" is doing His work. Augustine's increasing interest in religion naturally leads him to think of slavery. A true Christian, he tells Ophelia, must fight against it. However, he is not sure how to go about it. He mentions that Hungarian nobles voluntarily freed their serfs; perhaps American masters can be persuaded to do the same. But Augustine wonders who will educate the newly freed blacks, and points to the prejudice of Northerners as being as oppressive as slavery itself. Augustine goes to a cafe, where he is gravely wounded trying to separate two quarreling men. When the doctor announces that his mind is wandering, Augustine disputes him: "it is coming HOME, at last!" With a final cry of "Mother!" he dies. The dictionary defines sentimental as "indulging the sensibilities for their own sake, artificially or affectedly tender, mawkishly or superficially emotional... addressed to easily swayed emotions." Would you say, by this definition, that the death of Augustine St. Clare is sentimental? Is that an accurate description of the death of little Eva? Actually, Eva has two death scenes, if you count the giving away of the locks of her hair. (Stowe claimed that writing little Eva's death scene so exhausted her that she spent the next two days in bed.) How can you tell when Stowe is writing sentimentally? Does she use language differently at these points? Is her treatment of certain subjects or certain characters more sentimental than others? When you use the word "sentimental" to describe something, do you mean it as a criticism? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 29. THE UNPROTECTED Marie plans to sell the house and auction off the furniture and slaves. Ophelia, after trying unsuccessfully to convince her to free Tom, writes to Mrs. Shelby about what has happened. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 30. THE SLAVE WAREHOUSE The slaves belonging to the St. Clare family, including Tom, are sold at auction. Also sold are Susan and Emmeline, a mother and daughter, respectively, who belonged to a good Christian woman. The man who buys Susan is unable to afford the daughter, who is sold to the man who has bought Tom--Simon Legree. The money from the sale of Susan and Emmeline goes to a New York firm to whom the son of their owner was in debt. Despite their uneasiness at selling slaves; the Christian gentlemen in New York could not pass up the opportunity to make money. Thus, as Stowe continually points out, the North as well as the South profits from slavery. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 31. THE MIDDLE PASSAGE Legree begins the trip up the Red River to his plantation by showing his slaves that he's the boss. He sells Tom's clothing and trunk to the boatmen, leaving Tom only one ragged suit. Finding Tom's hymnbook, Legree tells him, "I'm your church now!" Legree shows Tom his fist, which, he claims, has become hard as a rock through "knocking down niggers." He explains that he's found it cheaper to use his slaves until they wear out. NOTE: One of Stowe's brothers worked for a time in New Orleans, where he heard a slaveowner boast, as Legree does, that his fist had become rock-hard from knocking down his slaves. Stowe repeats this story in the novel's final chapter. A passenger who overhears Legree tells his companion, evidently a Northerner, that Legree isn't typical of Southern slaveowners--most of them are decent and humane. But it's decent ones who are responsible for slavery, his friend responds. If the slaveholders were all like Legree, the system could not survive. Do you agree with this analysis? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 32. DARK PLACES Legree's plantation is a dark place, indeed. Even the road approaching it sounds, as Stowe describes it, as if it leads to hell. The wind blows "mournfully," the trees are "doleful," hung with "funereal black" moss. The stumps of trees rot in the water. Legree bought his once-beautiful plantation from a man who had gone bankrupt. But he uses it the way he uses his slave--only to make money. Thus, the plantation, too, has a tragic air. Although Legree acts as the plantation's overseer, he has two slave managers, Sambo and Quimbo. He has trained them to be vicious, and he keeps them fighting with each other so that they will not turn on him. Lucy, one of the slaves he has just bought, will be Sambo's woman, although she left a husband and children in New Orleans. Legree himself has designs on Emmeline. Tom hopes for a little shack where he can be alone, but he must sleep on the floor of a cabin with several other slaves. Reading the Bible by the fire after dinner, Tom tells some slave women that God is "here, he's everywhere," but even Tom finds it hard to believe in this bleak place. