Uncle Tom's Cabin
How we cite our quotes:
"I hate him!" said Legree, that night, as he sat up in his bed; "I hate him! And isn't he MINE? Can't I do what I like with him? Who's to hinder, I wonder?" And Legree clenched his fist, and shook it, as if he had something in his hands that he could rend in pieces. (40.6)
Simon Legree’s malicious hatred of Tom is utterly evil – and utterly unrestrained. No law, no person, no religion will stand in his way if he wants to vent his psychopathic fury on an innocent man. This is the moment at which Stowe wants every 19th century reader to realize the full horror of slavery.
To the surprise of all, he [George Shelby] appeared among them with a bundle of papers in his hand, containing a certificate of freedom to every one on the place, which he read successively, and presented, amid the sobs and tears and shouts of all present.
Many, however, pressed around him, earnestly begging him not to send them away; and, with anxious faces, tendering back their free papers.
"We don't want to be no freer than we are. We's allers had all we wanted. We don't want to leave de ole place, and Mas'r and Missis, and de rest!"
"My good friends," said George, as soon as he could get a silence, "there'll be no need for you to leave me. The place wants as many hands to work it as it did before. We need the same about the house that we did before. But, you are now free men and free women. I shall pay you wages for your work, such as we shall agree on. The advantage is, that in case of my getting in debt, or dying, – things that might happen, – you cannot now be taken up and sold. I expect to carry on the estate, and to teach you what, perhaps, it will take you some time to learn, – how to use the rights I give you as free men and women. I expect you to be good, and willing to learn; and I trust in God that I shall be faithful, and willing to teach. And now, my friends, look up, and thank God for the blessing of freedom." (44.31-34)
George Shelby signs papers declaring his slaves free and resolves to teach them how to be responsible men and women. As contemporary readers, we wince at his paternalism – he’s still treating his slaves like dependent children. Yet, his desire to help educate and rehabilitate them, rather than simply throwing them out into the world, is laudable.