A good and pious man, Uncle Tom is the protagonist of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Even under the worst conditions, Uncle Tom always prays to God and finds a way to keep his faith. As the novel progresses, the cruel treatment that Tom suffers at the hands of Simon Legree threatens his belief in God, but Tom withstands his doubts and dies the death of a Christian martyr.
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Uncle Tom’s wife and the Shelbys’ cook. Chloe often acts like a jovial simpleton around the Shelbys to mask her more complex feelings.
The owner of Uncle Tom in Kentucky, Shelby sells Tom to the cruel Mr. Haley to pay off his debts. An educated, kind, and basically good-hearted man, Shelby nonetheless tolerates and perpetuates slavery. Stowe uses him to illustrate that the immorality inherent in slavery makes villains of all its practitioners—not just the most cruel masters.
Mr. Shelby’s wife, Emily Shelby is a loving, Christian woman who does not believe in slavery. She uses her influence with her husband to try to help the Shelbys’ slaves and is one of the novel’s many morally virtuous and insightful female characters.
Called “Mas’r George” by Uncle Tom, George is the Shelbys’ good-hearted son. He loves Tom and promises to rescue him from the cruelty into which his father sold him. After Tom dies, he resolves to free all the slaves on the family farm in Kentucky. More morally committed than his father, George not only possesses a kind heart but acts on his principles.
Eliza’s husband and an intellectually curious and talented mulatto, George loves his family deeply and willingly fights for his freedom. He confronts the slave hunter Tom Loker and does not hesitate to shoot him when he imperils the family.
Mrs. Shelby’s maid, George’s wife, and Harry’s mother, Eliza is an intelligent, beautiful, and brave young slave. After Mr. Shelby makes known his plans to sell Eliza’s son to Mr. Haley, she proves the force of her motherly love as well as her strength of spirit by making a spectacular escape. Her crossing of the Ohio River on patches of ice is the novel’s most famous scene.
Eliza and George’s son, a young boy.
Tom’s master in New Orleans and Eva’s father, St. Clare is a flighty and romantic man, dedicated to pleasure. St. Clare does not believe in God, and he carouses and drinks every night. Although he dotes on his daughter and treats his slaves with compassion, St. Clare shares the hypocrisy of Mr. Shelby in that he sees the evil of slavery but nonetheless tolerates and practices it.
St. Clare and Marie’s angelic daughter. Eva, also referred to in the book as Little Eva (her given name is Evangeline) is presented as an absolutely perfect child—a completely moral being and an unimpeachable Christian. She laments the existence of slavery and sees no difference between blacks and whites. After befriending Tom while still a young girl, Eva becomes one of the most important figures in his life. In death, Eva becomes one of the text’s central Christ figures.
St. Clare’s cousin from the North (Vermont) who comes to help him manage the household, Ophelia opposes slavery in the abstract. However, she finds actual slaves somewhat distasteful and harbors considerable prejudice against them. After Eva’s death, and through her relationship with Topsy, Ophelia realizes her failings and learns to see slaves as human beings. Stowe hoped that much of her Northern audience might recognize themselves in Ophelia and reconsider their views on slavery.
St. Clare’s wife, a self-centered woman. Petty, whining, and foolish, she is the very opposite of the idealized woman figure that appears repeatedly throughout the novel.
The Quakers, a Christian group that arose in mid-seventeenth-century England, dedicated themselves to achieving an inner understanding of God, without the use of creeds, clergy, or outward rites. The Quakers have a long history of contributing to social reform and peace efforts. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, many Quaker characters appear who help George and Eliza, as well as many other slaves. Stowe uses them to portray a Christianity free of hypocrisy, self-righteous display, or bigoted conventions. This kind of Christianity, she implies, can play a crucial role in the abolition of slavery.
Mrs. Bird is another example of the virtuous woman. She tries to exert influence through her husband. Senator Bird exemplifies the well-meaning man who is sympathetic to the abolitionist cause but who nonetheless remains complacent or resigned to the status quo.
A slave hunter hired by Mr. Haley to bring back Eliza, Harry, and George, Tom Loker first appears as a gruff, violent man. George shoots him when he tries to capture them, and, after he is healed by the Quakers, Loker experiences a transformation and chooses to join the Quakers rather than return to his old life.
The slave trader who buys Uncle Tom and Harry from Mr. Shelby. A gruff, coarse man, Haley presents himself as a kind individual who treats his slaves well. Haley, however, mistreats his slaves, often violently.
A wild and uncivilized slave girl whom Miss Ophelia tries to reform, Topsy gradually learns to love and respect others by following the example of Eva.
Tom’s ruthlessly evil master on the Louisiana plantation. A vicious, barbaric, and loathsome man, Legree fosters violence and hatred among his slaves.
Legree’s (slave) mistress and Eliza’s mother, Cassy proves a proud and intelligent woman and devises a clever way to escape Legree’s plantation.
A young and beautiful slave girl whom Legree buys for himself, perhaps to replace Cassy as his mistress. She has been raised as a pious Christian.