Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 1: Questions and Answers
by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Chapter 1: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Mr. Shelby need to sell some of his slaves?

2. Describe why Mr. Shelby thinks that Uncle Tom is a responsible servant.

3. What story does Haley tell to Mr. Shelby in regard to selling slaves?

4. What does Harry do to unintentionally attract Haley’s notice?

5. How does Haley view Mr. Shelby’s kindness toward slaves?

6. What is Mr. Shelby’s religious position compared with Mrs. Shelby’s?

7. What does Eliza suspect about Mr. Shelby’s meeting with Haley?

8. How does Mrs. Shelby detect that something is wrong with Eliza?

9. Why does Mrs. Shelby not believe in Eliza’s fears that Mr. Shelby will sell Harry?

10. Despite benevolent masters such as Mr. Shelby, what does the author point to regarding the inevitable failure of treating slaves like family?

Answers
1. Mr. Shelby must sell some slaves, because he is in debt to Haley.

2. Mr. Shelby trusts Tom with responsibilities because Tom is honest and pious. Mr. Shelby had even sent Tom to Cincinnati on a business matter and Tom returned afterwards instead of fleeing.

3. Haley tells Mr. Shelby of an incident in which a trader bought a woman, but did not want her child. Separated roughly from her baby, the slave woman died from overwhelming grief. Haley reassuringly says that he would have treated the situation more gently and diplomatically.

4. Harry playfully interrupts the meeting between Haley and Mr. Shelby, singing and dancing at Mr. Shelby’s request. Haley immediately thinks that Harry could be sold at great profit as a waiter.

5. Haley views Mr. Shelby’s kindness toward the slaves as wrongheaded since it gives them unrealistic expectations of a stable family life.

6. Unlike his wife, Mr. Shelby is not particularly religious. He does, however, revere Mrs. Shelby’s opinions and believes that she “had piety and benevolence enough for two.”

7. Eliza suspects that Mr. Shelby will sell her son Harry to Haley.

8. Mrs. Shelby detects that something is on Eliza’s mind when Eliza works distractedly and accidentally breaks a wash-pitcher and upsets a table.

9. Mrs. Shelby thinks that Eliza’s fears are imagined, because she cannot believe that Mr. Shelby would sell any of his slaves, much less deal with slave traders. Mrs. Shelby believes that the servants are part of the family.

10. The author stresses that the law considers slaves as things rather than as humans. They can then be bought or sold regardless of personal attachments.