While writing the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Harriet Beecher Stowe covers the central themes of slavery and oppression. The author also incorporates traces of faith and religion and the role they play in creating hope in seemingly hopeless situations. The protagonist, Tom or Uncle Tom as most children know him is the symbol of perseverance and selflessness, characteristics which earn him the trust of his master Arthur Shelby a Kentucky farmer and owner of several slaves. In this context, love, religion, perseverance, and sometimes overlooking societal norms conquers harsh practices such as slavery.
Shelby must sell Tom and Harry to Haley, a slave trader in order to cover his debt. Harry is the son of Eliza who is also one of Shelby’s slaves. Eliza attempts to convince Tom to escape with her to no avail. However, this does not deter her.
Eliza made her desperate retreat across the river just in the dusk of twilight. The gray mist of evening, rising slowly from the river, enveloped her as she disappeared up the bank, and the swollen current and floundering masses of ice presented a hopeless barrier between her and her pursuer. (122)
The passage depicts the woman’s strength and determination amidst difficult and unfavorable situations. Eliza does not run in order to achieve freedom, but to prevent separation from her son. Darkness begins to set in at dusk a condition that probably makes her journey risky. In addition, she crosses the swollen river with ice-cold waters and masses of ice. Her motherly love is unyielding. The author portrays the role of love in overcoming challenges.
The author makes use of symbolism by revealing Uncle Tom’s staunch Christianity i.e. he is Christ like. “Partly from confidence inspired by Mr. Shelbys representations, and partly from the remarkably inoffensive and quiet character of the man, Tom had insensibly won his way far into the confidence even of such a man as Haley” (228). According to the content of this book, Haley is a man with no respect for slaves. His only goal is to get as much money as possible. However, his contact with Uncle Tom softens his view on slavery. He is baffled by Tom’s contentment and patience. Haley goes to the extent of releasing him at night so that he could sleep well. It is evident that Uncle Tom easily gained people’s trust. Uncle Tom represents the theme of perseverance.
In an ironic twist of circumstances, Uncle Tom meets a young girl by the name Evangeline in a boat. The girl grows fond of him and even suggests calling him “uncle Tom” just like other children and because she also likes him. Moreover, she requests her father to buy him as one of their slaves. “Papa, do buy him! its no matter what you pay,” whispered Eva… “I want to make him happy” (237). In the slavery period, such a relationship is unexpected. A daughter of a wealthy man disregards social society and class norms and stoops to a slave’s level. Her behavior and conversation with the slave is contrary to the treatment Uncle Tom gets from some of his masters such as Simon Legree. She holds friendly conversations with Uncle Tom and even sneaks some snacks for other slaves as well. She is a mere child of approximately five to six years, yet her actions speak volumes.
In hopeless situations, some characters such as Uncle Tom and Eliza fight to the end. However, they react to similar situations differently; one by escaping and the other by staying behind. However, both hope to achieve better living conditions. The paper has shown how love, religion, perseverance, and sometimes overlooking societal norms conquer harsh practices such as slavery.
Stowe Beecher Harriet. Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Life among the Lowly. 122-239.