Chapter 12 Notes from Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 12

Tom and Haley arrive in Washington, where Haley plans to attend a slave auction. At the auction, he purchases three new slaves, including a boy who was sold away from his desperate mother. The mother, an old woman with rheumatism, begs Haley to buy her too, telling him that the boy is the only child she has that hasn't been sold away from her. Haley refuses, and the woman is carried off crying to her new master. Haley and his gang--Tom and the new slaves--later board a boat bound for New Orleans; the slaves are kept on the lower deck, in chains. They talk amongst each other, crying over the wives, children, and mothers left behind. A black woman boards the boat, carrying a small child in her arms, and takes her place on the lower deck.

Haley approaches the woman and speaks to her, and it is soon clear from her loud exclamations that he is telling her something she doesn't believe. He takes out a piece of paper and reads it to her--a bill of sale for the woman and her child. She exclaims that it can't be true, as her master has told her he was sending her to Louisville to work in the same restaurant where her husband works. By this time, a small crowd has gathered around, and a man in the crowd reads the bill of sale and explains to the woman that he has indeed sold her. She holds her child tightly to her and turns her back on the crowd, staring intently at the river, in silence. After a time, a man approaches her and asks how old the child is. She tells him he is ten and a half months old, and the man admires him aloud. Later, the man asks Haley if he will sell him the child. After some haggling about price, Haley agrees to sell the man the child for $45. When the boat stops at Louisville, Haley takes the child out of the woman's arms while she is sleeping and gives him to the man who bought him. After the boat leaves the dock, the woman, Lucy, awakens and demands to know where her child is. Haley tells her that he sold him to a first-rate family and that she would not have been able to keep him down south anyway. Tom, who has seen the whole ordeal and is moved to pity for the woman, gently approaches her and tearfully tells her of Jesus and heaven, but his words fall on deaf ears.

Topic Tracking: Religion 3

Tom falls asleep to the sounds of the woman's sobs. Later, he sees something brush by him and hears a large splash into the river. Haley discovers that the woman is missing and asks Tom what happened. Tom explains that he believes the woman has committed suicide by throwing herself off the boat into the river.

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