Uncle Tom's Cabin
How we cite our quotes:
In the course of the day, Tom was working near the mulatto woman who had been bought in the same lot with himself. She was evidently in a condition of great suffering, and Tom often heard her praying, as she wavered and trembled, and seemed about to fall down. Tom silently as he came near to her, transferred several handfuls of cotton from his own sack to hers.
"O, don't, don't!" said the woman, looking surprised; "it'll get you into trouble." Just then Sambo came up. He seemed to have a special spite against this woman; and, flourishing his whip, said, in brutal, guttural tones, "What dis yer, Luce, – foolin' a'" and, with the word, kicking the woman with his heavy cowhide shoe, he struck Tom across the face with his whip. (33.12-13)
Suffering is the norm on Legree’s plantation; Legree is a brutal master, his overseers are brutal bosses, and his slaves would never think of helping one another. Tom’s gesture of kindness brings punishment from the overseer because his compassion interferes with the "divide and conquer" logic of the place.
"Well, here's a pious dog, at last, let down among us sinners! – a saint, a gentleman, and no less, to talk to us sinners about our sins! Powerful holy critter, he must be! Here, you rascal, you make believe to be so pious, – didn't you never hear, out of yer Bible, 'Servants, obey yer masters'? An't I yer master? Didn't I pay down twelve hundred dollars, cash, for all there is inside yer old cussed black shell? An't yer mine, now, body and soul?" he said, giving Tom a violent kick with his heavy boot; "tell me!"
In the very depth of physical suffering, bowed by brutal oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through Tom's soul. He suddenly stretched himself up, and, looking earnestly to heaven, while the tears and blood that flowed down his face mingled, he exclaimed,
"No! no! no! my soul an't yours, Mas'r! You haven't bought it, – ye can't buy it! It's been bought and paid for, by one that is able to keep it; – no matter, no matter, you can't harm me!" (33.69-71)
Tom seems to draw strength from his suffering, perhaps because it emphasizes that he is following in the path of another famous martyr – Jesus. Tom’s "joy and triumph" at this moment are both heartening and somewhat disturbing. The reader is glad that he’s not broken, but worried that he might become a masochistic martyr.
"They think it's nothing, what we suffer, – nothing, what our children suffer! It's all a small matter; yet I've walked the streets when it seemed as if I had misery enough in my one heart to sink the city. I've wished the houses would fall on me, or the stones sink under me. Yes! and, in the judgment day, I will stand up before God, a witness against those that have ruined me and my children, body and soul! (34.55)
Cassy’s description of the agonizing suffering she has experienced during her whole life humanizes her for the reader, making her a thinking, feeling character, as deserving of our love and sympathy as any heroine.