Three Stages of Inquiry on Uncle Tom’s Cabin
I. Grammar Stage Inquiry [The What]
Who are the central characters?
A few important characters in the book: Uncle Tom, Eliza & George (Harris), Eva, Legree
What is the most important event in the book, in which the character(s) change?
The significant event in the novel is when Legree murders Tom. Tom’s prayers are answered, and he is with the Lord, but that event also continues to effect change in young George Shelby in which he makes a vow with God to do everything he can, as one man can, to end slavery. And he returns home to free all of his father’s slaves.
II. Logic Stage Inquiry [The Why and How]
What do the central character(s) want?
Uncle Tom wants to be redeemed by Mr. Shelby, but later his faith is challenged, and what he wants most is his liberty in Christ and to be with his Lord and Savior;
Eliza wants to protect her son Harry from being taken away from her that she risks her life to flee to Canada;
George (Harris) wants to be treated with dignity as a man, to have his wife and child for his own, and, later, to return to Africa to work in freedom among his people;
Eva wants her father’s slaves to know Christ and to become Christian;
Legree wants to break his slaves into total submission unto him.
What is standing in their way?
Uncle Tom: first, time prevents him from being bought back by his master, but second, he is hampered by disappointment and loses faith while being challenged by Legree;
Eliza and George (together) are being pursued by trackers;
Eva is dying and will no longer be with the slaves;
Legree meets one slave, Tom, whom he cannot break!
What strategies do the character(s) use to overcome their difficulties?
Legree challenges Tom, but Tom clings to God, trusting He will give him the victory, which He does;
Eliza and George are blessed with help of Quakers along the way to Canada, and they are safe;
Eva gives everyone a lock of her hair that they may remember to be good Christians;
Legree uses violence and threats to overcome, but it proves futile because he loses the battle with Tom: Legree’s strategy fails.
What is the resolution in the end? What is the logical exhaustion, which demonstrates a philosophy about human nature?
There is resolution for most of the characters: Tom is free (in death w/ Christ), George and Eliza are free and mobile, Eva is free (assuming w/ Christ in death, if she’s not an angel somewhere), and Legree, Stowe tells us, was the kind of man that needed to be knocked down, but in truth, he is morally and spiritually dead. And several other slaves receive their freedom, either by running away or being set free by their masters.
Of course, we know the rest of the history: Slavery succumbs to a Civil War, which leads to the emancipation of the slaves in the South. And in the hearts of most men, I think the consensus is that slavery, as we’ve known it, should never exist again. (LINK: But does one group treating another group of humans as property still exist in other forms? Yes,it does! )
III. Rhetorical Stage Inquiry
Is this book an actual portrayal of life? Is it true?
Yes, it was then, and it is today where slavery still exists as well as where one group of people subjugate another group of people for their own use; also many of the pro-slavery arguments used to defend it in Stowe’s day are used today to preserve a different moral injustice, while still too many decent people are silent and looking away.
Is there an argument in this book?
Stowe appeals to hearts and minds of Northern women, mothers, Christians, and Americans. She exposes a horrible sin of slavery: separating spouses, families, and loved ones. She often targets the mother’s heart: “If it were your Harry, mother, …that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader…” Her argument, obviously, is that slavery is immoral and must be abolished immediately.
She argues that Christians cannot support slavery. They can not remain silent and look away, but must pray for an end to slavery, obey moral law of God over the nation’s laws and help these poor beings by showing mercy if they come to the door, or by speaking out against injustice, or by opening the church to train them in moral instruction.
She also argues that Americans cannot support slavery because its practice does not allow for all men to be treated equally with the same rights as bestowed by the Creator. The words of the Declaration of Independence do not maintain slavery in our nation.
In addition, here are other arguments: slavery hardens and corrupts the hearts of men because they are able to abuse their slaves without limitation in order to force compliancy; slavery causes slaves to commit moral injustice because of their predicament; and finally that blacks have souls, too, capable of being redeemed by God.
Do you agree? Is this work true about human experience?
Uncle Tom’s Cabin moves me as a Christian, a mother, and an American because the injustice is plain: humans are created equal by God, which means we are all to be treated with dignity and mercy regardless of gender, race, nationality, age, or mental and physical capacity. Now, it does not mean that we will all live equally, but no one has a right to control the life or liberty of another human being. Period!
The laws of our nation should reflect the moral laws of God, and every human deserves that protection under the law. If pre-Civil War America did so, then many people would have never had to suffer as they did. Because this novel expresses the valid anguish and misery of families as they were separated in slavery signifies that it is a true work about the human experience.