Struggles of Slavery and the Economy
The economy was the underlying factor affecting multiple aspects of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The novel takes place in the 1850’s antebellum era, when slavery was a large portion of the economy – especially in the South. The moral division between the North and South illustrates how the economy differed between those two separate geographical areas. The economy drove the South’s “need” for slavery which, in turn, also affected family, education, law and government as depicted throughout the novel. The author portrayed this through his characters and specific events.
At the beginning of the novel, there was a discussion between Mr. Shelby and Mr. Haley about selling slaves. Mr. Shelby was in debt and needed to sell two of his slaves to get money to support his family and land. To do this, he enlisted the assistance of Mr. Haley, a slave trader. Small farm owners could not afford many slaves, even though they were the most important component to crop production in the south. Mr. Shelby’s small portion of land was genuinely special to him. Without slavery, crop growth would be slowed because the slaves did all the work in the fields and factories. It would adversely affect income for most southern farm and factory owners. Mr. Shelby was so desperate for extra money that he was forced to consider selling his most valuable slave, Tom, to Mr. Haley. He trusted Tom to the point of allowing him to go out alone, knowing he would always return. Unfortunately, the difficult economy forced Mr. Shelby to give up both Tom and a young boy named Harry in order to keep his plantation.
During this specific time period, it was not uncommon for slave owners to sell their slaves because of the economic turmoil they endured. As expected, the slave families involved were adversely affected. Eliza, the mother of Harry, overheard Mr. Shelby explaining his decision to sell her son, so she took him and escaped. She could not allow her little boy...
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