Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 12: Summary and Analysis
by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Uncle Tom's Cabin Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 12: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Lucy: a slave whom Haley buys

Aunt Hagar and Albert: mother and son separated when Haley buys the boy

As Haley and Uncle Tom head toward Washington, D.C., Haley notices an advertisement for a slave auction and plans on buying more laborers to sell south. Haley examines several of the slaves before the auction begins and buys a boy, Albert, away from his mother, Aunt Hagar. Aunt Hagar pleads with Haley to buy her too, so that she can be with her son. But Haley refuses because he would lose money on the deal, growling that Hagar is “an old rack o’ bones,—not worth her salt.” The trader then takes his gang of slaves onto a riverboat, heading further south. Several white passengers comment on the presence of the slaves and converse on the nature of slavery itself.

While on the boat, Haley then acquires a woman, Lucy, and her child. A fellow passenger becomes interested in buying the boy and starts bartering with Haley. The trader agrees to sell the child, but only when the man nears his destination so that he can depart with his purchase before the mother finds out. When Lucy discovers that her child is missing and has been sold to someone no longer on the boat, she jumps overboard and drowns.

This chapter portrays Haley at his worst. Despite voicing spiritual concerns earlier to Tom Loker, Haley is remorseless at the prospect of earning money from slave trading. His thoughts on Uncle Tom center on the slave’s “length, and breadth, and height, and what he would sell for.” The slave trader heartlessly separates Aunt Hagar and Albert. On the riverboat, Haley obtains Lucy and her child, having no problem with his conscience when he sells the boy to a stranger. When Haley discovers that Lucy in despair had drowned herself, he grudgingly records the financial loss in his account book.

Haley’s actions draw several responses from the passengers on the boat. Some defend slavery, concluding that slaves are leading better lives than if they were free. One even quotes a Bible passage as proof that blacks should be servants. On the other hand, others vehemently disapprove of the...

(The entire section is 548 words.)