Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe's work is a harrowing piece that argumentatively and prosaically contradicts the social mores and justifications put in place by those who were pro slavery during the 1800s. Uncle Tom serves as Stowe's archetype and like the author, he is unfailingly religious and it is his Christian belief in God that serves as his beacon to overcome the ills and horrors from the daily life of slavery.
In Gone With the Wind, written about 80 years later, there is the continuing line that outsiders to Southern culture did not know nor understand the familial relations between slaves and their masters. In reality, house slaves at least could become family and some were buried alongside their owners. What Stowe points out, is that yes, they may be family, but what happens when the master falls into debt? Will a common law husband not sell his wife and children if it suits his financial needs? What of the families torn apart in the process?
Uncle Tom's story begins in Kentucky, where he serves on a plantation for a reasonably kind master, Mr. Shelby and his wife. Though when Mr. Shelby falls behind on a payment of a mortgage; the family's best house slaves are to be sold. Eliza, the mistress's favorite, has a handsome son named Harry and when Eliza overhears what is to happen to her and her son, she runs away with Harry, crossing the icy winter Ohio river with him in her arms, to be joined by her husband and the family is aided by Quakers on their journey to Canada. Eliza's story is one of many epitomizing the lengths women would go through not to be separated from their children.
Tom hears the news of the master's debt and his plans to solve it, but still he refuses to go, "No, no... - it's her right! I wouldn't be the one to say no - 'tan't in natur for her to stay; but you heard what she said! If I must be sold, or all the people on the place, and everything to go to rack, why let me be sold."
Tom's overly saintlike loyalty may come from his elderly age as he might simply have been too old to risk the dangers of flight across the country, during the winter, to the North. With Eliza and her family escaped Tom is sold to the St. Clare family of New Orleans. The slaves seem to fear nothing more than being sold South, but with the St. Clare family he finds a reasonable home. The head of the family, withholds a philosophical cynicism, and he views slavery as a cultural more, pervading the country with its essence that creates a battle too much for one man to fight; so he owns slaves but promises to free Tom so he may rejoin his family in Kentucky.
Marie, St. Clare's wife, seems to have an ailment every day, though none can be proven to actually exist, and their daughter Evangeline, is unusually sweet and as one of her last wishes as she is dying from tuberculosis, requests of her father that the slaves be set free. Eva's notions toward slaves cause her to be considered a most peculiar child. Marie says, "Eva always was disposed to be with servants; and I think that well enough with some children. Now, I always played with father's little negroes - it never did me any harm. But Eva somehow seems to put herself on an equality with every creature that comes near her. It's a strange thing about the child...Now, there's no way with servants, but to put them down and to keep them down. It was always natural to me, from a child, Eva is enough to spoil a house-full."
When Eva becomes ill, it is Marie, serving as proof that reproducing does not necessarily make a person a mother, who insists herself to be really ill as opposed to her daughter who is merely exhibiting some highly positive signs of consumption. When Eva passes away, her mother's fits increase and doctors are called in a rush and in the process some servants really do come to believe that it is Marie who is in a state of mourning. Uncle Tom is the one to notice St. Clare, who silently remains in Eva's room, is the true mourner of the one pure creature in his life to be taken from him.
St. Clare keeps his word to his daughter, but while making arrangements to free Tom, he is stabbed trying to break up a knife fight at a cafe and dies. Marie, then over-rides all her husband's stances toward slavery and Tom is sold to a low down man; by the name of Legree, who has long, dirty fingernails and a derogatory manner to all who know him. Here Tom meets Cassy, a beautiful light skinned mistress, with a godless view of the world. Cassy's children were sold from her by her husband, and when she has a new master, and a child by him, she gives her newborn son laudanum as she sings him into a permanent sleep.
When Cassy and the younger, Emmeline, both mistresses of Legree run away together, Tom is flogged to death for not disclosing where they went. So, Tom never sees the freedom other persons in the story eventually find. Yet, he held a faith within himself to the last.
By Sarah Bahl
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