Describe how is Tom a Christ-like figure.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When Tom learns that Mr. Shelby is going to sell him to settle some debts, he is greatly grieved. It means he will be separated from his wife and young children, and from his familiar home. He could run away, and his friends encourage him to do so. However, the deeply Christian Tom refuses to do this. He is a valuable slave, who can fetch a high price at auction. He knows that were he to run, Mr. Shelby would have to sell many of the other slaves to raise the needed money. Just as Jesus sacrificed himself to save others, so Tom, from the start of the novel, sacrifices his own welfare for the good of other people: he knows that by allowing himself to be sold, others can continue to have a decent life with the good-hearted Shelbys.

In the Bible, Jesus is offered a good life if he will bow down and worship Satan. He refuses to do this. Likewise, Tom refuses to "worship" Simon Legree and follow his orders to treat the other slaves cruelly—even though he is promised an easier life if he does so. He will not violate his conscience. Legree beats him to death for this, but Tom, like Christ, will not compromise his values.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Tom can be seen as Christ- like in several ways.  Like Christ, Tom never takes the form of the world around him.  His environment, especially under Simon Legree, is one of brutality and cruelty, a horrifying lack of dignity present all around him.  Yet, Tom does not succumb to this.  It is because of his faith and devotion to Christianity that Tom will never be "owned" by Legree or anyone of this world.  Tom is a servant of Christ, just as Christ was a servant of God.  In this light, Tom believes in a transcendence that is not of this contingent, similar to Christ.  His death is Christ- like, with the blood from his hands, and the calls to forgive his transgressors.  Like Christ's crucifixion, it is clear that Tom's death is an awakening for all those who are blind to slavery and the cruelty that one human being can perpetrate upon an another.  Tom's death accomplishes the unity between he and his God, just as Christ's death accomplished the same unity for all of humanity.

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