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Importance of the Setting in Uncle Tom's Cabin
The book, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was obviously a novel where the
setting was the major factor in the plot of the story. If this had taken
place in any other area, like Canada, there would not have even been as
story because slavery did not exist there. Therefore the South was the
prime region to have this plot revolve around. Everything contained here
contributed to the actions of the characters, which will be explained in
the following paragraphs.
The setting was such an important influence because, like I said
before, it took place down in the South. This is where slavery was at its
peak and was used and abused by almost every citizen. The black race was
treated harshly just because of their color. They were beaten, over-worked,
and disrespected. Most of them were illiterate as well which did not help
one bit. In turn they could not make intelligent decisions, better yet
pursue what they wanted. Even if they had that ability though, that option
was not available because they were "black".
The details of the setting that influenced the actions of the
characters were, again, the time period and where it took place. However
this was not the only thing that persuaded the characters because they
influenced each other. The citizens followed the crowd and did not have
their own opinions. If some person's idea differed from that of the
majority, he/she would not dare speak up because they feared rejection.
Legree was one of the people looked up to and respected even though what he
was dong was totally wrong. Since he had power and money though, he was
admired. The only three people that actually did take a stand, if you will,
were George Shelby Jr., Augustine St. Clare, and his daughter, Evangeline.
These three characters opposed slavery and tried to do something about it.
(Unfortunately, though, the St. Clare's efforts were diminished because
they both died). They were the citizens that should have been looked up to
Specific examples that show the setting's influence on the
characters were all over the book. The next three excerpts will give you
an illustration of them.
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This first passage was at the very beginning of the book when Mr.
Legree was inside of the Shelby's house, trying to make a deal on slaves.
See, the Shelby's were in debt at the moment and the only way that they
could make some money was to sell some of their slaves. This family was
very nice indeed to their slaves and took care of them well so the last
thing that they wanted to do was sell them off, but in order to keep the
plantation functioning, money was needed. Therefore, Mr. Legree was going
to buy ten male slaves of his choice. One out of his ten happened to be
Eliza's (Mrs. Shelby's housekeeper) little son, Harry. He was only buying
Harry to anger Eliza because he had actually wanted her, but could not have
her. This next passage describes his personality and that of the other
Lor bless ye, yes! These critters an't like white folks, you know;
they gets over things, only manage right. "Now, they say", said Haley,
assuming a candid and confidential air, "that this kind o' trade is
hardening to the feelings; but I never found it so. Fact is, I never could
do things up the way some fellers manage the business. I've seen 'em as
would p7ll a woman's child out her arms, and wset him up tos ell, and she
screechin' like mad all the time; -- very bad policy - damages the article
- makes 'em quite unfit for service sometimes. I knew a real handsome gal
once, in Orleans, as was entirely ruined by this sort o' handling. The
fellow that was trading for her didn't' want her handling. The fellow that
was trading for her didn't' want her baby; and she was one of your real
high sort, when hr blood was up. I tell you, she squeezed up her child in
her arms, and talked, and went on real awful. It kinder makes my blood run
cold to think on't; and when they carried off the child, a nd locked her up,
she jest went ravin' mad, and died in a week. Clear waste, sir, of a
thousand dollars, just for want of management - there's where 'tis. It's
always best to do the humane thing, sir; that's been my experience. " And
the trader leaned back in his chair, and folded his arms, with an air of
virtuous decision, apparently considering himself a second Wilberforce.
(Stowe, p. 5).
This next excerpt shows how brutally the slaves were treated at
some plantations. The characters in this section are Cassy (the girl who
is getting beaten) and an overseer. He has the nerve to stick a pin in her
head to wake her up after she fainted from being overworked and whatnot.
This is awful.
"I'll bring her to!" said the driver, with a brutal grin. "I'll give her
something better than camphire!" and, taking a pin from his coat-sleeve,
he buried it into the head in her flesh. The woman groaned, and half rose.
"Get up, you beast, and work, will yer, or I'll show yer a trick more!" (p.
The last paragraph again shows the misconduct of the slave traders
when they are inspecting their slaves and deciding if they want to buy them
or not. How they treat them makes me cringe everytime because it is so
A little before the sale commenced, a short, broad, muscular man,
in a checked shirt considerably open at the bosom, and pantaloons much the
worse for dirt and ware, elbowed his way through the crowd, like one who is
going actively into business; and coming up to the group, began to examine
them systematically. From the moment that Tom saw him approaching, he felt
an immediate and revolting horror at him, that increased as he came near.
He was evidently, though short, of gigantic strength. His round, bullet
head, light-gray eyes with their shaggy, sandy eye-brows, and stiff, wiry,
sunburned hair, were rather unprepossessing items, it is to be confessed;
his large, coarse mouth was distented with tobacco, the juice of which,
from time to time, he ejected from him with great decision and explosive
force; his hands were immensely large, hairy, sun-burned, freckled, and
very dirty, and garnished with long nails, in a very foul condition. This
man proceeded to a very free personal examination of the lot. He seized
Tom by the jaw, and pulled open his mouth to inspect his
mouth; made him strip up his sleeve, to show his muscle; turned him round,
made him jump and spring to show his paces. (p. 332).
As you can see, the setting is the major influence in this book.
It puts everything into place and ties everything together to make sense.
Without it, there probably would be no, "Uncle Tom's Cabin", and that would
be a great loss indeed.