Uncle Toms Cabin (1957 words) Essay

Uncle Tom’s CabinUncle Tom’s Cabin
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe 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. Tom’s most important characteristic is his Christian faith. God has given Tom an extraordinary ability. He can forgive the evil done to him. His self-sacrificing love for others has been called motherly. It has also been called truly Christian. 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. – 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. 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. 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. 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. – SAM AND ANDY- Sam and Andy, slaves on the Shelby plantation, provide comic relief through their mispronunciations and deliberate mishaps. Andy, who likes to makes 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. 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. 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. – 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. HALEY-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- 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. – 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. – 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. –
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