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Free Study Guide-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-Free Notes
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George Shelby

As a boy he reads the Bible at Tom's prayer meeting. He eats with the slaves and considers them part of his family. He is a bright boy, well-trained in religious matters by his mother. At times, he is impulsive and imprudent. This quality is displayed when as a child, he wanted to knock Haley down for putting Tom in fetters. As an adult, he does strike Legree because Tom is not there to restrain him. Though he admires Tom's pacifism he does not emulate it.

George is saddened by Tom's death. At his grave he takes a solemn oath to do what one man can to drive out the curse of slavery from the country. He keeps that promise and liberates his slaves. In breaking the news of Tom's death to Aunt Chloe he is gentle, tactful, and understanding. He feels it is his bounded duty to educate them to use their rights as free men. This could be interpreted as patronizing on his part; however, one cannot ignore the fact that he is genuinely concerned about their welfare.

Tom Loker and Marks

They are the two slave catchers. If anything, they are crueler and harder hearted than Haley is. Marks is unrepentant; the last time he appears, he betrays his friend Loker by deserting him. Loker, however, is redeemed; this redemption comes after he experiences the forgiveness and care offered to him by the very people he once pursued.

Aunt Chloe

Tom's wife is introduced as a cheerful and warm person. She is proud of her skills as a cook. She has an endearing way of mispronouncing words like "perfectioner's" instead of confectioner's and "cheers" instead of chairs. These malapropisms also add to the humor. Her urgent desire to free her husband and restore her family is revealed in her wish to go to work for the confectioner. She is shrewd enough to guess that Mrs. Shelby will not object to her going or keeping her wages for the purpose, since legally her wages ought to go to Mrs. Shelby. Her suppressed excitement and joy when she thinks Tom is going to return with George Shelby is short-lived. Her outburst, "Just as I knew 'twould be, sold and murdered on dem ar' old plantations!" is justified and reflects her insight. She is heart-broken.

She is portrayed as loving to her husband and tolerating all the calamities that fall on her. For some time, the characterization of her was regarded as the basis for stereotypes of black women in the South.


She is a pretty quadroon woman who has been brought up by Mrs. Shelby from girlhood as an indulged favorite. She is married to George Harris, a mulatto slave on a neighboring farm. The marriage had been approved by Mrs. Shelby who had made all the arrangements herself. Eliza's happiness is marred by the deaths of two infants. Therefore when little Harry was born, she became over-protective and passionately attached to him. Her strong, protective, maternal instincts are aroused when she learns that Harry has been sold to Haley.

She eavesdrops on the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Shelby only because her suspicions have been aroused. It is not surprising therefore, that she decides to run away with Harry. She leaves the only home she had ever known and the protection of a friend whom she loves and reveres. When she reaches the Ohio River she finds it impassable. Haley's approach and fear for her child makes her desperate and she undertakes a most daring course through the frozen river. She is to be admired for the courage she displays here.

She is religious and has a firm belief in God. She has been brainwashed into accepting her position as a slave. When her husband George talks bitterly about his master and the yoke of servitude they all bear, she urges him to be patient, believing one should not rebel against one's master. She feels she cannot be a Christian if she cannot obey her master or her mistress. She wants George to trust in God for deliverance. Even when she begins her flight for freedom, she invokes God to help. After she is reunited with George on the Quaker settlement, she manages to make George believe in God.

George Harris

George is a mulatto whom Stowe describes as being "from one of the proudest families in Kentucky. (He) had inherited a set of fine European features, and a high, indomitable spirit. From his mother he had received only a slight mulatto tinge." The readers are struck immediately by his indomitable spirit and intelligence. He has invented an important machine for the cleaning of hemp, which is appreciated by the manufacturer. But he is severely condemned for this by his master, Mr. Harris, who believes slaves produce such inventions only to make less work for themselves.

George rebels against Mr. Harris, a callous man who punishes George for his intelligence by trying to allot him all the menial work, utterly disregarding his intellectual capabilities. George has managed to educate himself admirably, despite Harris' mean attitude. He is fully aware of the unfairness and iniquities of the system of slavery that gives a slave no rights. It does not even give him the liberty to marry and raise his own children. According to the rules of slavery, George does not possess the cardinal virtue a slave ought to have: submissiveness. On the contrary, he has run out of patience and is filled with bitterness. He has even lost his faith in God.

George's desire to escape to Canada is due to his thirst for liberty. He wants a country where the laws will belong to him and protect him. It is his genuine wish to be able to call that country his own and obey its laws. He is vehement in his denunciation of America, especially toward the end of the novel. The quest for freedom holds no fear for George. Armed with adequate weapons, both mental and physical, he is ready to fight to the death for his freedom. He knows he has nothing to lose. As he so rightly says, "All men are free and equal in the grave." The very thought of gaining freedom gives him a noble and proud bearing.

The difference between Tom's submissiveness and George's rebelliousness is apparent, but it has been the cause of much of the criticism of the novel. Stowe attributes George's fiery nature to the white blood in him. Otherwise he would be as resigned and as dead as Tom by the end of the novel. George, as a character, conforms to the dictates of romantic racism, an ideology that ascribes the characteristics of leadership and the desire for freedom to white people. This form of racism encourages the misconception that black men are neither bright enough nor ambitious enough to ask for freedom. Though it is doubtful Stowe meant her words to have such misguided implications, they nevertheless exist and have been an essential part of the novel's critical legacy.

Augustine St. Clare

St. Clare is an important and crucial character in the novel, one that speaks volumes about inactivity and apathy toward the slave trade. He is a kind master who pampers his slaves. He does not scold Adolph too harshly for wearing his waistcoat or for using his handkerchiefs or his cologne. He even allows him to imitate the mannerisms of a gentleman and to pocket money. He is perhaps the most generous of all the slave owners in the novel; he even promises Tom his freedom. He even suffers pangs of conscience about the practice of slavery. But although he feels sorry for slaves, he does not actively do anything to abolish the system. He feels helpless. When Miss Ophelia upbraids him for being indifferent to old Prue's death she is shocked to hear him tell her that the best they can is to shut their eyes and ears and let the matter alone. She thinks this is a glaring example of his indifference.

St. Clare is a thinker. He does not translate anything into action. The only concrete action that he takes is to legally grant ownership of Topsy to Miss Ophelia. This, though, would never have happened had Ophelia not insisted on it being done immediately. When St. Clare tells Miss Ophelia that he has not made any provision for his servants in case of his untimely death, she very rightly remarks, "Then all your indulgence to them may prove to be a great cruelty by and by." And a great cruelty it does prove to be. Even Tom is not spared.

St. Clare himself remarks that if he had grown up under his mother's care he might have become a saint, a reformer, or a martyr. Instead he has become "a piece of drift-wood." He has all the leanings of a reformer but fails to do any positive good. He has been a neutral spectator to the struggles, agonies and the wrongs committed on the slaves. He realizes his duty lies with the poor and the lowly and hopes to begin with his own servants. But his decision to act comes too late and in the wrong place. When he finally acts, he steps between two drunken brawlers and is killed.

Stowe intends St. Clare to be a warning for all her readers who detest slavery but feel helpless or not obliged to take the necessary actions against the practice. Apathy and indecision are the same as active participation; they encourage the practice and damn the slaves in much the same ways. Stowe was aware that many people, while not actively approving of slavery, did not feel obliged to speak out against it. To her, this lack of social responsibility was as wrong as owning and physically abusing a multitude of slaves.

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