Monday, March 2, 2015

Uncle Tom's Cabin

v     Written in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe, this book is cited as one contributing factor in the American Civil War over slavery.

v     Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best selling novel of the 19th century, and the 2nd best selling book after the Bible.

v     Today the book is still controversial for a number of stereotypes it contains:

                        1. the kind-hearted "mammy"

                        2. the loyal and dutiful "Uncle Tom"

                        3. and "pickaninny" children, coming from the Portuguese word, 'pequenino' meaning
                            little one. It's a stereotype for silly, young black children who feel no pain.

Little Eva & Topsy

v     The major theme of the book is that strong Christian faith can conquer all the evils of the world, including slavery.

Cast of Characters:

Arthur Shelby - a Kentucky farmer and slave holder, who is in trouble with debts.
Emily Shelby - Arthur's wife.
George Shelby - Arthur's son. He loves Uncle Tom, and thinks of him as a mentor.
Uncle Tom - a great man, even though he's a slave.
Eliza - A slave, and maid for the Shelby family.
George Harris - Eliza's husband, an escaped slave.
Loker - a slave hunter.
Augustine St. Clare - a wealthy man from New Orleans.
Simon Legree - a plantation owner, and a horrible man.


1. This story begins with a slaveholding family named the Shelby's who own Tom and a number of other slaves. To pay off their debts they plan to sell two slaves: Uncle Tom, and Harry, the only surviving son of Eliza. When Eliza hears this, She takes her son and runs away to the north, leaving a note of apology to Emily Shelby.

2. Eliza finds her husband George, also an escaped slave, and they decide to run for Canada. They are hunted and trapped by a slave hunter named Loker, whom George pushes down a cliff. Rather than leave him to die, they choose to take Loker to a doctor in a Quaker village (Quakers are a kind of Christian who believe in equality and freedom for all). Loker quits his job and changes his life.

3. Tom is sold and put on a ferry boat going south. While on the boat, he befriends a little white girl named Eva, and her father, Augustine St. Clare, seeing the goodness in Uncle Tom, buys him, and takes him to his home in New Orleans.

Little Eva & Uncle Tom, by Edwin Longsden Long

4. After two years in New Orleans, little Eva gets very sick. Before she dies, she sees a vision of heaven. After, her father promises to set Uncle Tom free. But, before he can do that, he's stabbed and killed outside a local bar, and his wife sells Tom to a horrible plantation, owned by Simon Legree.

5. Simon Legree orders Tom to whip the other slaves, and when Tom refuses, he's beaten horribly. Tom can read the Bible and does so for the other slaves, which angers Legree. He doesn't want his slaves reading, or having any faith or hope in God.

6. Tom has two visions while at the plantation, of Jesus and of Eva as an angel. So, Tom helps two slaves, Cassy & Emmaline, escape. Refusing to tell Legree where they've gone, Legree orders that Tom be beaten to death. He forgives them as they kill him.

7. Just as Tom dies, he sees young George Shelby, who has come all the way from Kentucky to find Tom and buy him back. But, he's too late. Heart broken, George returns to his farm and frees all his slaves.

8. Cassie and Emmaline make their way to Canada where they find Eliza and her family. It turns out that Eliza is Cassie's long lost daughter, and their family is reunited again. They all move to Liberia, Africa.


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