Uncle Tom's Cabin | Study Guide

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Uncle Tom's Cabin | Quotes

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1.

I won't be taken, Eliza; I'll die first! I'll be free, or I'll die!


George, Chapter 3

George tells Eliza he is running away to Canada, where he can be free and earn the money he needs to buy freedom for her and for their son. His fierce words show his commitment to being a free man no matter the cost.

2.

Things have got to a pretty pass, if a woman can't give a warm supper and a bed to poor, starving creatures, just because they are slaves, and have been abused and oppressed all their lives, poor things!


Mrs. Mary Bird, Chapter 9

Mrs. Mary Bird is admonishing her husband, Senator Bird, for voting in favor of the Fugitive Slave Law. This law made it illegal for people living anywhere in the United States to help escaped slaves in any way. When the Birds have this conversation, they have no idea they are about to aid Eliza and Harry.

3.

So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?


Narrator, Chapter 13

Stowe asks this question in reference to Rachel Halliday, one of the women she presents as ideal. Stowe believes everyone should celebrate the strength and grace of this Quaker woman and others like her who use their moral power for the common good.

4.

This, indeed, was a home,—home—a word that George had never yet known a meaning for; and a belief in God, and trust in his providence, began to encircle his heart, as, with a golden cloud of protection and confidence, dark, misanthropic, pining atheistic doubts, and fierce despair, melted away before the light of a living Gospel, breathed in living faces, preached by a thousand unconscious acts of love and good will, which, like the cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, shall never lose their reward.


Narrator, Chapter 13

Stowe shows how a loving home like that of the Hallidays, Christian beliefs, and moral actions can break the system of slavery and build up those who have been enslaved. Seeing these values in action George is finally able to focus on the positive things in life and be grateful.

5.

Of course, in a community so organized, what can a man of honorable and humane feelings do, but shut his eyes all he can, and harden his heart?


Augustine St. Clare, Chapter 19

Augustine St. Clare is trying to explain to his cousin, Miss Ophelia, why he can abide cruelty such as that suffered by Prue, who was beaten to death by her owners. He is defending his passive stance on slavery.

6.

'My view of Christianity is such,' he added, 'that I think no man can consistently profess it without throwing the whole weight of his being against this monstrous system of injustice that lies at the foundation of all our society; and, if need be, sacrificing himself in the battle. That is, I mean that I could not be a Christian otherwise, though I have certainly had intercourse with a great many enlightened and Christian people who did no such thing; and I confess that the apathy of religious people on this subject, their want of perception of wrongs that filled me with horror, have engendered in me more scepticism than any other thing.'


Augustine St. Clare, Chapter 28

Augustine St. Clare is explaining to Miss Ophelia his inability to be a person of faith like his mother and daughter. He expresses a viewpoint that is very important to Stowe: the idea that Christianity and slavery are totally incompatible. Since Augustine lives in a society that supports slavery, he cannot be a real Christian unless he takes action against the institution.

7.

'Mas'r,' said Tom, 'I know ye can do dreadful things; but,'—he stretched himself upward and clasped his hands—'but, after ye've killed the body, there an't no more ye can do. And O, there's all ETERNITY to come, after that!'


Uncle Tom, Chapter 36

Uncle Tom is responding to Simon Legree's threat to burn him at the stake because Tom refuses to beg him for forgiveness. Tom has already been badly beaten for doing what he believes is right, and he will continue to sacrifice his body rather than do immoral things that will break his soul. He is not afraid of dying because in death he will be in heaven.

8.

Gradually and imperceptibly the strange, silent, patient man, who was ready to bear every one's burden, and sought help from none,—who stood aside for all, and came last, and took least, yet was foremost to share his little all with any who needed,—the man who, in cold nights, would give up his tattered blanket to add to the comfort of some woman who shivered with sickness, and who filled the baskets of the weaker ones in the field, at the terrible risk of coming short in his own measure,—and who, though pursued with unrelenting cruelty by their common tyrant, never joined in uttering a word of reviling or cursing,—this man, at last, began to have a strange power over them.


Narrator, Chapter 38

This description of Uncle Tom's behavior on Legree's plantation evokes comparisons to Jesus Christ. By acting in Christlike ways Tom eventually helps other enslaved people experience faith and grace. Stowe wants readers to understand Tom's obedience to his faith; she does not intend to convey that his obedience to his masters is demeaning.

9.

Mas'r, if you was sick, or in trouble, or dying, and I could save ye, I'd give ye my heart's blood; and, if taking every drop of blood in this poor old body would save your precious soul, I'd give 'em freely, as the Lord gave his for me. O, Mas'r! don't bring this great sin on your soul! It will hurt you more than 't will me! Do the worst you can, my troubles'll be over soon; but, if ye don't repent, yours won't never end!


Uncle Tom, Chapter 40

Uncle Tom's speech as he is about to be beaten to death on Simon Legree's orders shows just how steady he is in his faith. What matters to him is not the suffering he will experience but rather that by killing him Simon Legree is dooming himself to eternal damnation. Tom knows things will be better for him after his death, but he fears for Legree's soul.

10.

'Witness, eternal God!' said George, kneeling on the grave of his poor friend; 'oh, witness, that, from this hour, I will do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!'


George Shelby, Chapter 41

George Shelby was unable to free his beloved Uncle Tom from slavery soon enough to prevent his death. On Tom's grave he vows to free the Shelby slaves, and he keeps his promise. Stowe includes the words "what one man can" in George's vow to emphasize that every person has a duty to do whatever possible to eliminate slavery.

11.

Pity him not! Such a life and death is not for pity! Not in the riches of omnipotence is the chief glory of God; but in self-denying, suffering love! And blessed are the men whom he calls to fellowship with him, bearing their cross after him with patience. Of such it is written, 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.'


Narrator, Chapter 41

Stowe explains that dying as a martyr, as Uncle Tom does, is heroic. The novel's hero is an enslaved man; Stowe is making the point that Christians must learn from people who have been oppressed yet have not given up their beliefs. Like Tom all true Christians must act with a clear conscience.

12.

How can it be otherwise, when a system prevails which whirls families and scatters their members, as the wind whirls and scatters the leaves of autumn?


Narrator, Chapter 43

Using powerful language Stowe points out that true stories that are "stranger than fiction" prevail in a world that embraces slavery. She returns to the topic she finds most upsetting, the separation of families.

13.

So, when you rejoice in your freedom, think that you owe it to that good old soul, and pay it back in kindness to his wife and children. Think of your freedom, every time you see UNCLE TOM'S CABIN; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.


George Shelby, Chapter 44

George Shelby speaks these words as he fulfills the vow he made on Uncle Tom's grave and frees the Shelby slaves. His words acknowledge the horrors of slavery while pointing out the redemption made possible by faith and Tom's great sacrifice.

14.

Northern men, northern mothers, northern Christians, have something more to do than denounce their brethren at the South; they have to look to the evil among themselves.


Narrator, Chapter 45

Speaking in her own voice directly to readers, Stowe chastises people of the North for treating slavery exclusively as a Southern problem. Through the character Miss Ophelia, Stowe shows Northerners have their own prejudices toward African Americans.

15.

The first desire of the emancipated slave, generally, is for education.


Narrator, Chapter 45

Again speaking directly to readers, Stowe states what she believes is one of the cornerstones of antislavery efforts. The novel repeatedly points to universal education as a way to help heal slavery's wounds. Stowe reinforces this by directly addressing the idea in her concluding remarks.

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