This anti-slavery novel, published in 1852, had a profound effect on worldwide attitudes toward African-Americans and slavery. It may have intensified the conflict that led to civil war.

Uncle Tom's Cabin


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Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel had a profound effect on worldwide attitudes toward African-Americans and slavery. In the United States, it is widely thought to have helped intensify the sectional conflict that led to civil war.

Stowe, a Connecticut-born teacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, focused the novel on the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering Black slave around whose life revolve the stories of other characters—both fellow slaves and slave owners.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel, and the second best-selling book {following the Bible}, of the 19th century and is credited with helping to fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States alone. The book's impact was so great that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the American Civil War, Lincoln is often quoted as having declared, "So this is the little lady who made this big war."

The book also helped create a number of common stereotypes about Blacks, many of which endure to this day. These include the affectionate, dark-skinned mammy; the piccaninny stereotype of black children; and the Uncle Tom, or dutiful, long-suffering servant faithful to his white master or mistress. In recent years, the negative associations with Uncle Tom's Cabin have, to an extent, overshadowed the historical impact of the book as a "vital antislavery tool."

Uncle Tom's cabin

Plot summary

Eliza escapes with her son, Tom sold "down the river"

The book opens with a Kentucky farmer named Arthur Shelby facing the loss of his farm because of debts. Even though he and his wife (Emily Shelby) believe that they have a benevolent relationship with their slaves, Shelby decides to raise the needed funds by selling two of them—Uncle Tom, a middle-aged man with a wife and children, and Harry, the son of Emily Shelby’s maid Eliza—to a slave trader. Emily Shelby hates the idea of doing this because she had promised her maid that her child would never be sold; Emily's son, George Shelby, hates to see Tom go because he sees the old man as his friend and mentor.

When Eliza overhears Mr. and Mrs. Shelby discussing plans to sell Tom and Harry, Eliza determines to run away with her son. The novel states that Eliza made this decision not because of physical cruelty, but by her fear of losing her only surviving child (she had already lost two children due to miscarriage). Eliza departs that night, leaving a note of apology to her mistress.

While all of this is happening, Uncle Tom is sold and placed on a riverboat, which sets sail down the Mississippi River. While on board, Tom meets and befriends a young white girl named Eva. When Eva falls into the river, Tom saves her. In gratitude, Eva's father, Augustine St. Clare, buys Tom from the slave trader and takes him with the family to their home in New Orleans. During this time, Tom and Eva begin to relate to one another because of the deep Christian faith they both share.

Eliza's family hunted, Tom's life with St. Clare

During Eliza's escape, she meets up with her husband George Harris, who ran away previously. They decide to attempt to reach Canada. However, they are now being tracked by a slave hunter named Tom Loker. Eventually Loker and his men trap Eliza and her family, causing George to shoot Loker. Worried that Loker may die, Eliza convinces George to bring the slave hunter to a nearby Quaker settlement for medical treatment.

Back in New Orleans, St. Clare debates slavery with his cousin Ophelia who, while opposing slavery, is deeply prejudiced against Black people. St. Clare, however, believes he is not biased, even though he is a slave owner. In an attempt to show Ophelia that her views on Blacks are wrong, St. Clare purchases Topsy, a young black slave. St. Clare then asks Ophelia to educate Topsy.

After Tom has lived with the St. Clares for two years, Eva grows very ill. Before she dies she experiences a vision of heaven, which she shares with the people around her. As a result of her death and vision, the other characters resolve to change their lives, with Ophelia promising to love her slaves more, Topsy saying she will better herself, and St. Clare pledging to free Uncle Tom.

Tom sold to Simon Legree

Before St. Clare can follow through on his pledge, he is fatally stabbed while intervening in a fight. His wife reneges on her late husband's vow and sells Tom at auction to a vicious plantation owner named Simon Legree. Legree (who is not a native southerner but a transplanted Yankee) takes Tom to rural Louisiana, where Tom meets Legree's other slaves, including Emmeline (whom Legree purchased at the same time). Legree begins to hate Tom when Tom refuses Legree's order to whip his fellow slave. Tom receives a brutal beating, and Legree resolves to crush Tom's faith in God. But Tom refuses to stop reading his Bible and comforting the other slaves as best he can. While at the plantation, Tom meets Cassy, another of Legree's slaves. Cassy was previously separated from her son and daughter when they were sold; unable to endure the pain of seeing another child sold, she killed her third child.

At this point Tom Loker returns to the story. Loker has changed as the result of being healed by the Quakers. George, Eliza, and Harry have also obtained their freedom after crossing into Canada. In Louisiana, Uncle Tom almost succumbs to hopelessness as his faith in God is tested by the hardships of the plantation. However, he has two visions—one of Jesus and one of Eva—which renews his resolve to remain a faithful Christian, even unto death. He encourages Cassy to escape, which she does, taking Emmeline with her. When Tom refuses to tell Legree where Cassy and Emmeline have gone, Legree orders his overseers to kill Tom. As Tom is dying, he forgives the overseers who savagely beat him. Humbled by the character of the man they have killed, both men become Christians. After Tom's death, George Shelby (Arthur Shelby's son) arrives to buy Tom’s freedom, but finds he is too late.

Final Section

On their boat ride to freedom, Cassy and Emmeline meet George Harris' sister and accompany her to Canada. Once there Cassy discovers that Eliza is her long-lost daughter who was sold as a child. Now that their family is together again, they travel to France and eventually Liberia, the African nation created for former American slaves. There they meet Cassy's long-lost son. George Shelby returns to the Kentucky farm and frees all his slaves. George tells them to remember Tom's sacrifice and his belief in the true meaning of Christianity.

Task 1

Put the events in the text in the correct order.






Hi also new to the site what an awesome experience have just completed my first task!!. The Uncle Tom's Cabin piece captures the spirit of determination and unwavering faith of a human kind. Teaches one to remain resolute in their course and not be deterred and that through ones ethical character and conviction transformation/ change is bound to occur.

Hello sir.. m new to this site, can u plz give me tip to start over from d ground level. Should I start with the grammar lessons first n progress to other elements?

Hello Ree chaa,

Without knowing your better, it's really just not possible for me to be confident about what to suggest to you. We have some general advice on how to use our site on our Getting started and Frequently asked questions pages, which I'd recommend you read first. Then, like those pages, I'd probably suggest beginning with LearnEnglish podcasts.

You could probably start with Series 1. There is A LOT of material in each series, and I'd encourage you to take your time on each page, i.e. listen to each podcast at least a couple of times and to make note of new words and phrases in each episode so that you can study them and incorporate them into your thinking, speaking and writing.

Good luck!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear English Team,
There are only stories not poems under stories and poems title, why not poems for B1 English learners level students. My second question is that would our English be improved by the site, as for more than one year, I am busy on this website but still, the English test level in the website resulted in me in an intermediate level. I don't know. Why I can not further improve my English.

Hello Omer Gul,

There are a number of poems on the page for that B1/B2. I would not worry too much about whether it is B1 or B2. Although there is a difference, assessing the level of literature is subjective and more an estimate than a black-and-white decision.

Address to the Haggis

Starshine and Non-being

The Tay Bridge Disaster

Poetry as a Foreign Language

On Chloris being ill


As far as your second question goes, it's not really possible for me to say. A person's development depends on many things and I have no way to evaluate your progress. There is a concept in learning called the intermediate plateau, which you can hear described here. It's a common aspect of learning that we feel progress is less clear and slower after an initial burst. It does not mean that you are not making progress, however.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team