Eliza, Mrs. Shelby's maidservant, is a fair-skinned mixed-race slave, married to another mixed-race slave named George Harris. George had been “leased” by his master to a bagging factory, and while there George invented a machine to speed the cleaning of hemp. The factory owner was delighted at the invention, but George's master was made uncomfortable by his slave's intelligence and accomplishments, and he brings George back to work on his farm.
An illustration of the impossible difficulties of the slave's position. George is permitted to work at a trade for no pay (his wages are paid to his master), and in doing this job effectively he ends up angering (and perhaps scaring) his jealous master who then forces George back into menial labor in order to keep George down.
George and Eliza got married while George was still at the factory in a formal ceremony on Shelby's estate, and the couple later watched two children die in infancy. As a result, Eliza is particularly attached to Harry, her only surviving child, and she settles into domestic life, which is pleasant, in relative terms, for a slave.
Slaves were permitted to form marriage-like relationships, but these existed at the whim of the slaves' masters and could be broken up when one or another slave was sold.
A week or two after George’s master removes him from the factory, the factory owner asks George's master whether he might return to the factory again. The master says no, that he’ll use George on his farm however he wishes. Beecher Stowe argues this is a fate worse than death.
George's master's stubbornness foreshadows other instances of hateful slave-owners, who seem to enjoy tormenting their slaves as much as they require slaves to work and generate income on the plantations.