Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 7: The Mother’s Struggle Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Eliza carries Harry through the ice and snow, though he is old enough to walk. Beecher Stowe asks female readers whether they would be as strong as Eliza, as willing to endure hardship. Eliza reassures Harry that she won’t let any harm come to him as he sleeps in her arms.
Another direct address to the reader, and an appeal to a universal form of motherhood. Eliza might be said to do what any mother would at least attempt; but Beecher Stowe wishes to underscore just how incredible Eliza’s efforts are.
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They head toward the village of T-----, near the Ohio River. Along the highway they walk normally, with Harry eating apples and cakes from Eliza’s bag, in order not to arouse suspicion. Eliza claims she cannot eat until they have reached safety. Both Eliza and Harry are light-skinned enough to pass as white, enabling them to buy food in the open and speak briefly with locals.
A note on “whiteness”—both George and Eliza have fair enough skin to pass as “foreign” or even white, highlighting the arbitrary nature of slavery: if a black woman might very easily carry herself as a white woman, then slavery cannot be a “natural” or “biological” system.
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At T-----, Eliza is informed that the ferries have stopped running across the river to Ohio. Eliza explains to a woman she meets that Harry is ill—thus she has been hurrying to the ferry—and the woman offers to take them both in for the night.
This woman’s kindness is repeated by others throughout Eliza’s journey north, and seems an indicator of the “universal motherhood” Beecher Stowe invokes.
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Back at the Shelby estate, Aunt Chloe prepares a meal for Haley and others with great care, following Mrs. Shelby’s implied desire to slow down the search party. When Aunt Chloe and her children speak ill of Haley and other slave-traders, arguing that they participate in an evil enterprise, Uncle Tom enters and quotes the New Testament: “Pray for them that spitefully use you.” He instructs his family not to curse Haley but to trust instead the Lord’s grace. Uncle Tom worries that the estate won’t be able to manage without him.
The line quoted by Uncle Tom is another version of the famous line of Jesus, telling his followers that, if they are struck, they ought to “turn the other cheek” and allow themselves to be struck again. This form of radical passivity in the face of violence is embodied by Tom later in the book, on Legree’s plantation.
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Tom reports to the parlor and tells Shelby and Haley he will report to be sold on the appointed day, with no “trickery.” Mrs. Shelby promises Tom they will buy him back when they have the means. Haley readies once more to track Eliza and Harry, and Sam and Andy go with him. Sam uses his wiles to throw Haley off the trail and convinces him to take an old, seldom-used road to the Ohio River. They reach T----- about 45 minutes after Eliza has laid Harry to sleep at the woman’s house.
Mrs. Shelby’s promise to Tom is undercut by Mr. Shelby, who later will not allow Mrs. Shelby to work for her own income in order to buy back Tom. Instead, Aunt Chloe must do this work. Again, Sam’s trickery enables Eliza to elude capture.
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Sam sees Eliza through the window, fakes that his hat is blown off, and calls out, thus alerting Eliza to their presence. Haley sees her as she flees from the house with Harry. At the river, extremely cold and choked with floes of ice, Eliza carries Harry and jumps from floe to floe in a manner that seems miraculous. She reaches Mr. Symmes, an acquaintance of the Shelby’s, on the Ohio side. He is impressed by her courage and directs her to a safe haven, though he knows Mr. Shelby wouldn’t be pleased. Haley is furious, and Sam and Andy celebrate Eliza’s bravery before returning to the estate.
Eliza’s efforts here are seen as “superhuman” and made possible by the grace and intervention of God. Mr. Symmes acts in contravention of the Fugitive Slave Act, a Federal law which required northerners to return slaves to their southern owners—his actions would be considered “theft,” or the “aiding and abetting” of a crime across state lines. It was Beecher Stowe's outrage at this law that prompted her to write the novel.
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