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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Suffering Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"I have been careful, and I have been patient, but it's growing worse and worse; flesh and blood can't bear it any longer; – every chance he can get to insult and torment me, he takes. I thought I could do my work well, and keep on quiet, and have some time to read and learn out of work hours; but the more he sees I can do, the more he loads on. He says that though I don't say anything, he sees I've got the devil in me, and he means to bring it out; and one of these days it will come out in a way that he won't like, or I'm mistaken! [. . .] I have been kicked and cuffed and sworn at, and at the best only let alone; and what do I owe? I've paid for all my keeping a hundred times over. I won't bear it. No, I won't!" he said, clenching his hand with a fierce frown. (3.18, 22)

George Harris’s suffering isn’t an accident of circumstances or a byproduct of the institution of slavery; it’s the deliberate product of his master’s cruelty.

Quote #2

"Wal, Mr. Haley," said Marks, "'est pass the hot water. Yes, sir, you say 'est what I feel and all'us have. Now, I bought a gal once, when I was in the trade, – a tight, likely wench she was, too, and quite considerable smart, – and she had a young un that was mis'able sickly; it had a crooked back, or something or other; and I jest gin 't away to a man that thought he'd take his chance raising on 't, being it didn't cost nothin'; – never thought, yer know, of the gal's taking' on about it, – but, Lord, yer oughter seen how she went on. Why, re'lly, she did seem to me to valley the child more 'cause 't was sickly and cross, and plagued her; and she warn't making b'lieve, neither, – cried about it, she did, and lopped round, as if she'd lost every friend she had. It re'lly was droll to think on 't. Lord, there ain't no end to women's notions."

"Wal, jest so with me," said Haley. "Last summer, down on Red river, I got a gal traded off on me, with a likely lookin' child enough, and his eyes looked as bright as yourn; but, come to look, I found him stone blind. Fact – he was stone blind. Wal, ye see, I thought there warn't no harm in my jest passing him along, and not sayin' nothin'; and I'd got him nicely swapped off for a keg o' whiskey; but come to get him away from the gal, she was jest like a tiger. So 't was before we started, and I hadn't got my gang chained up; so what should she do but ups on a cotton-bale, like a cat, ketches a knife from one of the deck hands, and, I tell ye, she made all fly for a minit, till she saw 't wan't no use; and she jest turns round, and pitches head first, young un and all, into the river, – went down plump, and never ris."

"Bah!" said Tom Loker, who had listened to these stories with ill-repressed disgust, – "shif'less, both on ye! my gals don't cut up no such shines, I tell ye!"

"Indeed! How do you help it?" said Marks, briskly.

"Help it? Why, I buys a gal, and if she's got a young un to be sold, I jest walks up and puts my fist to her face, and says, 'Look here, now, if you give me one word out of your head, I'll smash yer face in. I won't hear one word – not the beginning of a word.' I says to 'em, 'This yer young un's mine, and not yourn, and you've no kind o' business with it. I'm going to sell it, first chance; mind, you don't cut up none o' yer shines about it, or I'll make ye wish ye'd never been born.' I tell ye, they sees it an't no play, when I gets hold. I makes 'em as whist as fishes; and if one on 'em begins and gives a yelp, why, – " and Mr. Loker brought down his fist with a thump that fully explained the hiatus. (8.21-25)

Haley, Marks, and Tom Loker trade stories of the suffering of their female slaves when the slaves’ children are taken away from them. Stowe shows the reader the intensity of the slaves’ suffering by recounting these histories; by using the voices of the traders themselves, she adds authenticity and downplays sentimentality. She also reveals the inhuman cruelty of the slave traders.

Quote #3

"My master traded with one of the men, and bought my oldest sister. She was a pious, good girl, – a member of the Baptist church, – and as handsome as my poor mother had been. She was well brought up, and had good manners. At first, I was glad she was bought, for I had one friend near me. I was soon sorry for it. Sir, I have stood at the door and heard her whipped, when it seemed as if every blow cut into my naked heart, and I couldn't do anything to help her; and she was whipped, sir, for wanting to live a decent Christian life, such as your laws give no slave girl a right to live; and at last I saw her chained with a trader's gang, to be sent to market in Orleans, – sent there for nothing else but that, – and that's the last I know of her. Well, I grew up, – long years and years, – no father, no mother, no sister, not a living soul that cared for me more than a dog; nothing but whipping, scolding, starving. Why, sir, I've been so hungry that I have been glad to take the bones they threw to their dogs; and yet, when I was a little fellow, and laid awake whole nights and cried, it wasn't the hunger, it wasn't the whipping, I cried for. No, sir, it was for my mother and my sisters, – it was because I hadn't a friend to love me on earth. (11.72)

When George begins to describe his own suffering to Mr. Wilson, he quickly slips into telling someone else’s story – his sister’s. Even though George’s own history is tragic and painful, he suffers most when he thinks of the fates of his female relatives. For the 19th century reader, this demonstrates his capacity to be a chivalrous gentleman.

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