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Free Study Guide-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-Free Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 17

Summary

Back at the Quaker settlement Rachel Halliday is busy preparing for the departure of George and Eliza. Eliza is encouraging George to act worthier of his freedom and to cultivate his Christian feelings. George agrees, considering it a blessing to feel free and to know that his wife and child belong to him. He intends to send the Shelbys money to honestly redeem Eliza and Harry from them once he reaches Canada and can earn the money. Since they have heard the slave hunters are hot on their trail, George and Eliza decide to leave in the middle of the night.

After supper, George, Eliza, Harry, the escaped slave Jim and his mother all depart in a large covered wagon. Loker and Marks catch up with them. A fight ensues and George wounds Loker. Marks and the other slave hunters run away. Eliza and Jim's mother feel sorry for the wounded Loker. They take him back to the Quakers, where he can be doctored and hopefully healed.


Notes

George's religious awakening gains momentum when he promises Eliza that he will "try to feel like a Christian." He feels rich and strong even if he has no money. He knows he can carve out a future for himself if he is allowed to work hard. It is the first time George has something to look forward to. He is hopeful and optimistic about the future. His self-esteem and sense of self worth are becoming more positive.

His sense of bitterness unfortunately returns when he hears that Loker and Marks are hot on the trail. The sense of freedom and Christian love is undercut by the memory of the vicious slave trade. He questions rhetorically, "Is God on their side?" He concludes that certainly all the power is on their side. It is only when Simeon reads out a psalm that states that only when the downtrodden castaway goes to " the sanctuary of God" does he find peace. Simeon speaks the basic tenets of Stowe's own faith in God.

The most interesting lesson in this chapter comes from a comparison of the slave-hunters to the hunted. When Loker is injured, his companions leave him for dead and run away. On the other hand, the hunted slaves refuse to abandon their wounded oppressor. Out of sympathy and fear, they take him to a safe place where they know he will be tended. Their truly Christian sensibilities highlight that goodness has nothing to do with color.

There is also an element of suspense and drama in this chapter. The chase and the fight are superbly executed. The abandonment of Loker and the kindness of Eliza and Jim's mother as a response are heroic acts worthy of being included in the greatest of literature's dramatic moments.

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