Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Themes and Colors
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Uncle Tom's Cabin, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Home Theme Icon

Uncle Tom's cabin, described early in the novel, represents the warmth and love of family life. It is a place Tom hearkens back to over the course of his trials. George Shelby wishes to bring Tom home, and at the close of the book, he points to Tom's cabin as a symbol of honest work and Christian faith. Other homes are juxtaposed with the cabin. The Shelby estate is genteel and placid, though disrupted upon the sale of Tom and Harry.

The St. Clare mansion is filled with color, wonderfully decorated, an island of comfort surrounded by the horrors of Louisiana plantation country. The Legree estate is dilapidated and used only to make money—eventually it is “haunted” by ghosts. Legree loves no one, and his destroyed home makes evident this lack of love. George, Eliza, and Harry's new home is, ironically, a place where they might live out the American ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but it is located in Montreal.

Home also takes on another dimension in the novel: that of a heavenly home after death, in God's abode. Eva claims she is going “home” when she is dying, and slaves who feel they have no home on earth may take comfort in the next life. In heaven the human family is reunited; even though black and white people may not live together in harmony on earth, a Christian belief in the afterlife will guarantee equality and peace.

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Home Quotes in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Below you will find the important quotes in Uncle Tom's Cabin related to the theme of Home.
Chapter 3: The Husband and Father Quotes

I an’t a Christian like you, Eliza; my heart’s full of bitterness; I can’t trust in God. Why does he let things be so?

Related Characters: George Harris (speaker), Eliza Harris
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Christian faith will be a key element in the novel, one that is returned to again and again by different characters and in different contexts. Here, George wonders aloud how a Christian God could allow the kind of injustice he observes in a slave system - how this might be possible if God is indeed on earth to protect all his children. Eliza, for her part, has an easier, though not entirely easy, job believing in God - her faith and position are more secure than George's, and she believes that, eventually, God will provide a way forward for them, for a life beyond slavery.

George and Eliza's romance is one of the central narrative axes of the novel. It is a love that is separated, again, by something so cruel and impersonal as a debt between two white men. And although Shelby is somewhat hurt by the idea of losing Uncle Tom and Eliza - because he does have a fondness for them - he believes that it is more important to protect "his honor" with Haley than it is to maintain Eliza and George's marriage on his farm. 


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Chapter 4: An Evening in Uncle Tom’s Cabin Quotes

How easy white folks al’us does things!

Related Characters: Aunt Chloe (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Aunt Chloe, who is married to Uncle Tom, marvels as young George Shelby, the son of the owner of the farm, tutors some of their children. Chloe is remarking here that certain things, especially reading and writing and mathematics, seem to come easier to white students than to black ones. It is this logic - which would seem to play into the idea that whites are intellectually superior to African Americans, and which is of course not the case at all - that many now find offensive in the novel. This logic, though well intended, can be seen as "paternalistic" on the part of the author - as part of a system that believes slavery is wrong because African Americans ought to be supported by society, rather than recognized fully as equals of all other persons.

Although Beecher Stowe by no means intended to be racist, and indeed believed her novel to be an important forum for social change in the United States, these components of the novel nowadays read as, at best, dated, and, at worst, as indicators of the blinkered nature of even the best intentions of many white abolitionists. 

Uncle Tom was a sort of patriarch in religious matters . . . . Having, naturally, an organization in which the morale was strongly predominant, together with a greater breadth and cultivation of mind than obtained among his companions . . . .

Related Symbols: The Bible
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene of the novel, Uncle Tom is shown to be not only the center of authority in his family (a very kind-hearted authority indeed), but also a source for religious teaching and wisdom. Uncle Tom, as the narrator states, has read a great deal of the Bible, and has committed much of it to memory. Further, he abides by these teachings - he does not merely espouse them but works, day in and day out, to live by them to put them into practice.

This will become important later in the novel, when Tom has his faith tested by many people and in many ways. Some, like Legree, will even try to make Tom abandon his faith - they will tempt him, they will beat him, and wonder whether his Christian God can save him. Even in these moments, however, Tom's faith, as evident in this passage, remains strong and unbroken. 

Chapter 14: Evangeline Quotes

And you shall have good times . . . . Papa is very good to everybody, only he always will laugh at them.

Related Characters: Eva St. Clare (speaker), Uncle Tom, Augustine St. Clare
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

Evangeline (Eva) and Augustine are two of the more interesting characters in the novel. Augustine has married a woman who does not love him, and who is cruel and harsh to their slaves. Eva is the apple of Augustine's eye - he will do anything to please her, and she is an extremely well-behaved and kind child. She is, in this sense, her father's daughter, and not her mother's.

Eva notes to Tom that Augustine is a man who wishes to treat his slaves well, who believes that they are his equals, but who also believes in social conventions to the extent that he will not free his slaves right away. Indeed, Augustine's moral evolution over the course of the middle of the novel is one of the book's most important dramatic arcs. For, though in the beginning he maintains his position in the slave system, by the end of the book he no longer believes this to be the ethical or Christian thing to do.

