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Free Study Guide-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-Free Notes
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Marie St. Clare

Marie St. Clare is a one-dimensional character, a child in a woman's body. She is selfish and spoiled. Her jealousy of Tom and indifference to the slaves in general marks a turning point in the novel. Tom's streak of good luck changes for the worse, and he is sold to the man who eventually kills him.

Miss Ophelia St. Clare

Miss Ophelia has a clear, strong, active mind and is well-versed in history and the older English classics. Her religious ideas are formed and rigid; so too are her ideas on housekeeping. She is an extremely conscientious person who always follows the "path of duty." She is the personification of a typical New Englander and is exactly opposite to her cousin Augustine St. Clare in every respect. She agreed to accompany him to New Orleans for she feels it her duty to look after a neglected household and child. She tackles the reform of the St. Clare household in a systematic and business-like manner.

She is a typical Northerner who condemns slavery but has no love for the slaves. She harbors a prejudice against them. She cannot understand how Eva can kiss them or sit on Uncle Tom's lap. She is outraged when she hears the manner of Old Prue's death and cannot understand how St. Clare shuts his eyes and ears to such brutality. She feels that slaves can be made honest through instruction. She takes up the challenge of Topsy because it is true missionary work, but attacks the problem with considerable distaste and frustration. When she is forced to bathe Topsy because the others refuse to do so, she finds signs of abuse on the child, signs that fill her with compassion for the small slave.

Aunt Ophelia is a representative of Puritanism without its intellectualism but with its rigid ideals of personal conduct. It is left to Eva to show her the way to overcome prejudice. From Eva, Ophelia learns to replace her inflexible sense of duty with the virtue of love. She soon comes to recognize the deficiencies of a logical but cold religion. She has learned something of the love of Christ from Eva's love for the slaves. She can now love Topsy and will try to help her grow into a good Christian girl. In many obvious ways, Miss Ophelia has changed Topsy forever, but it is the effect Topsy has on her that is most compelling in the novel.

Evangeline St. Clare ("Little Eva")

Little Eva is the symbol of innocence and purity in the novel. There is a deep spiritual gravity in her that separates her from other children. When first introduced to the readers, Stowe remarks "the little one was not what you would have called either a grave child or a sad one." She is always dressed in white, a description that gives her an angelic aura.

Eva harbors no racial prejudices and is filled with sorrow at the sight of slavery. She sees no difference between the slaves and the owners. She takes on the aspect of a feminine Christ, stating that she wants to die for the sake of the slaves, just as Christ sacrificed his life for mankind. If the misery of slavery could be alleviated by her death, she would willingly do so. She makes St. Clare promise to set Tom and the rest of the slaves free after her death. She gives all her servants a lock of her hair as a token of her love and remembrance. She accepts death calmly, consoled by the thought that she will be united with Christ.

In deed Eva lives up to her name: she is an evangelist (a bearer of good news) who spreads the word of the gospel around. She dies because such innocence and purity cannot remain in such an evil corrupt world.

Simon Legree

Simon Legree is clearly the principal villain of the novel. He is a "short, broad, muscular man", dirty and unkempt. Stowe emphasizes his "bullet head" and his "large, course mouth." He is a monster who spurned his saintly mother and followed in the footsteps of his tyrannical father. He is the worst type of master a slave can have, a man who has forsaken goodness in every possible way.

He is brutal with Tom from the minute he sees him, inspecting his mouth and examining his muscles. He proceeds to strip Tom of all self-respect in slow degrees. He first makes him remove his decent clothes and then makes him wear a pair of old pantaloons and a dilapidated coat. As he is an atheist he sneers at Tom's religion and piety. In fact he is totally brutalized and immune to all feelings of humanity. He boasts that his fist has become as hard as iron "knocking down niggers." His heart is equally hard. He enforces discipline plantation through brute force. He boasts of how cruelly he treats his "niggers" -- "use up, and buy more" is his principle, as if they are a disposable commodity.

There is no sign of repentance in Legree when Tom tells him that he forgives him. He is not concerned about his soul at all. Legree dies a victim of hallucinations, drink and his own guilty conscience, haunted by ghosts long before Cassy begins her machinations against him. Stowe seems to suggest that it is slavery as a system that is evil and that white Northerners might make even worse slave masters than white Southerners.

As for his effectiveness as a villain, Legree is a one-dimensional villain. It is unlikely that any reader would admit to finding a little of Legree inside himself. In terms of socially responsible characterizations, the depiction of Legree is not very likely to persuade a slave owner to change (as the depiction of St. Clare might). The reader would see Legree as an extreme, a character easy to dislike. Where one might look at St. Clare and see his ineffectualness as a tragic flaw-might even see the trait of apathy or indecision in himself-it is doubtful anyone would admit to being like Legree and in that admission see the need for change.

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