Characters of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Around 1850, the United States was a divided country. A deep split separates the slave-holding southern states from the northern states. Harriet Beecher Stowe recounts in Uncle Tom’s Cabin the shifting fates of slaves who are at the mercy of the whims and economic circumstances of their masters, for better or for worse. With holy anger, the author condemns a system in which people could be treated as things. She is wise and precise in her analysis of social conditions. While real people are sold from one owner to another, families are torn apart; they show their inner strength. The portrayal of their disadvantaged position sheds light on the horrors of slavery and teaches the true meaning of freedom.
Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin began as a series of sketches of the lives of slaves and slaveholders. Two opposite lines form the plot of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Stowe: the slave girl Eliza and her child and her husband George flee to the North, towards freedom, from the threat of being separated forever. Further to the South, they take away the sold and stoically accept the fate of Uncle Tom.
Women occupy not the last place in Beecher Stowe’s novel, which is emphasized more than once in the text. For example, the author claims that women always do things their way (Stowe, 1985). That is why Eliza is the main personification of rebelliousness, striving for freedom. Out of love for her loved ones and, first of all, for her son, she escapes, which becomes a symbol of heroism and independence. Thus, the text speaks of women as the real architects of society.
Having created a family idyll on the Shelby farm, the author follows its main characters in opposite directions. First, Beecher Stowe unfolds the fate of its main characters almost alternately chapter by chapter and then in larger connected blocks. At the story’s beginning, the slaves are doing well on Mr. Shelby’s farm in Kentucky. Mrs. Shelby adopted and raised her maid Eliza as a little girl. Eliza is married to George, a slave from the neighboring estate, both very light-skinned mestizo. Of their three children, only Harry, a boy of about five, is alive.
Initially, upon learning about the possible sale of her husband, their imminent separation, and his escape plan, Eliza finds herself in a hopeless situation. However, after learning about the sale of their only surviving son, she immediately takes Harry and escapes with him from the owners’ house. In this episode, the author shows the priorities in the life of slaves, which are no different from the values of any other people.
The slaves were acquired at the Shelby estate on the owner’s recommendations: Tom is a decent man and dexterous worker, and Eliza’s son is an attachment to the main product. This terrible fact destroyed two families: Eliza was forced to flee to save her son, and Tom was forever separated from his wife and children. The author again emphasizes the family’s importance in life and how such values inspire the struggle for freedom.
The writer protests against an antimoral attitude towards living people. The piece also features a gruesome slave auction. Tom and his new owner and readers witness the infamous sale of animated goods, where families are separated and children are taken away from their mothers. It follows that the central, tension-producing element of the novel is the question of whether the separation of slave families can be overcome.
Beecher Stowe allows her characters to come to the fore in lengthy dialogues, while passages of the narrative are continually interrupted by instructions on the prevailing conditions. The predominant perspective is the omniscient narrator, sometimes interrupted by the gaze of tortured victims, which increases the reader’s identification with the refugees. Sometimes the readers are even approached directly so that they feel and understand the injustice of slavery.
The writer depicts heroes condemning slavery: these are thinking, noble people, namely Mrs. Shelby, the senator’s wife, Mr. Saint-Clair, and Miss Ophelia, but they do not openly oppose the abolition of this disgusting phenomenon. Using the image of Senator Byrd as an example, the author reminds politicians that, by passing laws, they play with the fate of living people, with their pain and suffering. Looking at Eliza and her little son, the senator is engaged in sincere sympathy, agrees to give things to his deceased son, and personally takes Eliza to a safe place.
Eliza turned out to be a courageous person: for the sake of saving her son, she decided to take a step beyond the strength of a strong man. The pursuers were at her heels when she, inspired by the power that God gives only to the desperate, with a wild cry, jumped over the muddy current on the shore to the ice raft (Stowe, 1985). It was a terrible sentence that was only possible in madness and despair. Realizing Mr. Shelby’s intention to sell her son, Eliza proves the power of love and motherhood by making an extreme escape. According to the author, half of the world’s misfortunes stem from a lack of courage to live in a spirit of love. The family of Eliza and George is the symbol of the freed slaves in the novel.
Stowe, H. B. (1985). Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Edito-Service.