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 33. CASSY On his first day of work in the fields, Tom notices the women. Lucy is finding it hard to pick fast enough, so Tom puts some cotton from his bag into hers. Apparently people don't help each other this way on Legree's plantation; several slaves, including Sambo, warn Tom that he will be whipped. But Cassy--described as a beautiful and light-skinned woman, who picks better and faster than anyone--puts cotton into Tom's bag. The other slaves seem surprised to see Cassy in the field. They are a little in awe of her--and she won't allow Sambo or Quimbo to lay a hand on her. Although Legree bought Tom expecting to make him an overseer, he recognizes that Tom isn't mean enough to handle the job. Because Tom had helped Lucy, he orders him to whip her. Tom refuses because it isn't right. Legree is furious that a slave dare tell him about right and wrong. Don't I own you, body and soul? he cries. Tom replies that his soul belongs to God, not Legree. Then Sambo and Quimbo whip him. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 34. THE QUADROON'S STORY After the whipping, Cassy tries to make Tom comfortable. She reads the Bible to him, as he requests, but tries to convince him that there is no point in struggling against Legree. The plantation is isolated, she argues, and there are no white people around to testify against Legree in court. (The word of blacks was not accepted as testimony.) "There's no law here, of God or man," Cassy explains. But Tom tells her that he's lost everything that matters to him, and "I can't lose heaven, too." Cassy tells Tom how she came to be Legree's mistress. The daughter of a wealthy white man in New Orleans and a slave woman, she was educated in a convent. When her father died suddenly, however, she was sold. She loved the man who bought her, and they had two children, although he would not marry her. But he contracted gambling debts and sold the three of them. When Butler, her new master, refused to help her rescue her son from his new owners, she stabbed him and he sold her again. Her next owner treated her kindly and tried to find her son and daughter; however, the son had vanished and the daughter's owners would not part with her. Cassy had a child with this man, Captain Stuart, but she resolved not to raise another child and gave her little boy an overdose of opium. Captain Stuart later died in a cholera epidemic, and Cassy was sold yet again. Eventually she ended up with Legree. At the end of Cassy's story, Tom tries to speak to her of God, but Cassy cries, "He isn't here!" NOTE: BLACK WOMEN AND WHITE MEN: "MRS. STOWE DID NOT HIT THE SOREST SPOT" Cassy's story of being bought by a white man who made her his mistress may sound familiar to you, for many of the slave women in Uncle Tom's Cabin--especially young, pretty, light-skinned ones--report the same experience. Did white men frequently take sexual advantage of slave girls, or is this melodrama and exaggeration? Certainly many of Harriet Beecher Stowe's contemporaries believed that such relationships constituted one of the worst abuses of slavery. Abolitionist Sarah Grimke, who came from a wealthy slave-holding South Carolina family, wrote that "women are bought and sold in our slave markets, to gratify the brutal lust of those who bear the name of Christians." Slave narratives--accounts written by escaped slaves, usually with the help of abolitionist editors--told similar stories. "Lydia Brent" explained in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: For years, my master has done his utmost to pollute my mind with foul images, and to destroy the pure principles inculcated by my grandmother, and the good mistress of my childhood. The influences of slavery had had the same effect on me that they had on other young girls; they had made me prematurely knowing, concerning the evil ways of the world. In the last chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe cites similar evidence. Was this just abolitionist propaganda? Not according to Mary Boykin Chesnut, the wife of a Confederate general, who noted with anger in her diary: Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines; and the mulattoes one sees in every family partly resemble the white children. Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody's household but her own. Those, she seems to think, drop from the clouds. Later Chesnut wrote: "You see, Mrs. Stowe did not hit the sorest spot. She makes Legree a bachelor." ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 35. THE TOKENS Cassy scolds Legree for beating Tom, one of his most capable slaves, so that he won't be able to work during a busy season. Although Legree owns Cassy, she has some power over him. He believes that she "has the devil in her," and Cassy encourages this fear. Sambo brings Legree a charm, which he calls "a witch thing" that he's found around Tom's neck. You recognize the silver dollar that George Shelby gave Tom when they parted, and the lock of little Eva's hair. As the hair winds around Legree's fingers, he screams and throws it into the fireplace. Why is Legree so frightened? Stowe explains by telling you his life story. In New England, Legree has been raised by a loving, religious mother. (It's interesting that the most evil man in Uncle Tom's Cabin is a Northerner, not a Southerner, by birth.) He has become evil because of his father's influence, fallen in with bad company, and run away to sea. One night, while partying with his friends, he received a letter telling him his mother