Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Eliza escapes with her son, Tom sold "down the river"
The book opens with a
facing the loss of his farm
because of debts. Even though he and his wife,
, believe that they have a
benevolent relationship with their slaves, Shelby decides to raise the needed funds by selling two
, a middle-aged man with a wife and children, and Harry, the son of Emily
—to a slave trader. Emily Shelby hates the idea of doing this because she
had promised her maid that her child would never be sold; Emily's son,
, hates to
see Tom go because he sees the man as his friend and mentor.
When Eliza overhears Mr. and Mrs. Shelby discussing plans to sell Tom and Harry, Eliza
determines to run away with her son. The novel states that Eliza made this decision because she
fears losing her only surviving child (she had already
two children). Eliza departs that
night, leaving a note of apology to her mistress.
While all of this is happening, Uncle Tom is sold and placed on a
, which sets sail down the
. While on board, Tom meets and befriends a young white girl named
. When Eva
falls into the river, Tom saves her. In gratitude, Eva's father,
Augustine St. Clare
, buys Tom from the
slave trader and takes him with the family to their home in
. During this time, Tom and Eva
begin to relate to one another because of the deep Christian faith they both share.
Eliza's family hunted, Tom's life with St. Clare
During Eliza's escape, she meets up with her husband George Harris, who had run away previously. They
decide to attempt to reach
. However, they are now being tracked by a slave hunter named Tom
Loker. Eventually Loker and his men trap Eliza and her family, causing George to shoot Loker. Worried
that Loker may die, Eliza convinces George to bring the slave hunter to a nearby
Back in New Orleans, St. Clare debates slavery with his Northern cousin Ophelia who, while opposing
slavery, is prejudiced against black people. St. Clare, however, believes he is not biased, even though he
is a slave owner. In an attempt to show Ophelia that her views on blacks are wrong, St. Clare purchases
, a young black slave. St. Clare then asks Ophelia to educate her.
After Tom has lived with the St. Clares for two years, Eva grows very ill. Before she dies she experiences
a vision of
, which she shares with the people around her. As a result of her death and vision, the
other characters resolve to change their lives, with Ophelia promising to throw off her personal prejudices
against blacks, Topsy saying she will better herself, and St. Clare pledging to free Uncle Tom.
Tom sold to Simon Legree