Chapter 45: Summary and Analysis
In this final chapter, Harriet Beecher Stowe provides incidents and observations that led her to the writing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The characters of Eliza Harris and Uncle Tom, she notes, were drawn from her own personal knowledge. One of Stowe’s brothers supplied the anecdotes on which she based Old Prue and Simon Legree. A slave mother’s crossing of the ice-packed Ohio River had also been taken from a real-life occurrence. Stowe points out that Uncle Tom’s experience of being legally unprotected was a common one among slaves. The sale of mulatto women as slave mistresses was also a well-known practice among Southerners.
The greatest factor that led the author to write her book was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. Appealing to her Northern and Southern readers, Stowe emphasizes the inconsistency of practicing Christianity, with its call for the moral and humane treatment of all, while simultaneously hunting down runaway slaves. She challenges Southerners to think through their moral conscience and implores Northerners to welcome escaped slaves and educate them. The author claims that by participating in the Fugitive Slave Law, both sides have sinned in the eyes of God and must atone by fighting against the system of slavery.
At the time of Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s publication, some Northern and Southern readers felt uneasy about the author’s rendition of slavery in the Old South. Many Southerners were defensive about anyone attacking the forced labor system, stating that slaves were not mistreated. They based their arguments on the laws of property: no one would abuse their property because it would be financially ruinous to the owners themselves. The fact that Stowe presented evidence against this line of reasoning, writing that no legal protection exists for slaves, made Southern readers all the more...
(The entire section is 457 words.)