Free «Character Types in Uncle Tom’s Cabin» Essay Sample


In the essay Everybody Protests Novel by James Baldwin, Portrays a scenario of good and evil in the real society. According to the essay, certain characters in the novel ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ tend not to depict what happens to real human beings in the society. When Baldwin was writing this essay, it is clear as to whether he meant to depict these characters or not (Baldwin 14). However, the different character types in the novel play a crucial role in defining the real society that people are currently living. Therefore, two characters to be used, in this discussion, to show how good and evil in the society are depicted in the society are the blacks and whites.


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The essay by Baldwin is about the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. In this case, Baldwin is trying to protest against the novel by stating that it does not clearly depict the reality of what was happening in the past (Baldwin 16). In the words of Baldwin, the novel does not show the true picture of what was happening to the black community. Instead, the novel is sympathizing with the readers. According to Baldwin, only certain character types in the novel that show the true reality of what is happening in the society (Baldwin 23). In this essay, Baldwin was trying to argue between two points. What it means to be an American and what race actually means in the context of the American society (Baldwin 22)?

In the novel, Uncle Toms Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is about the story of the black slaves and their white masters. The story begins where the Shelby family is marred with many debts without a way to repay them (Stowe 2). However, they have the option of selling some slaves to repay their debts. On the other hand, they have attachments with the slaves making it difficult for them to let go of the slaves. In spite of this, when they decide to do so, they decide to sell two slave on of them Tom who is forms a relationship with a white girl (Stowe 55). The white girl makes sure that her father buys Tom so that they can bring him in their home. In this story, many good and evil characteristics transpire living the readers wondering whether this would happen in the case of a real human being.

First, in the side of the whites, certain good characteristics are portrayed by the society. In this case, Shelby family is facing an enormous dilemma. This is where they have so many debts that they could repay by selling some of their slaves. However, they have become so attached to the slaves that they are not willing to sell them (Stowe 3). They consider the slaves as part of their family. According to Baldwin, the sympathy Shelby family has towards the slaves makes the novel not to portray the reality of the situation (Baldwin 15). This is because he wonders whether if it was in a real situation whether this was the case. In this case, the readers will tend to wonder whether a real human being of the white race would have considered not selling a slave to settle his or her debts (Carter 17). Therefore, the novel is fictitious than showing the reality despite the good spirit of the whites.

In addition, there is another good character of the white society depicted in the novel. Eva, a white girl, falls in love with Tom. In this case, she does everything possible to make sure that her father buys him (Stowe 77). This means that Tom is not going to be mistreated by Evas family because Eva will protect him. In Baldwins words, the sympathy Stowe is portraying between the two communities were not what was happening in reality (Baldwin 19). This is mainly because the whites and the blacks were not supposed to mix. In reality, the blacks were the commodities while the whites were the masters. Therefore, a real human being in the situation would not mix. Therefore, this is more of a fairy tale to the readers than a real situation.

In another situation in the novel, the white portray a good character. This is with Ophelia and St. Clare. The two despite having slaves, they have different views about black people. Ophelia has a good nature of protecting black rights (Stowe 79). On the other hand, St. Clare buys a slave to be taught, by Ophelia, to show that he has a different view of the slaves. In this case, this shows that the two are extremely good to the black if they can offer an education to a slave (Stowe 79). In reality, the whites were extremely cruel to the black community. The thought of providing an education to the black was impossible. For this reason, a real human being in that time, in particular a white person, would not do search activities (Chandler-Ezell 2005). Therefore, the novel does not depict the reality of the situation at hand to the readers.

Finally, during Evas death the good characteristics of the whites depicted. When Eva was dying, she had a vision that she narrated to the whites who were around him. This led to St. Clare to promise that he was going to free Tom from slavery. This shows that the whites had a lot of sympathy with their slaves (Stowe 80). This situation shows that the whites way of living was forcing them to own slaves. However, in reality of the situation, this is impractical. The whites were not sympathetic in any nature. Therefore, the consideration of a white to free the slave is not real (Carter 20). This is because it would have been like losing a valuable commodity. Therefore, readers view this part of the story as fiction and not reality.

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On the other hand, the blacks also have good characteristics that they portray in the story. When Eliza and her husband escaped, slave hunters were sent, on their trail, to hunt them down. As Eliza and her husband are running away, the slave hunters are hot on their trail. At one point the slave hunters, led by Loker surround them in amid to catch them. On seeing this, Eliza husband pushes Loker down into a cliff (Stowe 100). However, due to their good nature, they take Loker to a hospital in fear of death (Stowe 102). In a realistic point of view, a real human being is likely to kill the person who is trying to take him or her back to the life of slavery. For this reason, Baldwin and other readers believe that this novel is unrealistic (Baldwin 18).

One man in the story who always portrays good characters is Tom. Tom is extremely kind, honest, loyal, humble and forgiving. All through the story, Tom is suffering a lot at the hands of his masters (Stowe 235). However, despite the mistreatment, Tom was always maintaining his composers and did not perform any wrong did. In his death, Tom was mercilessly beaten to death because of failing to mention where his friends had gone (Stowe 244). The most surprising is that Tom did not beg for his life neither did he hold a grunge with those people who were beating him. Instead, he forgave them (Stowe 243). In reality, no person can experience such mistreatment and continue to be good (Chandler-Ezell 2005). Therefore, Stowe is unrealistic in this story.

