One Tom isn’t enough?

06 Jun

Uncle Tom the slave
Tom Loker the slave hunter

In chapter XXXVII, the narrator starts calling Loker “Tom”.  I don’t think that was the case earlier in the novel.  For a heartbeat, I was confused.  The Quaker Aunt Dorcas is caring for ill and injured Tom Loker, but for just one instance, I thought she was caring for our bruised and beaten Uncle Tom.  Perhaps the switch in calling Loker, Tom, is to show he’s had a change of heart and now is going to trap animals instead of people.

But I’m still wondering. ..Why do you think Harriet Beecher Stowe chose to name two of her characters Tom?
Wasn’t one enough?


Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


Tags: , , , ,

3 responses to “One Tom isn’t enough?

  1. Christina Joy

    June 6, 2012 at 10:08 am

    My edition has bookclub questions in the back, and one of the questions is:
    Wht is the significance of the repetition of names (e.g. there are two Toms, two Georges, two Henrys [Henrique and Harry])?

    I suppose at some level they are all studies in contrast:
    Tom the Slave vs. Tom the Slave Hunter
    George the Young Intelligent Freeman vs. George the Young Intelligent Slave
    Harry the Child Slave vs. Henrique the Child Slave Driver

    Oh, and just for the record I counted 5, FIVE!, different Tom’s and Thomas in the book. The two we mentioned plus three other super minor characters.

  2. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    June 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Interesting. I was wondering that too. I also thought it was charming how, when she disguised little Harry as a girl, she called him “Harriet”!

  3. dana

    October 19, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    I am loving reading through your blog, which I just discovered today!

    The other thing I’m doing today (which is the thing that led me to your blog) is re-reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, since I begin teaching it again tomorrow. This time I’ve broken out of my normal non-auditory mode to listen to the story, and, wow, it is impacting me in new and unexpected ways. One idea which struck me has to do with the question you post here.

    A few weeks ago for American Lit, I had the students read “The Devil and Tom Walker”. It seems to me that there are several allusions back to that story in ch. 8 when Haley, Marks and Tom Loker are all sitting around discussing their trade, and Haley tries to assert he is more righteous than Tom.

    Tom replies, “After all, what’s the odds between me and you? ‘Tan’t that you care one bit more, or have a bit more feeling’,–it’s clean, sheer, dog meanness, wanting to cheat the devil and save your own skin; don’t I see through it? And your ‘getting religion,’ as you call it, arter all, is too p’isin mean for any crittur;–run up a bill with the devil all your life, and then sneak out when pay time comes! Boh!”

    This accusation against Haley sounds remarkably like a summary of the story of Tom Walker. Is it an allusion back to Irving’s tale? I don’t know, but I suspect that by that time (just under 30 years after “Tom Walker” was published), the name Tom might have been easily associated with the idea of selling your soul to the devil and then trying to pull off looking like you were really living for “the kingdom”. / c


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