We have a category on our blog called Stupid Questions. It’s been a little neglected lately.
Today I’d like to introduce a new category: Horrible Moments.
Horrible… terrible… tragic… miserable.. appalling… heart-breaking…mournful
Take your pick of deplorable adjectives.
Chapter XII is full of horrible moments. The title for this chapter is “Select Incident of Lawful Trade”.
For a moment, back-track with me. Do you remember the boat “The Rachel” in Moby-Dick? The very last sentence of Melville’s book reads: “It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.” The Rachel rescues Ishmael from the water, but it does not find its missing crew members.
Chapter XII of of Uncle Tom’s Cabin also mentions Rachel. It starts with a quote from Jeremiah 31:15: “In Ramah there was a voice heard,–weeping, and lamentation, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted.”
- There is weeping when Albert and his slave mother Hagar are sold to different masters: the last of a broken family ripped apart.
- There is lamentation when Haley’s newly acquired slave John shares that his wife does not know that he’s been sold south.
- There is mourning when we read the words of a refined southern “lady” on the ferry: “After all, I think they are better off than they would be to be free.”
- There is weeping, lamentation, and mourning when the young slave woman Lucy realizes that her master has tricked her and instead of becoming a cook in the same tavern where her husband works, she and her ten-month-old child are now property of the slave trader Haley.
- The sorrow continues when Lucy’s infant child is sold and then taken away without her knowledge. (Mothers, can you imagine the horror of finding your child gone? Sold and taken away from you?)
- There is anguish in the heart of Lucy who during the night throws herself into the river.
Tom sees all of this.
“His very soul bled within him for what seemed to him the wrongs of the poor suffering thing that lay like a crushed reed on the boxes; the feeling, living, bleeding, yet immortal thing, which American state law coolly classes with the bundles, and bales, and boxes among which she is lying.”
One chapter… filled with such incredible sorrow.