Chapter 17: Summary and Analysis
Phineas Fletcher: a Quaker neighbor of the Hallidays’ who helps the Harris family escape
This chapter returns to the Hallidays’ home, with George and Eliza Harris making plans on what they might do once they reach Canada. Simeon Halliday introduces them to his friend Phineas Fletcher, a “hearty, two-fisted backwoodsman” who married a Quaker woman and joined the settlement. Phineas brings news that slave catchers are nearby, and with his guidance, the escaped slaves head out. Included in their party is Jim, who earlier had run away with George, and Jim’s mother.
As the group travels along during the night, Tom Loker and his gang spot it, and a chase ensues. The fugitives and Phineas hide behind some rocks on a steep hill. Tom Loker climbs after them, but is shot and wounded by George and pushed back down the hill by Phineas. Marks, Tom Loker’s partner, leads the hurried retreat from the scene and leaves Loker behind. George and the others take pity on the slave catcher and decides to bring him to a Quaker home for nursing.
The Harris family still take refuge among their Quaker friends. Although George hopefully ponders about his family’s future in Canada, Eliza cautions him that they are not yet out of danger. When Phineas Fletcher visits the Hallidays, he only confirms Eliza’s fears by reporting that Tom Loker and his search party are close. Phineas had earlier stopped by a tavern in which he had seen and overheard Loker’s men discuss the escaped slaves.
This section focuses mainly on George’s search for freedom and Christian faith. Throughout hearing Phineas Fletcher’s news, George gets discouraged, bitterly asking, “Is God on our side?...Why does he let such things happen?” George cannot abide by the appearance that lawmakers, churchmen, and the wealthy seem to be favored with the power to determine others’ fates, especially slaves’. Simeon Halliday, however, convinces him otherwise. As the Quaker wisely counsels, “it is often those who have least of all in this life whom he chooseth for the kingdom.” This statement, alongside of Simeon’s own example of risking his life to help slaves, provides a religious perspective that comforts George. George promises his wife: “I’ll try to act worthy of a free man. I’ll try to feel like a Christian.”
George is set on gaining his freedom, even if he must resort to violence. As he challenges the slave catchers: “I’m a free man, standing on...
(The entire section is 638 words.)