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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Analysis: Three Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

Act I

Mr. Shelby sells his faithful slave, Tom, and Eliza’s son, Harry. Eliza escapes with her son while Tom is sold south. The slave trader pursues Eliza but she leaps across the river just in time to reach freedom. Soon, she is joined by her husband and they begin to make their way towards Canada, aided by the Quakers, with the slave catchers in hot pursuit. Tom, in the meantime, saves a young girl, Eva St. Clare, from drowning after she falls overboard a ship they’re both taking. Her father buys Tom as Eva’s personal slave as a result of this rescue.

Act II

Eva and Tom get along like kindred spirits, in part because they have the same faith and in part because Eva is the most democratic soul that ever walked the face of the earth. She loves everybody and, in turn, is loved by everybody. Alas, this means she must die. Clearly, such a good soul as this wasn’t destined to live here on earth, correct? But before she dies, she has to convert a few souls to her brand of behavior. First, she teaches incorrigible Topsy how to be loved and how to behave. Then, she shows Miss Ophelia her prejudice against African-Americans and models a new way to treat people for her. Last, she shows her father how selfish he is. After she dies amidst much weeping and wailing, her father goes into a blue funk. He dies in a bar brawl and Marie St. Clare sells all the family’s slaves.

Act III

Tom is sold to Simon Legree, an evil man who treats his slaves horribly. George and Eliza escape to Canada. Meanwhile, Tom makes friends with Legree’s concubine, Cassy. He helps her escape and Legree kills him because he refuses to reveal her whereabouts. George Shelby comes to redeem Tom too late and must bury him instead. On the boat home, George Shelby meets up with Cassy and discovers she is Eliza’s mother. George Harris’s sister, Madame de Thoux, is also on board. George is able to tell them that their family members are in Canada. George Shelby returns home to emancipate his slaves, while Cassy and Madame de Thoux go to Canada to be reunited with their daughter and brother, respectively.

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