Uncle Tom's Cabin chantel
What is a slave narrative?
Slave narratives are accounts of the trials and tribulations slaves have experienced throughout their slavery, and generally, on their journey to freedom. They offer an experience differing from their slave owners' claims. They were often used as propaganda to end slavery in the South. They provided substantial evidence of African-American intellect and intelligence. "The narratives told of the horrors of family separation, the sexual abuse of black women, and the inhuman workload. They told of free blacks being kidnapped and sold into slavery. They described the frequency and brutality of flogging and the severe living conditions of slave life. They also told exciting tales of escape, heroism, betrayal, and tragedy. The narratives captivated readers, portraying the fugitives as sympathetic, fascinating characters" (Slave Narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin).
Although Stowe was not an abolitionist, she had strong anti-slavery feelings. Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin is not a slave narrative, rather a fictitious account of what is commonly seen throughout slave narratives. However, it had a profound impact coming from a white intellectual woman, as opposed to the slave narratives which are written by ex-slaves. Stowe accomplished what so many slave narratives had hoped to because of her social status, which was her ultimate goal in writing the novel. She had reached people from all over the United States; from slave owners to abolitions, form the north to the south, the "whole nation [can] feel what an accursed thing slavery is" (Stowe 8).
Uncle Tom: The main character in the story, Tom is a faithful slave with strong Christian values he holds to the highest standard. Throughout the book Tom endures the trials of being sold down river continuously keeping his faith in God.
Aunt Chloe: Uncle Tom’s wife and a slave on the Shelby plantation. She works as a cook and mothers three children. Though she acts ignorant and simple around the Shelby family, she knows everything that’s going on and masks her complex feelings.
Eliza Harris: A refined and religious young slave woman owned by the Shelby’s. Eliza is married to George Harris, a slave on a neighboring plantation. Harry is their only child and the center of Eliza's life. When she learns Harry has been sold to a slave trader, Eliza panics and risks everything to protect and to keep him.
George Harris: Eliza’s Husband and Harry’s farther. George is a slave belonging to the Harris family. Handsome and intelligent, Gorges master is of a cruel nature and finds him intimidating. His master sees him as a threat and continues to make his life harder until George can no longer bear being a slave and runs away.
Mr. Arthur Shelby: A Kentucky plantation owner married to Emily Shelby and father of Gorge Shelby. Shelby is a kind, educated, and good-hearted man, even so he tolerates slavery, simply because that's just the way things are. He is the owner of many slaves among them are Uncle Tom and Eliza. Tom is Shelby’s most trusted slave Finding himself in a hard financial situation Mr. Shelby tries to settle his debts by reluctantly agreeing to sell Tom and Eliza’s son Harry.
Mrs. Shelby: Mr. Shelby’s wife and mother to George Shelby. She is a woman of high moral and religious sensibility and principle. Mrs. Shelby is a kind and compassionate woman. She hates the Idea of slavery and finds it to be an unchristian practice. Mrs. Shelby feels it is important to allow slave families to stay together. Eliza is Mrs. Shelby’s maid and most trusted companion.
George Shelby: The son of Arthur and Emily Shelby. He possesses his mother’s kind heart and principals. George loves the slaves with whom he has grown up and treats them almost like family. He is particularly close to Uncle Tom. After Tom is sold to Haley, George vows to bring him back to his family one day and declares that he will never buy or sell slaves when he grows up.
Mr. Haley: A slave trader who buys Uncle Tom and Harry from Mr. Shelby. Haley presents himself as a kind individual who treats his slaves well. However, by his actions he is cold, harsh, and anything but humane toward the slaves he trades.
Tom Locker: A slave catcher hired by Mr. Haley to track Eliza and Harry. He is much like Haley in the fact that he is a cruel, rough man motivated by money.
Senator and Mrs. Bird: This is another couple similar to Arthur and Emily Shelby. The Senator is a kind man who doesn't completely believe in slavery, but he tolerates it and votes for it like he thinks he is supposed to. Mrs. Bird is like Emily, because she is compassionate and against slavery. She tries to influence her husband to act in the best interest of the slaves. This family takes in Eliza and Harry for a night and helps get them to another safe place.
NEW CHARACTERS INTRODUCED AFTER THE MIDTERM PRESENTATION
Uncle Tom, a slave on the Shelby plantation, is loved by his owners, their son, and every slave on the property. He lives contentedly with his wife and children in their own cabin until Mr. Shelby falls deeply into debt to a slave trader, Mr. Haley. To settle the debt Mr. Shelby reluctantly agrees to sell his faithful slave Tom and little Harry, the son of Mrs. Shelby’s maid, Eliza. While discussing the subject with his wife Eliza overhears that her son Harry has been sold. Eliza cannot bear to part with her son and escapes the night before he is to be taken from her. Uncle Tom in contrast, while devastated but vows that he will not run away, as he believes that to do so would plunge his master so far into debt that he would be forced to sell every slave. Just before Tom is taken away, Mrs. Shelby promises him that she will buy him back as soon as she can gather the funds. Young George Shelby makes the same promise just before Tom leaves.
Eliza takes Harry and flees to the North, hoping to find freedom with her husband George in Canada. Haley pursues her, but two other Shelby slaves alert Eliza to the danger. She escapes capture by crossing the half-frozen Ohio River, the boundary separating Kentucky from the North. Haley hires Tom Loker and his group of slave hunters to continue searching for them. On his return he takes Uncle Tom to head down south. While en route to a slave market Uncle Tom is sold to the St. Clare family after he saves their little girl Evangeline from drowning.
