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Augustine St. Clare of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Powerful Essays
Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

leaves little room for interpretation of the author's moral

point of view. Yet, there remains one big moral question that is not as

easily answered. This is the question of the character of Augustine

St. Clare--a man who espouses great ideals on the evils of slavery,

yet continues to hold his own slaves. Is he a hero because of his

beliefs or a villain because of his actions? And just how important

is this question to understanding and responding to the novel, as a

whole?

If St. Clare were a minor character, showing up in just a

chapter or two, as another stereotype, i.e. the southern slaveholder

who doesn't like slavery, he could almost be dismissed as just another

interesting element, one more point of view, on the issue of slavery.

But St. Clare dominates over one third of this book--his speeches are

Stowe's mouthpiece for her abolitionist politics. He and his moral

ambiguity cannot be dismissed. In many ways, St. Clare is at the

very center of this book. Not just literally and chronologically, but

morally. Josephine Donovan calls St. Clare, "one of the most interesting

characters in the novel" (79). Elizabeth Ammons goes even further

and calls him "the most tortured white man in the book" (175). Here

is a man who knows what is right and wrong, has the power to do

something about it, but does not.

In many ways, St. Clare is like Thomas Jefferson, a man who

spoke out for freedom, who espoused many ideals and even publicly

criticized the institution of slavery, but continued to hold all of his

slaves up until his death. Jefferson...

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... Uncle Tom's Cabin." Criticism 31.4 (Fall 1989): 383-400.

Lang, Amy Schrager. "Slavery and Sentimentalism: The Strange Career of

Augustine St. Clare." Women's Studies 12.1 (1986): 31-54.

Railton, Stephen. "Mothers, Husbands, and Uncle Tom." The Georgia

Review 38.1 (Spring 1984): 129-144.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin: Presenting the

Original Facts and Documents upon which the Story Is Founded.

London: Thomas Bosworth, 215 Regent Street, 1853.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly.

Anthology of American Literature: Volume I: Colonial through

Romantic. Ed. George McMichael. New York: Macmillan Publishing,

1993. 1735-2052.