Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary and Analysis of Chapters 6-10

Summary of Chapter 6

The next morning, the plantation learns of Eliza's flight. Shelby is angry, and Haley is furious. Mrs. Shelby, however, is glad and says "the Lord be thanked. Haley demands that Shelby give him some horses to search for Eliza and Harry. The slaves have a strategy to stall him, however. First, they find it "curiously difficult" to round up all the horses. Mrs. Shelby joins in as well, by defying her husband and telling the slaves to "Be careful of the horses; don't ride them too fast." A slave, Sam, understands his mistress' meaning and places a burr under the horse's saddle so that it bolts and throws Haley. It takes several hours to catch the horse, and Sam must first rub it down before Haley can ride it. Thus, the slaves outwitted the slave trader and bought much precious time for Eliza.

Analysis of Chapter 6

The main purpose of this chapter is twofold: first, it provides comic relief from the tension surrounding Eliza's flight. Secondly, Stowe reveals the slaves' solidarity when they outwit Haley. This chapter also plays upon many stereotypes; the evil slave trader becomes increasingly angry, and thus stamps his feet and curses. Ironically, he calls the slaves' deliberate delay a "mellerdrammer," or melodrama. With this statement, Stowe is alluding to her own style of writing. Uncle Tom's Cabin is indeed like a melodrama in many ways- from the highly stereotypical characters to the plot laden with emotion. Indeed, this comic scene could have been avoided if Haley simply procured horses through his own means, but Stowe's purpose is to reveal Haley's dangerous temper and the ingenuity and solidarity of the slaves.

Summary of Chapter 7

With her son still asleep in her arms, Eliza runs from Uncle Tom's cabin in the general direction of the North. She is able to carry on until daylight, for fear has made her "flesh and nerves impregnable." She recognizes her surroundings, far away from the Shelby plantation, from her travels with Mrs. Shelby, and realizes that she will have to cross the Ohio River to reach the North.

Because it is now morning, Eliza must slow her pace to avoid suspicion. She and Harry walk all day, stopping only so that Harry can eat (Eliza is too choked with fear to even swallow), and finally they reach the river at sunset. The river is swollen with "great cakes of floating ice swinging heavily to and fro in the turbid waters." Because there is no ferry, Eliza must cross the ice, but first she accepts dinner and a bed to rest from a woman who runs the local tavern. Harry sleeps as his mother gazes through the window at the violent waters in a panic.

Analysis of Chapter 7

The main theme of this chapter is the bond between a mother and her child. Another important theme is Eliza's reliance upon God. Her Christian masters have betrayed her by selling her son, and now she in turn feels she is betraying her duty of loyalty to them. Nevertheless, her love for her son outweighs all other commitments, and so Eliza is transformed from a passive, unquestioning servant to a defiant and courageous woman. Thus, the only help she can now trust is divine intervention, as Stowe reveals through the prayers Eliza utters as she runs: "Lord, help! Lord, save me!"

Indeed, the details of Eliza's flight are quite melodramatic. She runs all night, screaming to the heavens, and the whole while her innocent child sleeps with his "small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck." Stowe's purpose in over-emphasizing the drama and emotion of each scene is to create a sense in the reader that this is a novel about good and evil. She has to convince her readers, many of whom did not disagree with slavery, that Eliza and her son deserve to be free and Haley is a villain for wanting to own them.

Summary of Chapter 8

In the meantime, Mrs. Shelby has convinced Haley that he must have dinner before setting out to find Eliza. She and Aunt Chloe prepare the food in an "unusually leisurely and circumstantial manner" so as to stall the slave-trader even further. The slaves take out their resentment by causing "constant accidents which will retard the course of things." While the slaves are emphatic that God will punish Haley, Uncle Tom tells the slaves that they should not be so bitter, but rather they should pray for their enemies "as the good book says."

Tom's primary concern is the fate of the plantation without his management skills. Before he leaves, Haley warns Tom against escaping. Tom replies by asking his master to vouch for him: "have I ever broke word with you?" Shelby is overcome with guilt and sadness.

Haley finally departs, accompanied by the slaves Andy and Sam. After coming to one dead end, they arrive at the banks of the river in time to see Eliza running towards the banks. He follows her, and in desperation Eliza leaps unto a piece of ice. She jumps from one ice flow to the next, stumbling and her feet covered with blood, until she approaches the opposite banks. Miraculously, a man is there to help her to shore. Coincidentally, this man, Mr. Symmes, is a friend of Shelby's. He hates slave-catchers and feels that Eliza has earned her liberty, so he tells her where she can seek shelter.

Haley cannot believe what he has just witnessed, and curses Eliza's luck: "the gal's got seven devils in her." Sam and Andy laugh in joy until Haley hits them with his riding whip. Haley will not risk crossing the river, but at the tavern Haley meets two slave catchers, Loker and Marks, and convinces them to find Eliza and Harry. Sam and Andy return to the plantation with news of Eliza's miraculous escape, arousing much joy among the slaves.

