“But, Mr. Bascom,” Harry said, “I do not understand this. It says my mother and father were legally married. How could her marriage be set aside and her children robbed of their inheritance? This is not a heathen country. I hardly think barbarians would have done any worse; yet this is called a Christian country.”

In Chapter XIV, a distraught and stupefied Harry attempts to comprehend the legality of his sudden change in race, social status, and family situation upon his father’s death and Lorraine’s subsequent manipulation. At his boarding school in Maine, Harry is perplexed by the letter from Iola explicating the dissolution of his parents’ marriage, his mother’s real background as a mulatta, and the family’s plunge into slavery. Harry and Mr. Bascom wrestle with the moral contradiction of the legal existence of the slave trade in a purportedly Christian nation. Harper’s purpose in penning the novel emerges in its overarching theme—advocacy for a renewal of Christian values as the method for mending the country’s disunity, the North’s and South’s impasse on political and social issues, namely slavery. Harper exposes the false nature of a Christian government that enabled the slave trade to flourish, dehumanized an entire race, and harbored slave owners.

Harper also uses characters to generate a theme and to transcribe her own views as a champion of both a pro-abolition platform and pro-equal rights policies for blacks and women. Iola Leroy is rich in dialogue, and this interaction among characters serves as a means of delivering Harper’s political and social agendas. The characters directly translate Harper’s beliefs to the audience. For example, Mr. Bascom is a northerner and an active abolitionist whom Eugene Leroy entrusts to care for Harry and who acts as a mentor to the young boy. The principal’s concise, pointed statement is a loaded accusation that exposes the hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness, or false piety, of slave owners who profess themselves to be Christian. Mr. Bascom’s simple reply to Harry also unleashes a broader charge against the nation as a whole, particularly its legal and government institutions. Harper makes a purposeful political statement via literary elements—characters and dialogue.