Notes on Uncle Tom's Cabin Themes

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Topic Tracking: Morality

Chapter 9

Morality 1: Seemingly sympathetic and upstanding characters are forced to confront their own hypocrisy with regard to their attitudes towards slavery. The Senator's wife acts as the morally just character, demanding to know how a Christian could endorse legislation against giving food or shelter to runaway slaves. In fact, Stowe based her decision to write this book partially on the passage of the "Fugitive Slave Act" in 1850.

Chapter 11

Morality 2: Mr. Wilson, a sympathetic man, nonetheless condemns George's willingness to break the law as immoral, without acknowledging the immorality of the actions of George's master.

Morality 3: After condemning George, Mr. Wilson does a complete about-face and instead derides George's master's actions as immoral. Mr. Wilson's shifting view on what is the moral course of action is typical of the change of heart that many characters undergo after realizing the hypocrisy of their words and actions.

Chapter 16

Morality 4: Miss Ophelia, though firmly opposed to slavery, confronts her own morality when she finds herself reviled by the sight of Eva hugging and kissing blacks. Stowe portrays Miss Ophelia as a devout Christian and a dutiful teacher who possesses only the flaw of hypocrisy. Miss Ophelia states that she knows it is immoral to feel the way she does, but she cannot bring herself to get past her feelings.

Morality 5: St. Clare denounces the morality of the preacher, who uses the Bible to justify the institution of slavery, an act St. Clare finds appallingly hypocritical, as he feels the Bible's teachings--especially the same Bible his beloved mother believed in so strongly--would never support such cruelty.

Chapter 17

Morality 6: George Harris displays his high moral character, feeling pity for a man who had no concern for George other than how much money he could make off him. George is depicted as being morally superior to his pursuers, even though he shot Loker.

Chapter 18

Morality 7: St. Clare is revealed to be a morally flawed character himself; while he abhors slavery, he feels that slaves cannot be expected to be honest because of the hopelessness of their circumstances. His diffidence is shocking to Miss Ophelia, who feels that he should be ashamed of himself for being so willing to simply dismiss such a moral abomination so easily.

Morality 8: Eva, along with Tom, is the moral center of the book. Though she is only a small child, Prue's story--and others like it--are almost too much for her to bear. More feeling and sensitive than most human beings, Eva takes such stories to heart, and they cause her personal sorrow that others do not share so fervently.

Chapter 19

Morality 9: St. Clare argues that slavery, while terrible, cannot be stopped, as it is so pervasive:

"'When I have been travelling up and down on our boats, or about on my collecting tours, and reflected that every brutal, disgusting, mean, low-lived fellow I met, was allowed by our laws to become absolute despot of as many men, women and children, as he could cheat, steal, or gamble money enough to buy,--when I have seen such men in actual ownership of helpless children, of young girls and women,--I have been ready to curse my country, to curse the human race!'" Chapter 19, pg. 222

He argues that he himself is powerless to stop it, as it is so widespread. His sense of resignation stems partially from his laziness, and it is deeply contrary to the manner of Miss Ophelia, who believes that slavery must be stopped and that doing so is simply a matter of taking action.

Morality 10: Marie, portrayed as a wholly immoral and selfish woman, believes that blacks are inherently bad people who are naturally prone to criminal activity. She holds this belief so strongly that she can justify the most blatantly cruel and overzealous discipline, believing that if the person being disciplined is black, they probably did something to deserve such punishment.

Chapter 20

Morality 11: The morality tables are turned--St. Clare is morally superior when his conscience compels him to buy Topsy, as she is clearly suffering. Miss Ophelia's hypocrisy resurfaces, as she finds the child repulsive and wants nothing to do with her.

Chapter 21

Morality 12: Mrs. Shelby is shown as morally superior to her husband. Even though her husband is outwardly kind, he is not above owning slaves and would rather promise them nothing and not get their hopes up than to teach them morality and then honor it. This view angers Mrs. Shelby, who believes firmly that they cannot teach their slaves that the teachings of the Bible don't apply to them.

Chapter 22

Morality 13: Eva is proven to be morally superior to her mother; yet, Eva adores her mother despite her shortcomings. Eva is of sufficient moral fiber that she has no desire whatsoever for material possessions; she only desires the happiness of others.

Chapter 23

Morality 14: Eva is deeply saddened by her cousin's immoral treatment of his servant; she loves her cousin but cannot bear to see how he treats the boy so cruelly. Eva thanks the servant, as she feels bad for him and wants to comfort him.

Morality 15: Eva demonstrates again that she cannot bear injustice, and the normally sweet and docile girl rebukes her cousin for his brutality.

Chapter 25

Morality 16: Miss Ophelia realizes the error of her ways and admits that Eva is morally superior to her. She compares Eva to Christ and hopes to achieve that level of morality.

Chapter 26

Morality 17: Again, Eva is proven to be morally superior to her mother. She takes the opportunity to make sure that Topsy is not reprimanded for trying to do a good deed, and she graciously asks the girl to bring her flowers every day, knowing that it will bring Topsy pleasure to do so.

Chapter 27

Morality 18: Eva has taught Miss Ophelia a great deal, and her teachings and love are helping Miss Ophelia to be more accepting.

Chapter 28

Morality 19: Miss Ophelia expresses her belief that not only is slavery immoral, but it leads to immorality among the enslaved, an immorality that is not inherent to the free.

Morality 20: St. Clare begins to heed his nagging conscience, questioning his treatment of his servants and his past inaction against the institution of slavery. He tells Miss Ophelia that he cannot be a Christian until he speaks out against the injustice.

Chapter 29

Morality 21: Miss Ophelia points out to Marie the immorality and cruelty of her actions, and Marie's utter lack of moral fiber is exposed in her belief that blacks are inferior and must be held to a lower station.

Chapter 31

Morality 22: Here, the reader is introduced to the utterly depraved Legree, who exhibits a similar lack of moral fiber to Marie, though he dispenses violent discipline himself.

Chapter 35

Morality 23: A product of Legree's immorality is his superstition. The hair is symbolic of his conscience; secretly, he knows that he treated his mother horribly, and he views the curl of hair with horror and revulsion, as it stirs up feelings in his subconscious that he does not want to face.

Chapter 36

Morality 24: Legree is again made to suffer for his depravity through his subconscious. At the root of his terrifying dream is the knowledge that he may yet suffer and have to answer for his cruelty to his slaves.

Chapter 37

Morality 25: Tom Loker is another character who raises his moral standing through the kindness and Christianity of others.

Chapter 38

Morality 26: Tom's high moral standards are derived from his religious faith; when Cassy asks him to kill Legree, he replies that he would sooner chop off his own hand. This demonstrates his earlier belief that it is better to suffer and be redeemed later than to let one's earthly suffering degenerate into cruelty. When he tells Cassy to love her enemies, her response that mortal beings cannot do so, moves Tom to explain to her that the only way to bear these situations is through faith in God.

Chapter 40

Morality 27: Tom's statement that he would die for his master is demonstrative of the kind of docility that enrages readers to this day; many are angry that he not only refuses to defend himself, but would die for a man who treats him so cruelly. But for Tom, it is worth risking death to save another soul; his faith in God and love of Jesus is that strong. His warning chills Legree and almost brings the guilty feelings stirring in his subconscious to the surface, but he resists them.

Chapter 41

Morality 28: The horrifically violent manner of Tom's murder stirs George so passionately that he has a moral epiphany, realizing that he must dedicate his life to the eradication of slavery.

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