was dead. It contained a lock of her hair, which frightened him because he felt reproached by her from beyond the grave and feared he was going to hell. Eva's hair has the same effect on him. Pale and sweating, Legree tells himself that he's bewitched. He calls for Sambo and Quimbo, although it is late at night, and the three drink and dance. NOTE: WOMEN'S POWER, MOTHERS' LOVE Uncle Tom's Cabin is filled with good mothers--like Eliza Harris and Rachel Halliday--and with grieving mothers, mostly slave women like Cassy, Prue, and Mammy. The influence of mothers is strong, too. George Harris remembers his mother and sisters, and Augustine St. Clare dies with his mother's name on his lips. It's not only the novel's good characters, however, who are shaped by maternal love. Tom Loker, the slave-catcher, calls out his mother's name when he is injured, and the Quakers take pity on him. Now you see that even the cruel Simon Legree had a loving and pious mother. Why does Harriet Beecher Stowe make so much of mothers? Some modern readers view this as part of her sentimentality. They point to scenes like the one in which young Legree, eager to return to the wild life on his ship, throws his mother to the ground. They laugh at the way Stowe uses the image of the fair-haired woman (Mrs. Legree) leading her little boy (Simon) to church as a picture of all that is good. Other readers see Stowe's emphasis on mothers in terms of the role of women in mid-nineteenth-century America. At that time, women had few options and very little power. They could not hold property--including their own wages--or gain custody of their children if they divorced. Although all of Harriet Beecher's brothers became ministers like their father, that career was not open to her. Neither could women become doctors or lawyers. When Uncle Tom's Cabin was written, only two colleges admitted women--Oberlin and Antioch, both in Ohio. Twenty years would pass before higher education would be generally available for women, and seventy before they would win the right to vote. For women in mid-nineteenth-century America--especially for white middle-class urban women like Harriet Beecher Stowe--the one place they had power was the home. Their husbands made the important family decisions and supplied the income, but women had enormous influence over their children. Writers of the day urged women to shape their children's values and exert a Christian influence over their husbands. In Uncle Tom's Cabin, you've seen two "good women"--Mrs. Shelby and Mrs. Bird--who behave according to these principles. At the time Uncle Tom's Cabin was written, the movement for full equality for American women was just beginning. Many women were drawn to the abolitionist movement, but they soon discovered that their hard work and courage did not gain them an equal place with male abolitionists. The antislavery women increasingly came to the conclusion that they, as well as slaves, were entitled to all the rights of free men. At the first women's rights convention, in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, they expressed their beliefs in language that echoed the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men and women are created equal." The women of Seneca Falls called for political and economic rights like voting and holding property. But while the women's rights advocates wanted women to have influence in the world outside the home, other reformers concentrated on women's power within it. Writers like Catharine Beecher argued that motherhood was a profession like any other, requiring special education and training. (It may not sound like feminism to you, but at the time, this line of thinking was seen as a way of improving the position of women.) So when, in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe goes on and on about the cheery parlors and the love of mothers, she is not only being sentimental. She is stating a political position, and showing that women can be powerful. Do you agree with her? ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 36. EMMELINE AND CASSY Emmeline, who has been resisting Legree, asks for Cassy's help in escaping. Cassy, however, sees no hope. She thinks it's impossible to escape. All the slaves can do is endure. Although Cassy warns him that he will never break Tom's spirit, Legree is determined to try. He commands Tom to fall on his knees and beg forgiveness. Tom tells Legree that as his master, Legree is entitled to all his time and all his work, but that Tom's soul is his own. Legree knocks him to the ground. NOTE: According to some historians of slavery, religion helped many other slaves the way it helped Tom. It enabled them to feel that they were not entirely owned by their masters--even though they and their children could be sold. It gave them something that was their own. