What is the purpose of Stowe's contrast between saintly Tom with demonic Legree?b

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Stowe's motivation in the contrast of the two character contains much in way of political implications.  It is evident that Stowe wishes to write "the anti- slavery novel."  The institution of slavery is Stowe's target, to which she has nothing but anger and antipathy.  Stowe constructs slavery as a corrupting enterprise, one that takes away the moral character of its participants as it seeks to obliterate the physical presence of its targets.  In this, Tom is elevated to a saint- like figure, a man whose sense of universal love and whose death are both almost Christ- like.  Stowe wishes to deify those who must endure slavery, bringing attention to the predicament that society tolerates or actively embraces with initiatives such as the Fugitive Slave Law.  At the same time, Stowe wishes to show that slavery, itself, has a corrosive impact on those who participate in it.  In painting the portrait of Legree in such an intensely demonic manner, Stowe is able to suggest that slavery contains some fundamentally corrupt elements.  In this, Stowe is able to accomplish her basic goal which is to write a work that condemns slavery from a social and ethical point of view, leading to a political conclusion which becomes her end point in writing.

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