Uncle Tom’s Cabin

by: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Chapters XXXIV–XXXVIII

The contrast between these two mother figures joins a number of similarly pointed parallels and contrasts throughout the text of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The text repeatedly employs such couplings as a rhetorical tool, showing the superiority of one side of the pair over the other. Thus, it establishes oppositions between slavery and Christian love, or between an idealized girl such as Eva and a vicious woman such as Marie. The novel also uses parallelism and counterpart as a structural device, dividing itself into two main plots, the story of Uncle Tom and the story of George and Eliza. The “slave narrative” of Uncle Tom contrasts with the “escape narrative” of George and Eliza. As George and Eliza grow closer to freedom, Tom finds himself in more oppressive conditions of slavery. The interrelationship between the two serves to highlight the triumphs of George and Eliza and the sorrows of Uncle Tom, endowing both stories with extra force.

As George and Eliza reach Canada and freedom, Tom finds oppression and death in rural Louisiana. In this contrast, the reader begins to see the symbolic function of geography in the novel. As the two plots diverge, one moving to the North and the other to the South, the North becomes synonymous with freedom, and the South with slavery. Obviously, these symbols have roots in historical reality. But it is important to note how Stowe works this geographical contrast into her structural technique, creating increasingly disparate settings in which to portray the increasingly disparate conditions of the novel’s main characters.