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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Race Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"I would rather not sell him," said Mr. Shelby, thoughtfully; "the fact is, sir, I'm a humane man, and I hate to take the boy from his mother, sir."

"O, you do? – La! Yes – something of that ar ature. I understand, perfectly. It is mighty onpleasant getting on with women, sometimes, I al'ays hates these yer screechin,' screamin' times. They are mighty onpleasant; but, as I manages business, I generally avoids 'em, sir. Now, what if you get the girl off for a day, or a week, or so; then the thing's done quietly, – all over before she comes home. Your wife might get her some ear-rings, or a new gown, or some such truck, to make up with her."

"I'm afraid not."

"Lor bless ye, yes! These critters ain't like white folks, you know; they gets over things, only manage right." (1.41-44)

Mr. Haley expresses a common 19th century racist belief that blacks don’t feel the way whites do about things like family and freedom. According to this bigoted line of thinking, blacks feel differently and less intensely than whites. In this case, Stowe disagrees with the prevailing social opinion that your race affects your ability to feel. The division of any family, black or white, will always cause deep suffering.

Quote #2

"My dear," said Mrs. Shelby, recollecting herself, "forgive me. I have been hasty. I was surprised, and entirely unprepared for this; – but surely you will allow me to intercede for these poor creatures. Tom is a noble-hearted, faithful fellow, if he is black. I do believe, Mr. Shelby, that if he were put to it, he would lay down his life for you." (5.22)

Though she may be against slavery, even Mrs. Shelby thinks black people are inherently different – more childlike, perhaps – than whites. "Tom is a noble-hearted, faithful fellow, if he is black" is a good line to use to sum up race in this novel. While there are virtuous blacks here, the novel always implies that it’s a little bit surprising that they’re both black and virtuous. Mrs. Shelby’s defense of Tom makes us cheer, but her racism makes us cringe.

Quote #3

"The most dreadful part of slavery, to my mind, is its outrages on the feelings and affections, – the separating of families, for example."

"That is a bad thing, certainly," said the other lady, holding up a baby's dress she had just completed, and looking intently on its trimmings; "but then, I fancy, it don't occur often."

"O, it does," said the first lady, eagerly; "I've lived many years in Kentucky and Virginia both, and I've seen enough to make any one's heart sick. Suppose, ma'am, your two children, there, should be taken from you, and sold?"

"We can't reason from our feelings to those of this class of persons," said the other lady, sorting out some worsteds on her lap.

"Indeed, ma'am, you can know nothing of them, if you say so," answered the first lady, warmly. "I was born and brought up among them. I know they do feel, just as keenly, – even more so, perhaps, – as we do." (12.64-68)

Two ladies express vastly different views as to whether blacks are "human" or not – or whether they are "human" in the same way whites are. The "other woman," who believes blacks are better off as slaves, justifies slavery in the same way that Haley does: by claiming that the feelings of blacks aren’t comparable to those of whites. Stowe will continually try to undermine this assumption by establishing sympathetic bonds between mothers of all races, such as Eliza and Mrs. Bird.

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