Chapter 15: Of Tom’s New Master, and Various Other Matters Quotes

Of course, in a novel, people’s hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it . . . . But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us.

Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

This is an instance of "meta-narrative," for the author of this novel mentions other novels in which heroes or heroines undergo misfortunes and then perish. This reference to novels within the novel is designed to increase the "realism" of the scene, to make it such that the reader believes characters like Augustine really do exist in "life."

Augustine fell in love with a "northern woman" who broke his heart, and then "settled" for Marie, his current wife. Marie was very beautiful but also unloving, both toward Augustine and toward their daughter. Marie, further, was and is immensely cruel to the slaves the family owns - she does not believe that they are people, nor that they are worthy of any kind of respect.

Thus Augustine's choice to marry Marie is a fateful one, for it seals for him a great many years of unhappiness, and, perhaps more importantly for the narrative, it makes it impossible for Augustine to free his slaves so long as Marie has a say in the matter. 

Chapter 16: Tom’s Mistress and Her Opinions Quotes

It’s we mistresses that are the slaves, down here.

Related Characters: Marie St. Clare (speaker)
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote is an indication of just how out-of-touch Marie St. Claire is - how little she recognizes the plight of the slaves her family owns. Marie genuinely believes that her own physical ailments (whose exact nature is never described; they might very well be imaginary) to be far more difficult to manage than any problem encountered by Mammy or the other slaves in the house. Marie must know that there is a difference between being a free person and being enslaved - thus, it might be inferred, and is later demonstrated in this chapter, that Marie simply believes white people to be morally and intellectually superior to black people.

As with Loker in the previous chapters, Marie seems all too ready to embrace the underlying cruelty of a slave system. The system is hard to defend if one resorts to moral arguments about "protecting" slaves. But if, like Marie, one believes slaves to be naturally inferior to whites, then this cruel and inhumane standpoint at least makes the idea of slavery a workable one. 

Chapter 17: The Free Man’s Defense Quotes

But you haven’t got us. We don’t own your laws; we don’t own your country; we stand here as free, under God’s sky, as you are; and, by the great God that made us, we’ll fight for our liberty till we die.

Related Characters: George Harris (speaker), Tom Loker, Marks
Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:

George delivers this speech from a mountain-top to Loker, Marks, and the very idea of a "slave-catcher" attempting to hunt down and return a human being. George has learned a great deal from the Quakers, and he has also seen awakened within him his natural inclinations and passions - George knew all along that he was more than the equal of those around him, and his engineering skill and efforts around the farm demonstrated to him that he could do, think, and say whatever he pleased.

Thus George fights back against the notion that African Americans are in any way inferior to white Americans. This chapter, coming as it does on the heels of Marie's description of African American inferiority, serves as an important juxtaposition - a reminder of the slaves and former slaves who find occupations in the North and in Canada, and who move beyond the yoke of slavery into more fulfilling lives. 

Chapter 24: Foreshadowings Quotes

It’s jest no use tryin’ to keep Miss Eva here . . . She’s got the Lord’s mark in her forehead.

Related Characters: Uncle Tom (speaker), Eva St. Clare
Page Number: 313
Explanation and Analysis:

Tom and Eva grow very close as Tom continues to live in the St. Claire house. Indeed, Tom and Eva are linked as sacrificial, Christ-like figures in the narrative. Each seems almost "too good for this earth" - each is an embodiment of Christian ideals of selflessness and love of one's fellow person greater than one's self-love. Thus the reader tends to believe Tom when he recognizes in Eva this form of saintliness.

Of course, Eva's goodness, along with Tom's, really is "too good" to be true - there perhaps never has been a person as selfless as Tom or Eva. They are not meant to be characters in the novel so much as walking, breathing symbols, embodiments of Jesus's teachings. Against their example, the immoral schemings of slave-holders might better stand out. This, then, is Beecher Stowe's logic in presenting these characters are morally perfect - they underscore just how imperfect and vile the slave system in America is. 

Chapter 45: Concluding Remarks Quotes

A day of grace is yet held out to us. Both North and South have been guilty before God; and the Christian church has a heavy account to answer . . . .For, not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!

Related Symbols: The Bible
Page Number: 511
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section Beecher Stowe speaks in her own voice, and prophetically, as one who has created in the novel a parable of good and evil in America in the middle of the nineteenth century. Beecher Stowe has attempted to create both a "realistic" and an allegorical work - one that reflects society as it was at the time, and shows the battles of good and evil that existed in that society in symbolic terms.

Beecher Stowe believes that this conflict of slavery vs. freedom can only end in some form of cataclysm. There were increasingly in the 1840s and 1850s those who thought the same way, and were willing, in the North, to take a harder line against slavery in the South. Although there were a great many factors leading to the Civil War (nearly all of which did revolve in one way or another around the issue of enslavement of African Americans), Beecher Stowe's novel, problematic though it might be, is now seen as a spark that presented the issues of slavery to a wide reading public - and helped pave the way for the long struggle of equal rights for all Americans.