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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin


by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 12 Summary

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 12

  • Mr. Haley and Uncle Tom stop at an executor’s sale, where the property of a deceased person is being divvied up and sold at auction.
  • They watch a man telling an old black woman, Aunt Hager, that he’ll try to sell her with her remaining child, Albert, instead of separating the two of them.
  • Haley examines different people for sale and decides to buy Albert. Even though Aunt Hager begs him to be merciful and take her too, he refuses to purchase the mother and son together.
  • With his new purchases and Tom in tow, Haley boards a boat headed south.
  • On board the ship, two women discuss the slave trader and his "property" (a.k.a. slaves). One of them says she doesn’t see the problem with slavery, while the other says she is certain slaves feel it when they are sold and separated from their children.
  • The conversation continues as a gentleman uses religion to justify slavery, indicating that the Bible says the "African race" shall be kept low.
  • Another man wonders what that verse from the Bible, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be," actually means.
  • The man goes on to suggest that a better verse might be, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," which puts an entirely different light on the slave trade. He’s witnessed a black husband and wife being torn apart, and can’t understand why anyone can be involved in anything as inhumane as slave trading.
  • The boat stops at a small town and Haley disembarks to take care of some business. He returns with a black woman and her young child.
  • When the woman finds out that she and her child have been sold to Haley, she gets upset, claiming that her master told her only that he’d arranged for her to work downriver as a cook at the same place where her husband works.
  • A man inquires after her child and Haley sells the boy to him. Haley doesn’t say a word about it to the mother. When they land in Louisville, she lays the child down in a cradle made of boxes, and then goes to the side of the boat, hoping she’ll see her husband.
  • While she is at the side of the boat, Haley tells the man who bought the child to take him now. That way there will be less fuss.
  • When the woman returns, Haley is sitting there and the child is gone.
  • Bewildered, she says, "Why, why – where?"
  • The trader explains that he has sold the child.
  • She makes little fuss. She looks depressed, but she is quite calm.
  • Haley tries to talk to her about it, but she asks him to please remain quiet about the matter.
  • That night there is a splash as the woman jumps overboard, committing suicide.
  • The next morning, Tom lets the trader know what happened to the young woman. The trader isn’t shocked or amazed. In fact, he is mostly upset that he has lost money.
  • The narrator elaborates for us that the trader is an unfeeling man, but it is we, society, who have created such a horrible specimen of humanity. We are to blame.

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 12

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