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Uncle Tom's Cabin Study Guide

Uncle Tom's Cabin By Harriet Beecher Stowe

Kentucky farmer Arthur Shelby is about to lose his farm due to his debts. He and his wife Emily decide to sell two of their slaves - Uncle Tom, who has a wife and children, and Harry, their maid's son - to a slave trader. Eliza, the maid, overhears them and runs away with her son.

Uncle Tom is sold and put on a riverboat going down the Mississippi. There, he befriends a young white girl named Eva St. Clare, saving her from drowning. In gratitude, Eva's father buys Tom and takes him to their home in New Orleans. Tom and Eva are both deeply Christian, which brings them together more.

Eliza, meanwhile, reconnects with husband George, and they run for Canada. Thomas Loker, a hunter, tracks them until George shoots him, then brings him to a Quaker settlement for treatment.

Back with Tom: Mr. St. Clare believes he is not prejudiced against black people despite being a slave owner. In an attempt to show his Northern cousin Ophelia, who is biased against blacks but opposes slavery, that she is wrong about them, he purchases Topsy, a black girl, and asks Ophelia to educate her.

Eva grows very ill, and sees heaven. Her vision inspires change in those around her, including Mr. St. Clare pledging to free Uncle Tom and Ophelia changing her prejudices against blacks. Unfortunately, Mr. St. Clare dies before he can fulfill his pledge, and his wife sells Tom to Simon Legree, a vicious plantation owner.

Legree visciously beats Tom when he refuses to whip another slave, and vows to crush Tom's Christian faith - but fails. Tom meets Cassy, another of Legree's slaves, whose first two children were sold; she killed her third child to avoid the pain of seeing a third child sold.

Eliza, Harry, and George have escaped into Canada, and Loker has changed his ways after being healed by the Quakers.

Uncle Tom receives two visions as his faith is tested by Legree: one of Jesus Christ and one of Eva St. Clare. He encourages Cassy to escape, and when he refuses to tell Legree where they went, Legree orders him killed. Tom forgives the overseers to their faces as they beat him to death. Minutes too late, George Shelby (Arthur's son) arrives to purchase Tom's freedom.

As they escape to Canada, Cassy meets Eliza, and discovers that Eliza is her long-lost daughter that was sold as a child. Their family united, they travel from Canada to France to Libera, where they encounter Cassy's son as well.

George Shelby returns to his father's farm and tells Tom's story, freeing all of the slaves and encouraging them to hold Tom's Christian example in their hearts as they go.

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