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 37. LIBERTY As Tom sinks deeper into bondage on Legree's plantation, George and Eliza continue their journey north toward freedom. Tom Loker, the slave-catcher, tells their Quaker friends that George and Eliza's descriptions have been posted in Sandusky, the town on the Ohio shore of Lake Erie where they will catch the ferry for Canada. Therefore, Eliza cuts her hair and wears men's clothing. Little Harry, dressed as a girl, is entrusted to the care of a Canadian woman returning home. What does it mean to be free, Stowe asks you, as George and Eliza embark on the last leg of their journey. "To your fathers, freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To [George], it is the right of a man to be a man... to call the wife of his bosom his wife... to protect and educate his child... to have a home of his own, a religion of his own, a character of his own...." To Stowe, the most important fruits of freedom are faith and home. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 38. THE VICTORY Constant back-breaking work, with never a spare moment to read his Bible, has worn Tom's spirit. The Shelbys have not responded to Ophelia's letter about Tom's sale, and he begins to feel abandoned by them and by God. Legree gloats to Tom that religion hasn't gotten him anywhere, and he urges him to "join my church." Somehow, that's the last straw: Tom regains his faith. One night Cassy asks Tom's help. She has drugged Legree and wants Tom to kill him with an axe so that the slaves can escape. Tom refuses, saying that no good can come of evil, and that God's way is to love our enemies. Cassy says that's impossible when you have such enemies, and Tom replies that God's love makes it possible, and "that's the victory." Stowe generalizes the significance of Tom's remark: And this, O Africa!... called to the crown of thorns, the scourge, the bloody sweat, the cross of agony--this is to be thy victory; by this shalt thou reign with Christ when his kingdom shall come on earth. In other words, the slaves' willingness to suffer and to forgive their enslavers rather than rising violently against them will ensure their ultimate triumph in heaven. In words that recall his refusal to flee the Shelby plantation to avoid being sold, Tom tells Cassy that it's all right for her to escape, but that he has a responsibility to the other slaves. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 39. THE STRATAGEM Cassy plans an escape for herself and Emmeline. Some years before, a slave woman had been tortured in the attic, where she eventually died. Since then, slave--and Legree himself--have believed the place to be haunted. Cassy embarks on a campaign to reinforce that belief in Legree's superstitious mind. Then she carries some food, candles, books, and clothing upstairs so that she and Emmeline could live there. On the day of the escape, Cassy and Emmeline run into a nearby swamp. Legree offers five dollars to whomever catches the women. Meanwhile, Cassy and Emmeline reenter the empty house, where Cassy steals money from Legree's jacket pocket. The beauty of the plan is that Legree is too frightened to search the attic, and that any noise they make will only convince him that the place is haunted. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 40. THE MARTYR Unable to find Cassy and Emmeline, Legree takes his anger out on Tom. He threatens to kill Tom unless the slave reveals where the two women are. Tom refuses, and the furious Legree knocks Tom down. Watching him, Sambo and Quimbo begin to wonder who Jesus is, and Tom, near death, tells them while they weep. Tom prays to God to "give me those two more souls," and his prayer is answered. Like little Eva, the dying Tom converts those around him. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 41. THE YOUNG MASTER Two days after Legree's final attack on Tom, George Shelby appears at the plantation. George finds Tom dying in a dirty shed, cared for by the other slaves. When Cassy stole out of hiding to see him, Tom reached her hardened heart, and for the first time in years she cried and prayed. George tells Tom he has come to buy him and take him home, and Tom replies that the Lord has already bought him and is taking him home to a better place than Kentucky. Urging George to tell Chloe and the children to "follow me," Tom tells George that "I loves every creatur' everywhar!--it's nothing but love! Oh, Mas'r George, what a thing it is to be a Christian!" NOTE: UNCLE TOM'S DEATH Harriet Beecher Stowe claimed that after she had decided to write a book about slavery, the first scene she imagined was Uncle Tom's death. According to her son Charles, she was taking communion in the church at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine, when she suddenly saw the death of Uncle Tom, "like the unrolling of a picture." It was all she could do to keep from bursting into tears. Returning home, she immediately wrote the scene and read it to her family. Her ten-year-old and twelve-year-old began to cry, and said, Charles Stowe relates, "'Oh, mama! Slavery is the most cruel thing in the world.'" "Thus," her son continues, "Uncle Tom was ushered into the world, and it was... a cry, an immediate, an involuntary expression of deep, impassioned feeling." Four months later, Harriet Beecher Stowe submitted the first episode of her novel to the National Era. When George threatens to charge Legree with murder, the plantation owner points out that black people can't testify in court. What's the fuss over one "dead nigger," Legree asks--and in response, George knocks him down. He takes Tom's body away and buries it, wrapped in his own cloak. Kneeling at Tom's grave, George swears to "do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!" ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 42. AN AUTHENTIC GHOST STORY Dressed in a white sheet, Cassy prowls the Legree house at night, leading to rumors of ghosts. Legree, rattled, drinks more and more. One night, Cassy and Emmeline leave the house and make their way to the Red River, disguised as a lady and her servant. They board a steamer, where they meet George Shelby, returning to Kentucky after burying Tom. Cassy shares her secret with him, and the sympathetic George promises to help. In the adjoining stateroom is a French woman named Madame de Thoux. It develops that she is George Harris' sister, who was sold to a man who married her, freed her, and took her to the West Indies. Now she is a widow, traveling with her daughter to Kentucky to buy her brother. She is delighted to hear that he has escaped to Canada. As George Shelby tells Madame de Thoux about the woman George Harris married, Cassy faints, for she has reason to believe that Eliza Harris is her long-lost daughter. NOTE: "MR. SHELBY, GEORGE HARRIS IS MY BROTHER!" Many readers criticize Stowe's handling of subplots in Uncle Tom's Cabin. The coincidences that arise in this chapter strike them as silly: George Harris' sister, Madame de Thoux, happens to meet George Shelby, who happens to be traveling with Cassy, who turns out to be Eliza's mother. However, this kind of tying up of loose ends was not unusual in some nineteenth-century novels, as readers of Dickens will recognize. In addition, the efforts of Stowe's characters to locate their relatives have some basis in reality. Modern historians, such as Herbert Gutman in The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925, have discovered that slaves made great efforts to keep in touch with, and after the Civil War, to rejoin family members who had been sold away from them. William Still, a black Philadelphia abolitionist, had an experience as unusual as the ones created by Harriet Beecher Stowe. A man approached Still in August 1850 and asked for help in finding his own mother and father. This was a familiar request for Still, who was active in the Underground Railroad. As the man spoke, however, Still realized that the parents he was seeking were Still's own--the man was his long-lost older brother. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 43. RESULTS Madame de Thoux and Cassy trace George and Eliza to Montreal. There George works for a machinist, Harry attends school, and Eliza has given birth to a daughter, little Eliza. Their neat little apartment includes Stowe's regulation cheery fire and white tablecloth. Madame de Thoux offers to share the fortune left her by her husband with George, and the whole family moves to France so that George can attend the university. (Emmeline marries one of the sailors on the ship that takes them there.) Stowe describes George's future plans through a letter to one of his friends. In it, George says that he has no desire "to pass for an American." Instead, he wants to help build a black republic in Africa. He recognizes that the attempt to do that in Liberia has not been entirely successful. Still, he thinks an entire nation can have more of an effect on American slavery than an individual acting alone. Echoing Stowe's own sentiments, George writes, "If not a dominant and commanding race, [blacks] are, at least, an affectionate, magnanimous, and forgiving one. Having been called in the furnace of injustice and oppression, they have need to bind closer to their hearts that sublime doctrine of love and forgiveness, through which alone they are to conquer...." George confesses that--because he is half white--he is not always able to forgive. But "I have an eloquent preacher of the Gospel ever by my side, in the person of my beautiful wife." George, Eliza, their children, Cassy, and Madame de Thoux and her daughter leave for Africa. Cassy's son, discovered at last, moves there as well. Ophelia returns to Vermont, bringing Topsy with her. Eventually, Topsy joins the church and becomes a missionary to Africa. NOTE: "A NATION OF MY OWN" Many regard George Harris' plan to settle in Africa as one of the least realistic episodes in Uncle Tom's Cabin. George's bitterness about the United States was not unusual among former slaves. His impassioned speech to Mr. Wilson, the factory owner, in the Kentucky tavern, bears some resemblance to "What to the slave is the Fourth of July," an oration by the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass. But George's feeling that "I have no wish to pass for an American" would have surprised most free blacks in the North. They insisted that they were Americans, and they fought hard for their rights. By the time Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, colonization--the idea that the solution to the problem of slavery was to send blacks back to Africa--was an