Study Guide

Emmeline in Uncle Tom's Cabin

By Harriet Beecher Stowe


Emmeline, a beautiful fifteen-year-old slave girl, has been raised in an upper-class household by a Christian mother. Separated from her mom at the auction block, Emmeline is bought by Simon Legree, who intends to keep her as his sex slave, a younger replacement for Cassy. Stowe leaves matters ambiguous as to whether Legree ever does rape Emmeline, although she implies that a combination of Cassy’s protective influence and Legree’s superstitious fears keep him away from the girl until she escapes.

Nevertheless, it becomes obvious to the horrified reader that many girls like Emmeline are raped by white slave owners on a regular basis. One of the most disturbing scenes in the novel is Legree’s treatment of Emmeline at the slave warehouse – he walks right up to her, looks at her teeth, and gropes her body in a sickening, dehumanizing way. After this, Stowe doesn’t even need to show us a rape scene – we get it. Though she is timid, Emmeline bonds quickly with Cassy and they escape from Legree together. The reader breathes a sigh of relief for Emmeline – and a sigh of pain for her real-life counterparts, who usually weren’t so lucky.