There needed only a glance from the child to her, to identify her as its mother. There was the same rich, full, dark eye, with its long lashes; the same ripples of silky black hair. The brown of her complexion gave way on the cheek to a perceptible flush, which deepened as she saw the gaze of the strange man fixed upon her in bold and undisguised admiration. Her dress was of the neatest possible fit, and set off to advantage her finely moulded shape;—a delicately formed hand and a trim foot and ankle were items of appearance that did not escape the quick eye of the trader, well used to run up at a glance the points of a fine female article.
As with Uncle Tom, readers get their first sight of Eliza Harris from the viewpoint of a slave trader. Eliza is a slave of the Shelby family, the same people who own Uncle Tom. The child in the first sentence is little Harry, the son of Eliza and her husband, George Harris. After seeing her and summing her up like an object to be purchased, the trader offers to buy Eliza. When Shelby refuses to sell her, the trader buys her little boy instead.
“And now,” said Eliza, as she stood in the door, “I saw my husband only this afternoon, and I little knew then what was to come. They have pushed him to the very last standing place, and he told me, today, that he was going to run away. Do try, if you can, to get word to him. Tell him how I went, and why I went; and tell him I’m going to try and find Canada. You must give my love to him, and tell him, if I never see him again,” she turned away, and stood with her back to them for a moment, and then added, in a husky voice, “tell him to be as good as he can, and try and meet me in the kingdom of heaven.”
Eliza bids farewell to Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe, her fellow slaves at the Shelby plantation. Eliza has come to warn Uncle Tom that Mr. Shelby has sold him and her own little son, Harry. For the rest of the novel, Stowe alternates Eliza’s story and Uncle Tom’s. As Tom heads south and Eliza heads north, both will depend on their Christian faith to overcome obstacles.
The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake; stumbling—leaping—slipping—springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone—her stockings cut from her feet—while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank.
The narrator details how Eliza Harris, carrying her young boy in her arms, crosses the partly frozen Ohio River in order to escape to freedom. Her flight will become the most famous scene in the novel and a symbol of the desire for freedom. The prose’s sensory details help readers feel Eliza’s desperation and pain. The short, heavily punctuated phrases build suspense.
She dreamed of a beautiful country,—a land, it seemed to her, of rest,—green shores, pleasant islands, and beautifully glittering water; and there, in a house which kind voices told her was a home, she saw her boy playing, a free and happy child. She heard her husband’s footsteps; she felt him coming nearer; his arms were around her, his tears falling on her face, and she awoke! It was no dream. The daylight had long faded; her child lay calmly sleeping by her side; a candle was burning dimly on the stand, and her husband was sobbing by her pillow.
The narrator describes Eliza and her little boy sleeping in safety at the home of some Quakers helping her escape to Canada. The day before, other Quakers arrived with her husband, George. Now Eliza awakens to realize that the joyful reunion was not just a dream, but her new and wonderful reality. Her husband cries tears of gratitude and happiness. The scenes among the Quakers dramatically portray the good deeds done by principled people, motivating readers to join the cause of freeing slaves.
“Now for it,” said she, as she stood before the glass, and shook down her silky abundance of black curly hair. “I say, George, it’s almost a pity, isn’t it,” she said, as she held up some of it, playfully,—“pity it’s all got to come off?”
George smiled sadly, and made no answer.
Eliza turned to the glass, and the scissors glittered as one long lock after another was detached from her head.
“There, now, that’ll do,” she said, taking up a hair-brush; “now for a few fancy touches.”
“There, an’t I a pretty young fellow?” she said, turning around to her husband, laughing and blushing at the same time.
Eliza talks to her husband George as she cuts off her hair and prepares to masquerade as a young man. Eliza will also dress little Harry as a girl. The family is on the last leg of the journey to Canada, with slave catchers still in pursuit. Stowe borrowed the escape strategies of Eliza and George from various contemporary reports. Clever disguises add swashbuckling romanticism to their adventures.