idea whose time had come and gone. The American Colonization Society was founded by a number of prominent politicians in 1817 to buy slaves from their owners and pay their transportation to Africa. The society bought land in West Africa and founded the country of Liberia. Although Liberia became an independent republic in 1847, only about four thousand American blacks eventually settled there. The American Colonization Society failed, in large part because free blacks had no desire to go to Africa. After the 1830s, abolitionists attacked the colonizers for believing that blacks were inferior to whites. One well-known supporter of colonization was Harriet Beecher Stowe's father, Lyman Beecher. In 1834, Cincinnati's Lane Theological Seminary, which he headed, was rocked by debates among students and faculty about abolition vs. colonization. The entire student body became abolitionists, and many withdrew from the school and enrolled at Oberlin College. Neither Lane Seminary nor Lyman Beecher ever fully recovered from this action. Abolitionists, both black and white, had mixed feelings about Uncle Tom's Cabin because of the chapter about George Harris' future. One wrote in a black weekly: "Uncle Tom must be killed, George Harris exiled! Heaven for dead Negroes! Liberia for living mulattoes. Neither can live on the American continent. Death or banishment is our doom...." A New England Congregationalist minister announced that Stowe had told him that if she had it to do over again, "she would not send George Harris to Liberia." But Stowe herself never made that statement. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 44. THE LIBERATOR George Shelby returns to Kentucky, bringing the sad news of Tom's death. A month later, he frees his slaves. He expects them to stay on the plantation, but he will now pay them wages so that they cannot be sold if he falls into debt or dies. George also promises to teach them how to use their rights as free people--which, he says, may take time. George tells his new employees that he had sworn on Uncle Tom's grave never to own another slave. "Think of your freedom every time you see UNCLE TOM'S CABIN," he admonishes them, "and... follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was." ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: CHAPTER 45. CONCLUDING REMARKS In the last pages of her novel, Stowe addresses you in her own voice, assuring you that Uncle Tom's Cabin is based mostly on fact. She tells you stories she has heard and quotes letters she has read. In addition, she explains the crux of her disagreement with slavery: all that protects a slave's life is the master's character. It doesn't matter that most masters are decent people, and not Legrees; even if abuses occur only occasionally, the whole system is wrong. Stowe appeals once again to mothers, who have learned through their love for their children to sympathize with others. What, Stowe asks, can one person do about slavery? Her answer is that "they can see to it that they feel right," because a person whose feelings "are in harmony with the sympathies of Christ" is "a constant benefactor to the human race." In addition, "you can pray," for the slaveholders as well as the slaves. She suggests that Northern churches receive and educate former slaves, and then help them resettle in Liberia. Stowe's final vision is apocalyptic: "Both North and South have been guilty before God," she writes. The only way they can be saved is by "repentance, justice, and mercy," for "injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!" This seems to predict the Civil War--or even the end of the world. NOTE: "MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GLORY OF THE COMING OF THE LORD" In this last chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe explains that she wrote the book so that Northerners--especially those who supported the Fugitive Slave Law--would understand what slavery really was. She wanted to show it, she said, in its "living dramatic reality." Presumably, Stowe believed that once Northerners finished her novel, they would do something about slavery. But Stowe's suggestions for action strike most modern readers as rather feeble. Feeling right and praying, they point out, don't accomplish very much. Why doesn't Stowe urge her readers to join the local abolitionist chapter? Vote for the antislavery Free Soil party? Attack Southern plantations and free the slaves? Do something? Part of the answer lies in Stowe's religious beliefs and in her domestic feminism. Stowe really believed that in dying for his faith, Uncle Tom achieved much more than he would have had he murdered Simon Legree or escaped with Cassy and Emmeline. For her the essence of Christianity was loving everyone and forgiving your enemies. That was the essence of her femininity, too--loving those around you and effecting change by persuasion and example, not force. Therefore, the only end to slavery Stowe can envision is the mass conversion of slaveowners who, like George Shelby, voluntarily free their slaves. (Augustine St. Clare suggests something like this in chapter 28.) Any political or military solution that