In addition, Tom is extremely loyal to the extent that he cannot escape from his masters despite the mistreatment. Although some of his masters have been good to him, certain masters have been extremely cruel to him. Legree hated Tom, and because of this, he was constantly mistreating him (Stowe 234). The other slaves Cassy and Emmeline decided to escape from Legree but Tom did not. Instead, he offered himself to be sacrificed on their behalf. In this case, a real human being would never do that. In reality, he or she would be plotting how to escape, and he or she would not let him or herself be sacrificed. Therefore, Stowe is using fiction to capture the attention of the readers.

In another situation, the good characteristics of the black are portrayed by Tom. After Cassy and Emmeline escape from their master Legree, Tom refuses to tell Legree where they went. As a result, he sentenced to death. Despite the beating Tom receives towards his death, He forgives them (Stowe 243). In this case, it shows the good characters of the black for being humble and forgiving. However, on a realistic point of view, this situation only happened in the Bible when Jesus was being crucified. It is extremely difficult for a real human being to forgive his or her killers at the point when they are killing him or her (Chandler-Ezell 2005). Instead, he or she would be begging for his life. For this reason, this is fictitious.

On the contrary, certain bad characteristics exist between the two communities. These characteristics also baffle the readers as to whether real human beings would act in such a manner in certain situations. First, the whites have continually shown bad characteristics in story. The Shelbys are willing to sell the two slaves Tom and Eliza despite their attachments (Stowe 5). This shows that the family is selfishly thinking about themselves without thinking about the two slaves. In a real situation, a real human being is always willing to consider looking up for his or her own personal needs before considering other people (Chandler-Ezell 2005). Therefore, in such a situation, a real human being would do exactly the same thing.

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Another instance is where bad characteristics are portrayed is when Loker is hunting down Eliza and her husband. In this case, Loker has determination that he is going hunting to the two slaves and bring them back (Stowe 99). This treatment is extremely cruel and in human. However, taken into reality, the hunters believe that the slaves are like living gold. Therefore, they must do anything possible to catch. This lives readers with the dilemma as to whether they are going to believe whether a human being can hunt another one down or it is the nature of the situation. However, in certain situations, humans have been barbaric in hunting down or killing one another because of material possessions (Chandler-Ezell 2005). For this reason, the story is realistic.

In another situation, a bad character depicted by the whites is selfishness. In this situation, St. Clares wife sells Tom in an action despite her husband wish to free Tom. Before St. Clare died, he had promised that he was going to free Tom. This was after he had his daughters vision during her death (Stowe 114). However, St. Clares wife took upon herself the duty of being the master of the slaves. As a result, she sold Tom in auction. This shows that she did not honor her husbands wish. Instead, she followed her own person selfish needs and sold Tom for monetary gain. In reality, human beings are always ready to put their own selfish gains ahead of others needs (Chandler-Ezell 2005). For this reason, real human being would have done the same.

Legree is another person who is extremely evil representing the white people. Legree tortures all his slaves and beats those who against his will. He shows a significant amount of cruelty towards his slaves. In one instance, he forces Tom to beat mercilessly those slaves who have been disobeying his orders (Stowe 241). It is extremely evil for a person to beat another person because he or she is not following his or her orders. However, in consideration of the situation, a real human being would exactly treat his or her slave the way Legree was doing (Roberts 2006). According to what many people know, slaves were being mistreated. Therefore, this story is realistic in comparison to claims of the story being sympathetic by Baldwin (Baldwin 14).

In addition, the story conveys a lot of hatred between the two communities. This hatred is because of a conflict between good and evil. Legree is extremely evil. On the other hand, Tom is immensely good. In this case, Legree does not understand how a person can do no evil. For this reason, he develops hatred towards Tom (Stowe 244). As a result, he is constantly cruel towards Tom and tries to take any opportunity to mistreat him. On the contrary, Tom being a good man, he does not hate Legree. Instead, he understands and forgives him for his cruelty. In reality, this happens many times between different individuals. A real human being is capable of hating another because he or she is extremely good while he or she is evil. However, it is not realistic for a person who is good to be constantly mistreated and remains quiet. Moreover, it is not realistic for a human being to forgive a person who always mistreats him or her (Chandler-Ezell 2005). Instead, he forms hatred.

The black community is constantly viewed as the rejects of the society thus playing significant emotional role models to the readers. In particular, Tom plays significant role model to the Christianity community because he portrays all trials and tribulations Christians go through in life. First, Tom is a strong Christian who derives his hope from the strong trust and believes he has in God. Secondly, Tom does not commit any wrongs despite the tempting circumstances he always experiencing. On numerous occasions, Legree mistreats Tom to the point of his death. Instead of forming hatred and anger towards him, he forgives him (Stowe 243). In this case, Christian readers tend to form information attachments with Tom because he has gone out of the way to perform all the activities a Christian. In this case, the Christians know that it is impossible for a person to do this, but Tom has done it.

Finally, the whites have created substantial enmity among the readers. Through Legree, the whites are seen as the evil community who oppress the innocent. Legree mistreats all his slaves while they are working for him (Stowe 243). In addition, Legree does not seem to care whether they are human beings or not. Instead, he views them as economic commodities supposed to bring him wealth (Roberts 2006). For this reason, the readers do not like the whites. However, most of the characteristics portrayed are unrealistic.


According to Baldwin, the novel by Stowe is not realistic to the nature of what was happening. For this reason, the novel is sympathetic. However, it can be noted that on certain instance, Stowe is using unrealistic events to catch the attention of readers with what was happening. Although the Stowe was trying to explain to the readers about the whole situation, the blend of realistic and unrealistic and realistic events in the society has attracted the attention of the readers to what was happening.

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