Uncle Tom's Cabin


Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Uncle Tom's Cabin: Foreshadowing 4 key examples

Definition of Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved directly or indirectly, by making... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the... read full definition
Chapter 26: Death
Explanation and Analysis—Eva's Death:

In the beginning of Chapter 26, Eva foreshadows her death: 

"Uncle Tom,” said Eva, “I’m going there." “Where, Miss Eva?” The child rose, and pointed her little hand to the sky; the glow of evening lit her golden hair and flushed cheek with a kind of unearthly radiance, and her eyes were bent earnestly on the skies. “I’m going there,” she said, “to the spirits bright, Tom; I’m going, before long.” The faithful old heart felt a sudden thrust; and Tom thought how often he had noticed, within six months, that Eva’s little hands had grown thinner, and her skin more transparent, and her breath shorter; and how, when she ran or played in the garden as she once could for hours, she became soon so tired and languid. 

In the passage above, Beecher Stowe uses vivid imagery and descriptive language to foreshadow Eva's death. Eva appears radiant, like an angel or saint. When Tom asks where she is going, she points upwards, which suggests she is going to heaven. The narrator then describes Eva's physical state, which is clearly in decline. The image of Eva ghostlike and deathly foreshadows the moment of Eva’s death that occurs soon after. All in all, the narrator's melodramatic language and vivid description underscores Eva's saintly nature. Throughout the novel, the narrator emphasizes her religious devotion and kindness towards the enslaved. Like Tom, when Eva dies, she becomes a martyr, someone like Jesus Christ who offers an example of what is right and wrong. All in all, both Eva and function as moral guides in the novel. 

Explanation and Analysis—Eva's Locks:

In Chapter 26, Eva uses a metaphor when she jokes with Miss Ophelia and likens her hair to a sheep’s fleece:

 Come, aunty, shear the sheep!

Eva, the St. Clares' daughter, is depicted in the novel as extremely sweet, virtuous, and devoted by all. Although Eva is joking, the association of her with a sheep here emphasizes her Christ-like nature; in the Bible, Jesus is described as a "lamb of God," a comparison that describes something innocent and precious being sacrificed. This religious reference, or allusion, is a form of characterization as well as moral persuasion on the part of Beecher Stowe; in making this allusion, she makes a direct appeal to her Christian audience, who would have been well aware of the phrase's biblical meaning.

Eva's religious nature and friendship with Uncle Tom inspires her father, Miss Ophelia, the other slaves, and also serves as an example to the reader. Beecher Stowe depicts genuine Christians as those who believe in treating all humans equally, a belief that directly opposed the practice of slavery. When Eva dies, it is presented to the reader as a tragic event. Eva's joke thus foreshadows her death, and like Uncle Tom, she becomes a martyr (or Christ-like figure) for readers to draw inspiration from. 

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Chapter 32: Dark Places
Explanation and Analysis—Legree Plantation:

In Chapter 32, the narrator uses imagery to describe the Legree plantation:

The house had been large and handsome. It was built in a manner common at the South; a wide verandah of two stories running round every part of the house, into which every outer door opened, the lower tier being supported by brick pillars. But the place looked desolate and uncomfortable; some windows stopped up with boards, some with shattered panes, and shutters hanging by a single hinge,—all telling of coarse neglect and discomfort. Bits of board, straw, old decayed barrels and boxes, garnished the ground in all directions; [...].

The narrator introduces the Legree plantation and tells the reader that it used to be in much better condition. Note how the narrator then lingers on the plantation's shabby, broken down appearance. Although the estate is large and was even once "handsome," the image of "shattered panes" and other signs of "neglect and comfort" suggest decay or even death. Beecher Stowe introduces the Legree plantation in this way to suggest to the reader that life on the plantation is bleak and harsh. Indeed, the sight of the unkempt plantation foreshadows the neglect, suffering, and eventual death Tom experiences at the hands of Simon Legree. 

Through the character of Simon Legree, Beecher Stowe depicted the absolute worst of slavery as an institution. In the novel, Legree repeatedly nearly whips his slaves to death and even forces two slaves, Quimbo and Sambo, to hunt and kill one another. In presenting a character like Legree to the reader, Beecher Stowe offered a memorable example of how slavery corrupted the soul. All in all, the novel characterizes Simon Legree as evil, which Beecher Stowe cleverly explains through the use of figurative language like the use of imagery above. 

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Chapter 40: The Martyr
Explanation and Analysis—Tom's Death:

Beecher Stowe uses vivid imagery and figurative language to emphasize and foreshadow Tom's death throughout Chapter 40, which is fittingly titled "The Martyr." In the passage below, note how Beecher Stowe uses simile to underscore Uncle Tom’s intense emotions once he hears he is to be murdered:

The savage words none of them reached that ear!—a higher voice there was saying, “Fear not them that kill the body, and, after that, have no more that they can do.” Nerve and bone of that poor man’s body vibrated to those words, as if touched by the finger of God; and he felt the strength of a thousand souls in one. As he passed along, the trees and bushes, the huts of his servitude, the whole scene of his degradation, seemed to whirl by him as the landscape by the rushing car.

The narrator compares Tom's reaction to the feeling of being touched by "the finger of God." The physical, anatomical description in the phrase "nerve and bone" is visceral and speaks to the violence of the threat against Tom's life. Tom's death is a crucial moment in the narrative and is the novel's climax. His refusal to obey Legree symbolizes his Christian faith and goodness, and in that moment, he becomes a martyr. 

In turn, Beecher Stowe's religious tone and melodramatic language is part of her persuasive strategy, as she was appealing to a religious audience. At the very end of the novel, Uncle Tom's death becomes a source of inspiration for the abolitionist cause. Inspired by Tom's sacrifice, George Shelby vows to free his slaves, a promise he fulfills once he returns to the Shelby plantation.

Another instance of foreshadowing occurs again in Chapter 40 when Tom overhears Simon Legree tell Sam and Quimbo to fetch him: 

Tom heard the message with a forewarning heart; for he knew all the plan of the fugitives’ escape, and the place of their present concealment;—he knew the deadly character of the man he had to deal with, and his despotic power. But he felt strong in God to meet death, rather than betray the helpless.

The phrase "forewarning heart" immediately suggests to the reader that Tom is aware he is in danger. Once again, Beecher Stowe uses this phrase to foreshadow Tom's death in a memorable way. 

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