Chapter 11: Summary and Analysis
Mr. Wilson: George Harris’s former employer at the factory
A drover: a cattle driver who converses with Mr. Wilson
Jim: a slave who escapes with George Harris
Mr. Wilson, who is now identified as the manufacturer who employed George Harris from Chapter 2, appears at a hotel bar room in Kentucky. An “honest drover,” or cattle driver, converses with Mr. Wilson, showing him an advertisement notifying its readers that George Harris has escaped. The notice gives a description of George, offering a four hundred dollar reward for his capture or death. The drover recounts how he had freed his own slaves, noting that if treated humanely, they would work and live productively as humans should.
Moments later, a mysterious Spanish-looking gentleman and his servant enter the tavern. The gentleman, named Henry Butler, and Mr. Wilson exchange glances, apparently recognizing one another. When Butler invites Mr. Wilson to a confidential meeting, the gentleman reveals himself as George Harris in disguise. His servant Jim is really a fellow runaway slave.
George tells his former employer of his escape plans. Mr. Wilson, “a good-natured but extremely fidgety and cautious” person, attempts to talk George out of his scheme to flee to Ohio and then Canada. The manufacturer believes that the risks are too great for his friend. George, however, is determined to be free, and announces that he would risk death for his own liberty.
The discussion between Mr. Wilson and George Harris is emotionally strained. It clearly sets George’s anti–slavery viewpoint against Mr. Wilson’s argument for patience and caution. Although Mr. Wilson is sympathetic to George’s plight, he at first cannot fully take a stand against slavery. Only later is he finally convinced of George’s reasons for fleeing.
Mr. Wilson initially attempts to dissuade George from escaping because he is afraid for George’s safety. Mr. Wilson bases his logic on two foundations: the nation’s laws, which forbid slaves from running away, and the Bible, which demands that slaves submit to their masters. Here the theme of law vs. religion arises, but Mr. Wilson attempts to use both legal and moral grounds to support his arguments rather than pitting them against one another.
George counters this reasoning by arguing against both law and religion. As a slave, George states that he has no country; he did not participate in the making of or consenting to its laws. Considered legally as property, he maintains no rights...
(The entire section is 641 words.)