Analysis of Chapter 8

The events at the Shelby plantation, particularly the efforts of Mrs. Shelby to detain Haley and the jubilation of the slaves when they learn Eliza has reached the North, emphasize the theme of secular law versus God's law. It seems that the whites who enjoy the protection of the law rely upon secular law to justify their actions. Thus, even Christian Mrs. Shelby speaks in terms of deal-making to explain why she is right in stalling the slave trader: "it required more than one to make a bargain." Mrs. Shelby is asserting her own will against that of her husband, thus revealing the feminist ideas that Stowe inserts into the novel. Indeed, this is an authorial ploy to elicit the sympathy of white female readers, who might recognize a common trend of oppression shared by blacks and women, although indeed with varying degrees of severity.

The blacks, however, are going against the law by wishing Haley ill; legally he has every right to deny Eliza and Harry their freedom. They turn to God to justify their conviction that Haley is wrong. The Bible is the only written law in which they find recourse. Aunt Chloe, for example, quotes the Book of Revelations to justify her wishing that harm befalls Haley: "calling on the Lord for vengeance." Indeed, Stowe implies that Eliza was indeed aided by God when she crossed the Ohio River; she succeeded because she was "nerved with strength such as God gives only to the desperate."

Summary of Chapter 9

The scene now shifts to the home of the Ohio Senator Bird. The senator has just arrived home, and his wife Mary asks him the news from the senate. He tells her that a new law has been passed prohibiting people to aid runaway slaves from Kentucky. Even though her husband voted for the law, his wife will break it because it is unchristian. Her loyalty is first to the Bible, and then to the state.

Eliza and Harry then appear in the doorway, and Eliza immediately faints. The two are placed in a warm bed by the fire, and when she awakens Eliza tells the Birds about her escape. Astounded by her courage, Senator Bird compromises his belief in the law and hides Eliza and Harry at the home of Mr. Van Trompe. The Birds give Eliza and Harry some clothes, and ten dollars. Van Trompe is ready to defend Eliza and her child with the help of his seven burly sons.

Analysis of Chapter 9

The theme of God's intervention on the side of the slaves appears again when a hand reaches to help her to the banks of the river; Mr. Symmes takes Eliza to a very Christian home, where Mrs. Bird helps Eliza because she believes the Bible commands her to do so. This is Stowe's technique for capturing the attention of her white Christian readers: like the Birds, they must make a moral choice between what the state and the Bible say is right. According to the events of Stowe's narrative, God is on the side of the slaves.

This chapter also uses melodrama to convince the readers of the inherent evils of slavery. The scene in the doorstep, in which Eliza faints while clutching her child, is meant to elicit the reader's sympathy just as it sways the heart of Senator Bird. Stowe calls the senator a "political sinner," because he voted for a law against aiding slaves. However, Stowe indicates that both the lawmakers and the law-abiders (meaning her readers) can be redeemed when she praises Bird's offering shelter, clothes, and money to Eliza: "he was in a fair way to expiate it (his sin) by his night's penance." Thus, the examples of women defying their husbands and the state in the name of Christianity reveal that Stowe wants her readers to make a moral, not practical, decision about the rightness of slavery.

Summary of Chapter 10

Haley returns to the Shelby plantation to collect his second purchase, Uncle Tom. The slaves encircle Tom in grief as Haley shackles Tom's ankles. Tom's last words to the plantation, as Haley drives away, are "give my love to Mas'r George." Haley stops at a blacksmith's to have handcuffs adjusted to fit Tom's wrists. The blacksmith laments that Tom will be sold down South, because "they dies thar tol'able fast." Back on the road, Haley and Tom meet young George Shelby accidentally. Crying, the boy bows to one day find Tom.

Analysis of Chapter 10

The theme of this section is Uncle Tom's ability to forgive the unending list of brutalities enacted upon him. Indeed, although the slaves speak of vengeance when the Lord comes and Mrs. Shelby is preoccupied with being a Christian, Uncle Tom is the only true Christian in the novel. His self-sacrifice and unrelenting forgiveness are modeled after Christ himself. Indeed, when Haley arrives to take Tom away, Tom is reading the Bible and tells his wife Chloe, "I'm in the Lord's hands." This is an allusion to the words Jesus uttered on the cross: "Lord, into your hands I commend my spirit." Tom is the sacrificial lamb of the novel, and if his selflessness is a bit unrealistic, it is all the better suited to Stowe's purpose of eliciting the sympathy of the reader for the plight of the slaves. The theme of Tom as a Christ-figure is furthered when young George Shelby says goodbye to Tom. Tom tells the boy to "'member yer Creator."

Another important element to this chapter is Stowe's dwelling upon "the nature of the Negro." Such racial stereotyping of blacks as affectionate, docile and family oriented seems offensive now, but Stowe is trying to show the reader what a sorrowful event Tom's departure was for his family and friends. Stowe particularly stresses the fear that accompanies slaves throughout their lives- that of being sold South into slavery as Uncle Tom is now. The mourning slaves, combined with the martyr-like composure of Uncle Tom, paint a portrait of slavery that is meant to appall the reader and arouse indignation that such things could be happening in that day and age.