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.
Women Theme Icon

Uncle Tom's Cabin contains numerous strong female characters. The social role and importance of women, both white and black, is emphasized throughout the novel, and female characters are often linked by interaction and influence. Eva is fair-skinned and beautiful, generous, deeply religious, and always kind; she becomes an example to the uneducated, “heathenish” Topsy. After Eva's death, Topsy grows (with Miss Ophelia's help) into a Christian woman. Miss Ophelia herself believes in duty as a manifestation of love and Christian charity; she finds slavery repugnant but must learn, through Topsy, to actually interact with blacks. Marie St. Clare, on the other hand, is indulgent, lazy, quick to blame others, and her Christianity is merely performance.

Mammy, Eva's favorite servant, serves as a counterpoint to both—she is boisterous and committed to helping the St. Clare family. Back in Kentucky, Eliza and Mrs. Shelby are paired: both are caring mothers, and when Eliza flees to protect her child, Mrs. Shelby distracts those pursuing her. Cassy and Emmeline also form a kind of mother-daughter relationship as they escape to Canada together, and are eventually reunited with their blood relatives.

Beecher Stowe strongly implies that women are more affected by the horrors of slavery than are men. Black women see their children taken away and can themselves be sold into sexual bondage. White women understand these problems because they have children of their own. Indeed, it is difficult to read the inspiring language of equality and freedom in the novel without applying it to the rights of all women in society, black and white. Many of Stowe’s arguments—about equality before God, the necessities of nonviolence and Christian love—might be extended to a discussion of the place of women in America, where white women also did not at the time have the right to vote.

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Women Quotes in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Below you will find the important quotes in Uncle Tom's Cabin related to the theme of Women.
Chapter 1: A Man of Humanity Quotes

Lor bless ye, yes! These critters an’t like white folks, you know; they gets over things, only manage right.

Related Characters: Haley (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Shelby owes Haley money, and Shelby, considering himself a gentleman, feels he must repay that debt. Shelby does not wish to give up Uncle Tom and Eliza, whom he considers to be his best slaves. But neither Shelby nor Haley considers that Tom and Eliza themselves might not want to leave the Shelby plantation in Kentucky - that, for them, that place is home, and they, like anyone else, would be reluctant to leave their families behind.

Thus Haley argues, for his part, that no African American is capable of this kind of human feeling. Shelby's attitudes are more moderate than Haley's, but Shelby nonetheless feels that, in a slave system as practiced in the South, there is nothing inherently wrong with owning slaves and putting them to work, so long as the master is somewhat kind to them, and treats them nicely (if paternalistically). Shelby is an example in the novel of the "good" slave-owner who, all the same, participates in an unjust system of human ownership.

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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. 

Chapter 9: In Which It Appears That a Senator is but a Man Quotes

You ought to be ashamed, John! Poor, homeless, houseless creatures! It’s a shameful, wicked, abominable law, and I’ll break it, for one, the first time I get a chance . . . .

Related Characters: Senator and Mrs. Bird (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Bible
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

This is another instance of well-intentioned and impassioned argument by white Americans, wondering what is ethical and right in the face of human bondage occurring in the South. Mrs. Bird, whose husband is a Senator, believes that any law preventing people from helping fugitive slaves, in a free state like Ohio or in any state, is deeply immoral. But the Senator argues, for his part, that though he also feels this way, he has other obligations as a Senator. One of them is to preserve the balance of power between states in the United States - it is, in short, to avoid war.

Of course, the reader today understands that war could not be avoided, and that Senator Bird's theory, in this case, proved incorrect. For there was no amount of moderation that could prevent the conflict between free and slave states from spilling over. There could be no ultimate compromise on the issue of human freedom and inequality. And this latter position seems to align more closely with Mrs. Bird's -- another example of a woman taking a more sympathetic view on slavery than the novel's men. 

Chapter 12: Select Incident of Lawful Trade Quotes

I know this yer comes kinder hard, at first, Lucy . . . but such a smart, sensible gal as you are, won’t give way to it. You see it’s necessary, and can’t be helped!

Related Characters: Haley (speaker), Lucy, or “Luce”
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Haley has bought Lucy's child but not Lucy - thus, he has separated mother from child. This kind of separation is a central part of the novel, and is portrayed by the author as one of the essential cruelties of slavery - that African American families can be broken apart simply by the will of white men and owners, who seem not even to believe that African Americans can have any kind of family feeling at all. 

Haley attempts to "reason" with Lucy, telling her that nothing else could be done, that he is a businessman and businessmen must profit by things. If this profit comes at the expense of her own happiness, or of the prospect of her life with her child, then that's an unfortunate thing, but it's simply the way the system is designed to work. The author here shows that the logic even of "benevolent" slavery is a terrible and brutal logic, producing only suffering and dehumanization for African Americans. 

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 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 29: The Unprotected Quotes

Now, I’m principled against emancipating, in any case. Keep a Negro under the care of a master, and he does well enough . . . but set them free, and they get lazy, and won’t work, and take to drinking . . . .

Related Characters: Marie St. Clare (speaker)
Page Number: 369
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene is part of one of the great tragedies of the novel. St. Claire had vowed, at his saintly daughter's urging, to release those slaves of his he had owned. In other words, before his own untimely death he had committed to becoming a better person, and to doing right to those who lived under his roof. But Marie has made no such conversion. And because after Augustine's death Marie now controls the house, she sees to it that no slave will ever be released from there.

What is most upsetting about this resolve is the explanation Marie provides. She says that she does not wish to harm any of the African Americans under her "care," and she wants them to work rather than to "be lazy," which she believes is the natural state of any black person who is not living within a slave system. The blatant cruelty and falsity of these statements does nothing to keep Marie from wielding absolute power, unfortunately, and so her slaves realize they will not be freed after all.