As the novel opens Uncle Tom is happily employed as the most important and trusted enslaved worker on the Shelby farm in Kentucky. His owners respect him, their son adores him, and the other slaves revere him as their spiritual leader. He and his wife and children live in a humble but homey cabin. Then Tom is sold and must leave the farm and his family behind. His first new owners, the St. Clares of New Orleans, are kind and appreciate Tom's fine qualities, entrusting their young daughter, Eva, to his care and companionship. Tom and Eva share a deep commitment to Christianity. But after both Eva and her father die, Tom is once again sold, this time to a cruel master intent on breaking Tom's spirit and strong religious beliefs. The master does not succeed. He orders Tom beaten to death for refusing to reveal information about two enslaved women he aided in escaping, but Tom manages to convert those inflicting the punishment. His dying moments reveal his unshakable faith and compassion.
Eliza is a deeply Christian woman who has always viewed obedience to her owners as her duty. However, when her beloved husband, George, escapes to Canada and she learns her son is to be sold, she decides to flee from the only home she has known. Eliza is strong and determined to keep her son, and those who help her see her sweetness and deep faith. She does not change much during her flight; she survives the frightening chase, reunites with George and crosses safely into Canada with him, and finally meets her long-lost mother, Cassy, as the novel draws to a close.
From his first appearance in the story George comes across as a strong-willed person, fueled by a desire for justice and a deep love for his wife and son. He never wavers in his commitments to freedom and family, but he does soften toward his wife's deep Christian beliefs. George is proud and does not rely on others. His light skin and level of education help him pass as white, so he can make his way—using the name Henry Butler—without having to hide.
Readers first meet blonde, blue-eyed Eva as she, her father, and her father's cousin Ophelia travel to New Orleans on the boat carrying Tom and other slaves. Her character does not change as the story progresses. Eva is a perfect child who loves everyone and befriends people easily. She quotes the Bible as she sweetly tries to help people be their best. When she falls overboard Tom saves her, and Eva demands her father buy him. At the St. Clare home Eva and Tom are nearly inseparable. Even as she becomes mortally ill she never fails in her angelic ways, seeing good in everyone and constantly advocating for an end to slavery. On her peaceful deathbed little Eva gives each household member one of her golden curls and reassures them of God's love and mercy.
Augustine St. Clare
Augustine St. Clare has money and position in aristocratic society, but he is emotionally damaged from his beloved mother's death and his unhappy marriage. His daughter, Eva, is a bright spot in his life, but even she cannot seem to spur him into becoming Christian, emancipating his slaves, and make other changes to bring about good in the world. Augustine talks a lot about what is right and wrong in the world, and when Eva is on her deathbed he promises he will free Uncle Tom. However, he dies in a freak accident before he can keep his word.
If Uncle Tom is a Christ figure in the novel, Simon Legree is the devil. He needs to have control and power over everyone in his sphere, and he uses physical force unsparingly. His loathsome manners are reflected in his ugly physical environment. He is unclean in every way and beyond reform.