Uncle Tom’s Cabin

by: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Important Quotations Explained

2. “I looks like gwine to heaven,” said the woman; “an’t thar where white folks is gwine? S’pose they’d have me thar? I’d rather go to torment, and get away from Mas’r and Missis.”

The horribly abused slave Prue speaks these words in Chapter XVIII, when Tom tries to convince her to find God and lead a Christian life, which he tells her will assure her an eternal reward in heaven. With this one line, Prue dramatically illustrates the extent to which racial politics and slavery were impressed upon slaves as unalterable, universal facts of existence. She assumes that if white people are going to heaven, she will be required to work as a slave to them in the afterlife. She unwittingly offers a devastating commentary on the horror of life as a slave when she says that she would rather go to hell (“torment”) to escape her master and his wife than go to paradise with them. Stowe intended her novel for a largely Christian audience, and with these lines she meant to shock the reader into an awareness of the extreme misery slaves endured.