forces Southerners to free their slaves is unacceptable. These attitudes may also explain why Stowe sends George Harris to Liberia, and why she recommends colonization in the novel's last chapter. George Harris is angry at America, and he admits that he has trouble working up much love and forgiveness. Like a good man, however, he submits to the influence of his wife, "an eloquent preacher of the Gospel ever by my side." If he can't forgive America for enslaving him, Christianity, as Stowe conceives it, requires him to withdraw. Stowe makes George passive--like a woman and a Christian--in his fight against slavery. Stowe backs herself into a corner. Slavery is horrendously wrong, but there's nothing to do about it but pray for a miracle or wait until Liberia becomes a world power. Thus, the only end to slavery she can imagine is the end of the world, at which time God will turn his wrath on America. Luckily, other Northerners found more positive ways of opposing slavery. To many modern readers, their position makes more sense than Harriet Beecher Stowe's. In the end, though, it took a bloody war to abolish slavery. "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored," wrote Julia Ward Howe in "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," in words that echo the last sentences of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The fact that Stowe's imagination was religious, not political, may weaken Uncle Tom's Cabin as an argument or as a guide to action. But it does not destroy its power to move readers, then or now. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: GLOSSARY ABOLITIONIST Person, in the years between 1830 and 1863, who favored the immediate end of black slavery in the American South, without compensation to slaveowners. AQUILINE Curved, like an eagle's beak. ATHEISTIC Godless. BOMBAZIN Fine twilled fabric of silk and worsted or cotton, often dyed black and used in mourning clothes. CALABOOSE Jail. CANAILLE The rabble, from a French word meaning a pack of dogs. CUDJOE Typical slave name. DAGUERREOTYPE Early variety of photograph, using a silver plate or a silver-coated copper plate. Named for L. J. M. Daguerre (1789-1851), who invented the process. DIES IRAE Day of wrath, from a famous Latin hymn on the day of judgment, sung at the mass for the dead. DRAYHORSE Horse and, by extension, a person used to pull heavy loads. A dray is a strong, low wagon. EBULLITION Sudden outpouring. EJACULATION Exclamation or a brief pious utterance or prayer. EVANGELIST Preacher of the gospel; one who brings the message of Christ's coming. HEMP Plant whose fiber is used for making cloth or rope. HIRE OUT Place a slave in an enterprise not belonging to the owner in exchange for wages (kept by the owner). JIM CROW Black person. The term, now considered offensive, was popularized by a song and dance called "Jim Crow," written by the black minstrel Thomas D. Rice in 1832. The song's refrain is "wheel about and turn about and jump Jim Crow." LAUDANUM Opium. MOROCCO Soft, fine leather. MULATTO Person of mixed black and white ancestry. MURRAY'S GRAMMAR Most authoritative grammar book of Stowe's day, written by Lindley Murray and first published in 1795. OVERSEER Day-to-day supervisor of slaves on a plantation. On small plantations, the owner did this job; on larger ones, the overseer was an employee. PUSEYITE Edward Pusey (1800-1882) was an Oxford professor who defended religious orthodoxy; thus, a Puseyite would be a religious conservative. QUADROON Person of one-quarter black ancestry. QUASHY Typical slave name. Used like "John Doe" to mean an average man. SANS CULOTTE During the French Revolution, this term referred to militant republicans. Literally, it means "without breeches." TOUZLING Disheveled. TRUMPERY Something deceptively showy, vain. TRUNDLE BED Low bed on casters that can be rolled under another bed when not in use. VINAIGRETTE Small decorative bottle with a perforated top; usually used for smelling salts. VERANDAH Porch or balcony extending along the outside of a building, usually roofed and often enclosed. WORMWOOD Woody herb producing a bitter oil, therefore, anything bitter or grievous. ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: HARRIET BEECHER STOWE She told the story, and the whole world wept At wrongs and cruelties it had not known But for this fearless woman's voice alone. She spoke to consciences that long had slept: Her message, Freedom's clear reveille, swept From heedless hovel to complacent throne. Command and prophecy were in the tone, And from its sheath the sword of justice leapt. Around two peoples swelled a fiery wave, And both came forth transfigured from the flame. Blest be the hand that dared be strong to save, And blest be she who in our weakness came- Prophet and priestess! At one stroke she gave A race to freedom, and herself to fame. -Paul Laurence Dunbar, Century Magazine, November 1898 ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: A TWENTIETH-CENTURY BLACK NOVELIST CRITICIZES STOWE It is interesting to consider one more aspect of Mrs. Stowe's novel, the method she used to solve the problem of writing about a black man at all. Apart from her lively procession of field-hands, house niggers, Chloe, Topsy, etc.