Uncle Tom’s Cabin

by: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Simon Legree

Although largely a uniformly evil villain, Simon Legree does possess some psychological depth as a character. He has been deeply affected by the death of his angelic mother and seems to show some legitimate affection for Cassy. Nonetheless, Legree’s main purpose in the book is as a foil to Uncle Tom, and as an effective picture of slavery at its worst. Often associated with firelight and flames, Legree demonstrates literally infernal qualities, and his devilishness provides an effective contrast with the angelic qualities of his passive slave. Legree’s demoniacally evil ways also play an important role in shaping the end of the book along the lines of the traditional Christian narrative. Above all, Legree desires to break Tom’s religious faith and to see him capitulate to doubt and sin. In the end, although Tom dies and Legree survives, the evil that Legree stands for has been destroyed. Tom dies loving the men who kill him, proving that his faith prevails over Legree’s evil.