Chapter 1 Notes from Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 1

In the parlor of the Shelbys, a family that lives on a farm in Kentucky with several slaves, a slave trader named Haley is discussing a matter of business with Mr. Shelby, the congenial head of the household. Mr. Shelby, clearly uncomfortable, has found himself in Haley's debt and at his mercy. Haley is steadfast in insisting that Mr. Shelby must settle the debt by selling Tom, Shelby's most valued slave. When Harry, a small slave child, enters the room, Haley is instantly taken with the boy's beauty, charm, and obvious intelligence. He immediately offers to settle up with Shelby if he will sell both Tom and the child. When Eliza, the child's mother and Mr. Shelby's wife's servant, enters the room, Haley is also taken with her beauty. She collects her child and scurries out of the room hurriedly. After she leaves, Haley expresses his admiration for Eliza and suggests that Mr. Shelby sell her as well. Mr. Shelby firmly tells Haley that he cannot sell Eliza, as his wife adores her. Haley agrees to this, but insists that Mr. Shelby sell Harry regardless. Mr. Shelby tells Haley that he will think it over and discuss the matter with his wife and tells Haley to come again later that evening. As Haley exits, Mr. Shelby bemoans his predicament silently to himself. Meanwhile, Eliza has run to Mrs. Shelby's parlor, having overheard just enough of the conversation to ascertain that Mr. Shelby was planning to sell someone. Eliza enters her mistress' room with a gloomy expression; she is sick with worry that Mr. Shelby might be planning to sell her son. When Mrs. Shelby asks Eliza if she is upset, Eliza bursts into tears and confesses what she has overheard. Mrs. Shelby insists that Mr. Shelby would never sell Harry or any other slaves on the property, and her utter sincerity calms Eliza. Mrs. Shelby is completely unaware of her husband's situation and believes what she is telling Eliza is the truth.

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