--who are the stock, lovable figures presenting no problem--she has only three other Negroes in the book.... Two of them may be dismissed immediately, since we have only the author's word that they are Negro and they are, in all other respects, as white as she can make them.... The figure from whom the novel takes its name, Uncle Tom, who is a figure of controversy yet, is black, wooly-haired, illiterate; and he is phenomenally forbearing. He has to be; he is black, and only through his forbearance can he survive or triumph.... The virtuous rage of Mrs. Stowe is motivated by... a panic of being hurled into the flames, of being caught in traffic with the devil.... Here, black equates with evil and white with grace... if she could not cast out the blacks... she could not embrace them either without purifying them of sin... Tom, therefore, her only black man, has been robbed of his humanity and divested of his sex.... -James Baldwin, "Everybody's Protest Novel," Partisan Review, 16, June 1949 ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: ON THE CHARACTERS Out of a background of undistinguished narrative, inelegantly and carelessly written, the characters leap into being with a vitality that is all the more striking for the ineptitude of the prose that presents them. These characters--like those of Dickens, at least in his early phase--express themselves a good deal better than the author expresses herself. The Shelbys and George Harris and Eliza and Aunt Chloe and Uncle Tom project themselves out of the void. They come before us arguing and struggling like real people who cannot be quiet.... -Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore, 1962 ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: ON LITERARY MERITS We may think of the book as a fantastic, even fanatic representation of Southern life, memorable more for its emotional oversimplification of the complexities of the slave system than for artistry or insight. -Alice Crozier, The Novels of Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1969 ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: ON THE MEANING OF LITTLE EVA ...Stowe intended Little Eva's patient and protracted death as an exemplum of religious faith.... Yet her religious significance comes not only from her own extreme religiosity but also from the protective veneration it arouses in the other characters in the book, and presumably in her readers.... It is important to note that Little Eva doesn't actually convert anyone. Her sainthood is there to precipitate our nostalgia and our narcissism. We are meant to bestow on her that fondness we reserve for the contemplation of our own softer emotions. If 'camp' is art that is too excessive to be taken seriously, art that courts our 'tenderness,' then Little Eva suggests Christianity beginning to function as camp. Her only real demand on her readers is for self-indulgence. Stowe's infantile heroine anticipates that exaltation of the average which is the trademark of mass culture. Vastly superior as she is to most of her offspring, she is nonetheless the childish predecessor of Miss America, of "Teen Angel," of the ubiquitous, everyday, wonderful girl about whom thousands of popular songs and movies have been made.... -Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture, 1977 ^^^^^^^^^^UNCLE TOM'S CABIN: ON THE INFLUENCE OF UNCLE TOM'S CABIN This novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe was one of the greatest successes of American publishing history as well as one of the most influential books--immediately influential, at any rate--that have ever appeared in the United States. A year after its publication on March 20, 1852, it had sold 305,000 copies in America and something like two million and a half copies in English and in translation all over the world.... Yet, in the period after the war, the novel's popularity steadily declined.... Up to the time when it was reprinted, in 1948, in the Modern Library Series, it was actually unavailable except at secondhand. What were the reasons for this eclipse? It is often assumed in the United States that Uncle Tom was a mere propaganda novel which disappeared when it had accomplished its purpose and did not, on its merits, deserve to live. Yet it continued to be read in Europe, and, up to the great Revolution, at any rate, it was a popular book in Russia. If we come to Uncle Tom for the first time today, we are likely... to conclude that the postwar neglect of it has been due to the strained situation between the North and the South.... It was still possible at the beginning of this century for a South Carolina teacher to make his pupils hold up their right hands and swear that they would never read Uncle Tom. Both sides, after the terrible years of the war, were glad to disregard the famous novel.... [B]y the early nineteen-hundreds few young people had any at all clear idea of what Uncle Tom's Cabin contained. One could in fact grow up in the United States without ever having seen a copy. -Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore, 1962 THE END