Harriet Beecher Stowe

In Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, many of the female slaves are threatened with having their children being separated from them and sold to other slave holders. After being threatened these mothers will go through dangerous journeys to protect their child or children. Stowe presents the female character Eliza, who hears her slave owner’s planning to sell her only child. Upon hearing this Eliza plans to escape and run across the iced over Kentucky River. Eliza represents amazing strength in leaving her white master because she knows there can be consequences if she is caught: “She wondered within herself at the strength that seemed to be come upon her; for she felt the weight of her boy as if it had been a feather, and every flutter of fear seemed to increase the supernatural power that bore her on… the prayer to a Friend above—‘Lord, help! Lord, save me!’”(Stowe 1712). Eliza represents what any mother would do to protect their child. While on her journey Eliza felt the Lord pushing her through this hardship of keeping her son and her safe. It’s amazing how this woman can put her faith in the Lord after everything that has been burdened upon her. Eliza is denied the basic right that most women at the time are given, the basic right of keeping their sons and daughters with their mothers.

Another female slave who is fighting to protect her child is Susan. Susan is not only working to protect her daughter Emmeline, but also to teach and offer her daughter morality. All these slaves want is the basic need to protect their children to which they have given the gift of life. While protecting her daughter Emmeline, Susan wants to make sure she is not used as a sex slave like many other female slaves at the time. Since Emmeline has beautiful curly hair, Susan wants her to straighten her hair and put it up to make her daughter not look as attractive. Society is so corrupt that this young girl has to mask her femininity to become less attractive and not be used sexually. Once her slaveowner Mr. Skeggs notices that her hair is no longer as beautiful and elaborate as it once was he states, “’You go and help her,’ he added, to the mother, ‘Them curls may make a hundred dollars difference in the sale of her’”(Stowe 1773). Susan tried to protect her daughter from becoming a sex slave, but Emmeline eventually is used sexually and robbed of her innocence and rights to morality.

While representing religious morality, Susan wants to establish a home where she can raise her child correctly, one where she is present in the children’s lives. Stowe presents this religious morality when she states, “And, Emmeline, if we shouldn’t ever see each other again, after tomorrow,–if I’m sold way up on a plantation somewhere, and you somewhere else,–always remember how you’ve been brought up, and all Missis has told you; take your Bible with you, and your hymm-book; and if you’re faithful to the Lord, he’ll be faithful to you”(Stowe 1772). Upon keeping this tradition of faith, Susan wants to pass down that morality to her daughter Emmeline.  To have this strength in the Lord, even though her daughter is being taken from her, really shows just how willingly these women are to submit their hopes in the Lord’s hands and believe that he truly does have a plan for them in the end.

Some women lose their sense of faith completely and escape life because there has become nothing else better to live for. Once these women realize that the concept of a family is going to be robbed from them, a feeling of hopelessness pervades and can eventually even destroy a woman completely. Stowe presents a woman Lucy, whose infant son is taken from her by the trader upon a ship. Once Lucy’s son is taken from her, she begins to question the meaning of life: “Dizzily she sat down. Her slack hands fell lifeless by her side. Her eyes looked straight forward, but she saw nothing. All the noise and hum of the boat, the groaning of the machinery, mingled dreamily to her bewildered earl and the poor, dumb-stricken heart had neither cry nor tear to show for its utter misery”(Stowe 1742). When Lucy’s infant is taken from her, she realizes she has nothing else to live for. Motherhood is taken away from her by the selfish white slave holders, and unlike most women, Lucy ends up taking her life and jumping off the ship into the ocean. Stowe presents the heart wrenching reality that these slaveholders who are separating families in spite of their own selfish reasoning’s, are actually causing these mothers to commit suicide. After Lucy has committed suicide, Stowe displays how Lucy’s heart is now at peace: “The poor bleeding heart was still, at last, and the river rippled and dimpled just as brightly as if it had not closed above it”(Stowe 1743). Lucy would rather die than live in this agony and pain that these traders have caused her. Within this quote Stowe presents the idea that even though Lucy had committed suicide by jumping into the river, the river still remained the same as if this was just another day and this happens all the time. African American slaves’ dying has become a natural part of everyday life, and these white slave holders think it’s morally okay. Lucy is presented as a woman who had no identity and her death went unnoticed. Society at the time is showing that these African American woman slaves are of little importance and can be driven to the point of death.

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