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The book starts out where Uncle Tom is sold to a trader because of his owners debts. Mr. Shelby is the owner of Uncle Tom and many other slaves. He saves a girl's life, Eva, while on a boat, and her father buys him. He spends several years in New Orleans at their house. While he was there he helped St.
Clare, the father, find God. When Eva and St. Clare die, he is sold to an evil plantation owner. On the plantation, he continues to be pious, even when everything seems to have turned from God. He helps two women escape and is beaten to death, but gets to see his original master's son before he dies. At the same time that Uncle Tom was sold, Eliza and Harry, two other slaves of Mr.
Shelby, escape upon learning that their owner intended to sell Harry, Eliza's son. They meet George, Eliza's husband who is also escaping, and, with much help from the Quakers, make it into Canada. One of the women from the plantation is Eliza's mother. They meet another woman, George's Sister, and go to Canada to see their family. The entire family eventually goes to Africa to start a new nation. These two plots contrast. Uncle Tom's story is an example of a bondage narrative, while the other plots are examples of freedom narratives.
Weaving these two opposing stories together enabled Stowe to reveal the horrors of slavery through Tom's decline, while keeping the inspiring plot of possibilities with the escape of Eliza and George and Cassy and Emmeline. The story begins in Kentucky. The Shelby family owns a house in Kentucky with a farm and slaves, including Tom. After Tom has been sold, the story still flashes back to Kentucky telling about the letter that Tom wrote to Chloe and how she worked to try to make money to buy back her husband. Mas'r George, the young master, is growing up throughout the beginning of the book and at the end leaves Kentucky to go to the plantation to find Tom. When he returns he sets his slaves free.
Throughout the book, especially in the first half, we have flashbacks to George and Eliza's escape to Canada. They escape separately but meet in a Quaker settlement, where most of the scenes take place. They eventually escape to Canada and George gets a job working with a mechanist. The reunion takes place in Canada, and they then go to France for George's education, then back to the United States and finally to Africa. This is the setting for the bulk of the book. Stowe uses the different characters in this scene, especially Miss Ophelia, to depict some of the different philosophical questions about slavery, as well as about religion and feminism.
It is in this house that Miss Ophelia struggles with training Topsy and that Eva and St. Clare die. Up the Red River and away from New Orleans in the depth of swamp, Legree has his plantation. There are no other white folk on the plantation--no one can testify against Legree in court except for a white person, so he can never be accused of misdeed. Here Tom spends his last days picking cotton, until Legree and his two overseers beat him to death. Bibliography: none.
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