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The book Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe starts off in Kentucky. A Kentucky farmer, Arthur Shelby is in debt and being forced to sell a few of his slaves. One of the slaves goes by the name of Uncle Tom, a slave that Mr. Shelby truly trusts. The other is a young boy Harry, whom is Mrs. Shelby's servant, Eliza's son. Eliza overhears Mr. Shelby discussing his plans to trade with slave trader Mr. Haley. She then warns Tom and his wife of the trade, but Tom refuses to flee and is taken by Mr. Haley. Eliza, however did not want to lose her son and flees. Mr. Haley follows the mother and son, but is unsuccessful in capturing them when they cross the Ohio River. Mr. Haley does not give up though. He then hired two slave-catchers to try and capture Eliza and Harry. Before leaving Kentucky for New Orleans with Tom, Mr. Haley then purchased more slaves. While on a ship headed for New Orleans one of these slaves commits suicide because Mr. Haley sold her infant.
Some time later, Eliza's husband, George Harris, who escaped slavery when his master told him he must marry another woman and never see Eliza again, discovers of his wife's escape. He then sets out to find her. George and Eliza are rejoined eventually and prepare for their escape to Canada.
In the meantime, Tom while on a Mississippi river boat meets a young girl named Eva St. Clare. The little girl ends up falling into the river and is saved by Tom. Eva then requested that her father purchase Tom. Mr. St. Clare does so and takes him back to his plantation. Tom ends up forming a close relationship with Eva. Eva learns a lot from Tom about Christianity and comes to hate slavery.
At this time George, Eliza, and Harry are forced to quicken their journey because the slave-catchers were closing in on them. George ends up shooting one of them, a man by the name of Loker. The rest of the slave-catchers flee. Being the good-hearted Christian Eliza was, she insisted they take Loker to be treated.
Back in New Orleans, after about two years, Eva had become very ill and was dying. She makes her father promise to free Tom after her death and to make provisions to protect the rest of his slaves from being sold in case something happened to Mr.
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Tom was then sold to a plantation owner named Simon Legree. He was a very cruel man to his slaves. However, Tom never lost hope or his faith. Here Tom meets two women slaves Cassy and Emmeline, who are sexual slaves of Legree. These women one night decide to escape. Legree then demanded Tom to tell of their whereabouts but, Tom refused. Tom was then beaten until he was near death. Even at this time Tom never gave up his faith. He told both men that he forgave them for what they had done to him. At this time Tom's original owner Mr. Shelby arrives to buy Tom's freedom. However, it was too late and Tom speaks his last words and begs Mr. Shelby to not tell his wife the details of his death.
Cassy and Emmeline, however were successful with their escape. They end up meeting Mr. Shelby on the river boat. Another lady on the boat reveals that she is George Harris's sister, Emily. She tells them that she had been purchased by a man who fell in love with her and married her. She also told them that she was widowed and left with an inheritance and was searching for her brother George. Mr. Shelby tells her about how George fled with his servant Eliza to Canada. At this time Cassy recognizes that Eliza is her own daughter. Together, Cassy, Emmeline and Emily find George, Eliza and Harry in Montreal. They had been living there for five years and had even had another child. They then with Emily's inheritance move to France where George receives an education. They eventually move back to the United States and decide the best place for them would be Liberia.
Mr. Shelby, on the other hand returns home and tells Tom's wife about Tom's death. Mr. Shelby, however, keeps his word and does not tell her the details. Mr. Shelby then frees his slaves. He tells them to never forget Uncle Tom, for it was his grave that convinced him to never own another slave again.
Uncle Tom's Cabin is a classic book and has had an incredible impact on America, other than being just a "good read." It has opened people's eyes up to the real life hardships that slaves went through. Harriet Beecher Stowe did not write this novel with the intent of selling literature for entertainment value. She wrote this novel with the intent of showing through literature that slavery was immorally wrong. It is very evident throughout the novel that the main theme is that Christianity and slavery can not coexist together.
In order to see how much this one novel contributed to the end of slavery we look to a quote by Abraham Lincoln. In 1863 Harriet Beecher Stowe came to the white house with the intent of influencing Lincoln to do something for the slaves who had fled to the nation's capital. Lincoln referred to her as "the little woman who wrote a book that made this great war." Not only did this book have a great affect on America during the time of slavery, but also after the Civil war. In the 1960's there was more struggle in the south over gaining Civil Rights and people often looked to the book and what America had gone through.
The issue of slavery had a huge impact on America and in order to understand where we, as Americans, stand now we must understand our history. Even though, with the help of Stowe's book, slavery was ended we are all still fighting for our civil rights. There is sexism, racism and many other injustices all around us still. We must look to where it all originated and that is in the history of America. Slavery has shaped and molded America into what it has become. We must all understand the history of slavery in order for us to make sure that this part of history does not repeat itself.
Beecher, Harriet- Uncle Tom's Cabin