Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Mr. Shelby’s wife, Mrs. Shelby is extremely kind to her slaves, and she comes to believe that slavery is a grave sin after she learns that Tom and Harry are to be sold. She had earlier said, to Eliza, that it would be inconceivable for Mr. Shelby to sell Uncle Tom, Eliza, or any of the other slaves on the estate. Mrs. Shelby helps Eliza escape to freedom by hinting that Sam should delay Haley as he begins his search.

Mrs. Shelby Quotes in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Uncle Tom's Cabin quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Shelby or refer to Mrs. Shelby. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Bantam Books edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin published in 1981.
Chapter 5: Showing the Feelings of Living Property on Changing Owners Quotes

This is God’s curse on slavery!—a bitter, bitter, most accursed thing!—a curse to the master and a curse to the slave! I was a fool to think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil.

Related Characters: Mrs. Shelby (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

An important scene in the novel. Mrs. Shelby did not, until this point, know that Eliza and Tom were to be sold - and, indeed, when Shelby later admits to the size of his debt, Mrs. Shelby realizes that the farm itself was in jeopardy, and that Shelby has done what he had to do, although it is a bitter thing. Mrs. Shelby has a more emotional and honest response to the loss of Eliza and Tom - a humane response, one that Shelby might also feel, deep down, but one that he is not willing to share.

Mrs. Shelby is indeed the first person in the novel to mention the idea that slavery itself is an "evil," rather than simply a "custom" or a way of life in that part of the country. Mr. Shelby, though he doesn't articulate it explicitly, seems to think the latter to be the case - that slavery is simply a component of the Southern way of life, as it has been for many, many decades. 

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Mrs. Shelby Character Timeline in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Shelby appears in Uncle Tom's Cabin. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: A Man of Humanity
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...door and overhears that Haley wishes to buy someone on the estate, but she hears Mrs. Shelby calling and must leave before she finds out whom. Later, when Mrs. Shelby wonders why... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Mother
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Eliza, Mrs. Shelby's maidservant, is a fair-skinned mixed-race slave, married to another mixed-race slave named George Harris. George... (full context)
Chapter 5: Showing the Feelings of Living Property on Changing Owners
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
That evening, Mrs. Shelby asks who visited Mr. Shelby earlier, and Mr. Shelby admits it was a slave-trader. Mrs.... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...and that he did not offer Eliza even though Haley wished dearly to purchase her. Mrs. Shelby , at first upset and surprised, apologizes to her husband for her small outburst and... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Mrs. Shelby grows even more upset, arguing that slavery is a curse, something she has never agreed... (full context)
Chapter 6: Discovery
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...morning, they see her empty room and realize she and Harry have run off. Although Mrs. Shelby is relieved, Mr. Shelby fears Haley might think he has arranged for Eliza’s flight; he... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...horses to aid in the search for Eliza and Harry. Andy also informs Sam that Mrs. Shelby doesn’t actually want them captured. Sam understands this subterfuge and slips a nut under Haley’s... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...Sam claims they’ll need to wait till after a meal to let the horses rest. Mrs. Shelby laughs at the morning’s chaos, Haley is furious, and Sam reports to Andy that his... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Mother’s Struggle
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
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Freedom Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Property is Carried Off
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
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Freedom Theme Icon
...Aunt Chloe can’t contain her weeping. Uncle Tom is quiet, sadly resigned to his fate. Mrs. Shelby arrives, claims she can offer no gift of use to Tom now, and promises again... (full context)
Chapter 21: Kentuck
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Back in Kentucky, on the Shelby plantation, Mrs. Shelby tells her husband that Tom’s letter to Aunt Chloe has arrived. Mr. Shelby hints that... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
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Mrs. Shelby likes the idea and plans to run it by Mr. Shelby. Young George arrives, pleased... (full context)
Chapter 41: The Young Master
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
George Shelby, Jr., arrives at the Legree plantation. His father has recently passed away, Mrs. Shelby is now manager of the estate, and after hearing only that Tom has been sold... (full context)
Chapter 44: The Liberator
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
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Shelby, Jr. returns home. Although Mrs. Shelby fears that something has happened to Tom, Aunt Chloe still plans for his safe return... (full context)