Eliza with the help of a kindly Ohio couple is able to make it to the Quaker settlement where she is reunited with her husband George, who lived on a neighboring plantation and has also escaped to flee his master's cruelty. As the family heads North Loker attempts to capture them, George shoots him in the side, and the other slave hunter’s retreat. Eliza convinces George and the Quakers to bring Loker to the next settlement, where he can be healed.
The promise of freedom.
Tom is promised by his masters that he will be a free man before the end of his time. Tom is content with this. Tom tries to help others in slavery to understand that the future holds something better for them but he is never taken seriously. He looses a few that are close to him becaus of slavery.
There is a new law that states that you cant help a run away slave and you are supposed to return thim to their master.
throughout the novel there are many families seperated due to the slavery. Eliza and George, Chloe and Tom, and slave girls taken from thier families by masters for sexual reasons. Many slave girls had to have babies and then when the babies were old enough they were sold. Also, Herry is almost taken from Eliza and thats why she runs away.
Legree and haley mistreat their slaves. Legree takes slave girls as his mistress (Cassy and Emmeline). These two men cause a lot of pain and suffering to slaves. There is constantly conflict between the slaves and white man.
Slavery is the main topic in Uncle Toms Cabin. Stowes shows us slavery at every angle. Through the slaves, the masters, and even those who dont believe in slavery.
Religion is a theme because the Lord is who alot of the slaves turned to during these hard times. Toms character and Evas are said to be symbolic as Christ figures. Tom knows the difference between religion and the world. He knows that the white man should not have control over him and dont own him becuase it doesnt say anything about that in the Bible.
There are alot of powerful women in this novel. Most of them are discribed at ensightful loving and strong women. Elizas jump over the river is one of the most important and remembered scenes from the book becuase it showed her bravery and strengh. It also portrayed her leaving slavery for freedom.
Harriet Beecher Stowe offers several writing characteristics that are very unique in her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe writes this novel in the sentimental style. This style is meant to invoke emotions in the reader. Since Stowe’s purpose behind writing the novel is to get people to oppose slavery, this style is very fitting. Her writing exposes how life really was of African American slaves. By exposing the injumane treatment of African American slaves and by making the readers feel their pain, Stowe effectively causes readers to oppose slavery.
Stowe also uses several interesting techniques in her novel. One of these is the fact that the novel incorporates more than one plot line. Stowe intertwines the plot line regarding the cruelties that Tom faces with the plot line where Eliza escapes into the north as well as a few other minor plot lines. This technique of her's is possible because she writes the entire novel in 3rd person. Since there is more than one plot line, Stowe is able to attack the issue of slavery from more than one perspective. The switching of perspectives every few hours also keeps the story moving and interesting to the reader.
Uncle Tom's Cabin is also interesting in that it accurately portrays several different dialects. Here are some examples:
The Slave trader Haley: “Lor bless ye, yes! These critters an’t like white folks, you know; they gets over things, only manage right”
Aunt Chloe: “Bery nice man, de Gineral! He comes of one of de bery fustest families in Old Virginny!”
St. Clare: “My dear child, what do you expect? here is a whole class, - debased, uneducated, indolent, provoking,- put without any sort of terms or conditions, entirely into the hands of such people as the majority in our world are”
Topsy: “I never tell no lies, Miss Feely”…”It’s just the truth I’ve been a-tellin now, and an’t nothin’ else.”
Rachel Halliday (a Quaker): “And what’ll thee do, when thee gets there? Thee must think about that, my daughter.”
-Harriet Beecher Stowe was the daughter of an abolitionist (xiii).
-Stowe and friends helped slaves escape on the underground railroad (xiv).
-Stowe meant for the novel to be popular (xvi). And it was because it sold over 300,000 copies the first year (v).
-The book was viewed as “vicious propaganda” by it’s critics.
-When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe he supposedly said, "So this is the little lady who made this big war."
Truth or Fiction:
While the characters may not have been real I think that the situations are representative of happenings in real life. Stowe not only had exposure to slaves and their trials through her involvement with the underground railroad (xiv) but she also was very well educated (xvii). So the story may be fiction, but it was representing a problem that was very real.
-One of the predictions made was that Eliza will take her son Harry and attempt to run away after the situation unfolds where Mr. Shelby has to sell Harry to another slave owner who he is in debt to.
-Another prediction is that the man, Mr. Haley, who Uncle Tom is being sold to is not going to be the "fair" slave owner that he says he is.
-That Eliza, her son Harry, and her husband George will miraculasly escape to freedom in Canada.
Accuracy of our Predictions:
Well we see that Eliza does try to run away to freedom but the slave hunters provide more obsticles and as for Mr. Haley, just his tone of voice when he receives Uncle Tom says that he does not treat slaves who try to run with kindness but rather severe punishment. The fact that he puts the slaves in their place shows that his ego prevents him from any kindness to the slaves.
- www.uncletomscabin.org provides information regarding Josiah Henson who Stowe commemorated as being the inspiration for Uncle Tom in Uncle Tom's Cabin
- http://www.online-literature.com/stowe/uncletom/ is a link to the actual story in ebook format.
Slave Narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin. PBS online. 1 June 2008.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Modern Library: New York, 2001.