Sunday, April 27, 2008

Uncle Tom's Cabin Part Two

We are introduced to many new characters in the second part of the story who further the plot and message. Topsey is presented to Ophelia for the purpose of education by St.Clare but his true purpose is to save Topsey from the abusive men that owned her. We clearly see St.Clare's humanity and suffer with him when he loses his daughter Eva. The author uses Eva to further her faith in Christianity and also to demonstrate the ability of this faith to bring black and white people together in spirit if not in circumstances. When Eva dies, the slaves who loved her were as devastated by her death as was her family. This moment blurs the distance between the races and creates a momentary vision of equality. Again, this is Stowe's way of putting the races on equal emotional footing. Sometime it seems Stowe could be talking of her own lost child as she says about Eva, "Has there ever been a child like Eva? Yes, there have been; but their names are always on grave stones, and their sweet smiles, their heavenly eyes, their singular words and ways, are among the buried treasures of yearning hearts." Eva is the only person who can reach into Topsey's soul. Eva's death makes Ophelia more kindly to Topsey and St.Clare gives Eva's beloved Tom his freedom. If Eva is comparable to Jesus, then her passing creates miracles on earth for all who come to her faith.
When St.Clare dies and Tom is sold to Legree, the book's tone becomes even more tragic. The stark contrast between Legree and the benign slave owners is poignant. It is likely that more slaves endured the cruelty of Simon Legree than the kindness of St.Clare and Shelby. The author makes our hearts ache for Tom. His ability to rise above his suffering and stay faithful to God is astounding and his commitment to helping others is never diminished. He is Christ like in his ability to love and forgive. When Cassy and Emmaline plan to escape, Tom tells them to do anything except kill Legree. This scene is perplexing in that I think that the women would be perfectly justified in murdering the man who was torturing so many people. If they had killed him, everyone on the plantation could have run rather than just the two of them. Personally, I think God would have understood and forgiven. When I gave it more thought though, I realized that apart from religious belief, this approach might have alienated the very people who Stowe was trying to reach. I'm sure that no slave owners would want to hear Stowe saying that they should be killed by their slaves. By not promoting violence against them, she was more successful in changing minds and hearts. Although I had trouble with some of Stowe's language and ideas, her goal was noble and she was extremely courageous and effective.

6 comments:

Kelly Hall said...

Phyllis, I agree that the grief over Eva's death puts the blacks and whites on the same emotional plane. I think it also suggests that good-hearted people, such as Eva, love freely without regard to race or status. I appreciate your insight into Tom's directive to spare Legree's life. I considered it part of Tom's characterization as a Christ figure, but I hadn't thought of the idea that some of Stowe's audience would have been alienated by such an act.

ANaturalBeauty said...

In the end, Legree got what he deserved. He died a lonely, pitiful, miserable death. Paranoid and anxious the last days of his life due to the treatment of shedding Tom's blood. I thought about Cassy killing Legree but had she done that she never would've been reunited with her children. So, through Tom's faith and wisdom she was the victor in the end.

KrisB said...

I believe that Stowe was trying to get the message across to the slaves and to anyone that wanted to plot violence against the slave owners was that you can not fight evil with evil. God said, "Do not be quick to anger. The vengeance is mine." Which means let go and let God take care of your worries and enemies.

Carolyn said...

I love your wisdom in how faith brought both black and white people in the story together. It did seem to blend the lines of color. And the perspective of Stowe winning hearts to her cause instead of alienating them was one I hadn't considered in the purpose of the novel. I hadn't thought of how Stowe's novel would have been received in her time, I had only referenced it to the sentiments it evoked in me. Thank you for bringing my considerations up a notch.

K.H. said...

I agree with your thoughts on Tom. Stowe really did make us feel his pain and suffering yet he kept his commitment to God. I hadn't thought about Stowe alienating readers by allowing Legree to be killed by slaves.

Cari's Blog said...

Phyllis, I really enjoyed reading your perspective on Eva's death and how it brought about a sense of equality amongst the slaves and the whites in the household. This isn'a point of view I had considered at the time, probably because the scene got a little over the top at some points.

I was right there with you on the two women just killing Legree. I thought they were certainly justified and they were so far away from everyone else that no one else would ever know. Couldn't they have just buried him in the garret where no one went? But you're right, it wouldn't have set the best tone for her audience to suggest mutiny, now would it?