Chapters 7-8: Summary and Analysis
Mr. Symmes: a man who helps Eliza and Harry escape
Tom Loker: a slave catcher and acquaintance of Haley’s
Marks: a lawyer, Tom Loker’s partner
Eliza and Harry walk past the Shelby plantation’s boundaries as the mother thinks about the life she is leaving behind. Eliza plans to head toward the Ohio River and cross it from Kentucky into Ohio, a free state. She assures a frightened Harry that she will not let anyone harm him. They eventually stop at a tavern to rest. Nearby, the river is clogged by ice, and the water is turbulent. Eliza asks the tavernkeeper if a ferryboat will come to take them across. She receives an uncertain answer since traveling on the river appears dangerous. Harry becomes too tired to move further, and falls asleep.
Back at the Shelby plantation, Haley is still waiting to start after Eliza and Harry. Despite Mrs. Shelby’s promise to serve Haley dinner, Aunt Chloe takes her time cooking it. Chloe and other servants in the kitchen curse Haley and hope he suffers God’s vengeance. Uncle Tom cautions them not to wish any evil on anyone, even Haley. Tom counsels forgiveness and tells them to pray for Haley’s soul. Tom also understands Mr. Shelby’s actions and will abide by his decision. As Tom explains, “Mas’r couldn’t help hisself; he did right.” Mrs. Shelby tells Tom that she will try to buy him back as soon as she can.
After dinner, Sam and Andy finally join Haley in their pursuit of the runaways. Haley decides to head toward the river, but Sam informs him that two roads lead in that direction. Sam and Andy can only guess as to which one Eliza had taken. Haley becomes suspicious of their game, not knowing for certain whether they lie or not. Sam is “in wonderful spirits,” sounding false alarms on Eliza’s appearance and “keeping Haley in a state of constant commotion.”
After a while, however, the search party arrives at the tavern in which Eliza and Harry are resting. When Sam sees her before the others do, he distracts Haley while alerting Eliza of the searchers’ presence. Eliza quickly grabs Harry and runs toward the river. She carries her son and jumps from one floating ice block to another, “stumbling—leaping—slipping—springing upwards again!” On the Ohio shore, Mr. Symmes, a kind acquaintance of the Shelbys’, helps Eliza and Harry out of the water. Haley, Sam, and Andy can only watch in amazement at Eliza’s bravery. Sam and Andy share a good laugh at Haley and ride back to the Shelby plantation, leaving the trader behind.
As Sam and Andy return to the plantation, Haley stops by the tavern in which Eliza and Harry had just been. Haley meets an acquaintance there, Tom Loker, a burly slave catcher with “a shaggy and fierce appearance.” With Loker is his friend Marks, a lawyer who is “short and slender, lithe and cat-like in his motions.” Haley tells them of his misfortune regarding the attempted capture of Eliza and Harry. The three then strike a deal among themselves. If Loker and Marks catch the fugitives, they will keep Eliza to sell for themselves. Haley would get back Harry.
At the Shelby plantation, Sam and Andy recount their side of the story. Mr. and Mrs. Shelby learn that Eliza and Harry have reached the apparent safety of Ohio. Sam and Andy retire to Chloe’s kitchen to eat and tell of their adventures to the rest of the servants.
In Chapter 7, Eliza is driven by her maternal love for Harry and braves crossing the dangerous river. Eliza and Harry, being mulattoes, or slaves of mixed parentage, are not suspected of being fugitives because they appear as almost white. Thus the tavernkeeper, or anyone else whom Eliza comes across, never questions her motives for escape. Stylistically, the author directly tries to arouse the reader’s sympathy for Eliza’s plight. Harriet Beecher Stowe addresses us by asking, “If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader,…how fast...
(The entire section is 1,413 words.)