Augustine St. Clare of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

leaves little room for interpretation of the author's moral

point of view. Yet, there remains one big moral question that is not as

easily answered. This is the question of the character of Augustine

St. Clare--a man who espouses great ideals on the evils of slavery,

yet continues to hold his own slaves. Is he a hero because of his

beliefs or a villain because of his actions? And just how important

is this question to understanding and responding to the novel, as a


If St. Clare were a minor character, showing up in just a

chapter or two, as another stereotype, i.e. the southern slaveholder

who doesn't like slavery, he
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So St. Clare is like the founding fathers of America--he starts

something he cannot finish. St. Clare did not literally begin the

practice of slavery, but he supports it by his financial arrangements.

Like the founding fathers, he's a great thinker, a believer in ideals,

yet trapped by the practical world of reality. An issue very much

at the center of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

A world that appeared black-and-white to many of the

abolitionists with whom Stowe associated was not so clear-cut to

Stowe. She showed all sides of the issue as best as she could, despite

her obvious bias against slavery. And St. Clare, the slaveowner who

opposed slavery, is the biggest example of the moral ambiguity and

contradictions that theissue of slavery, and by extension this novel,


St. Clare's moral ambiguity makes him tough to figure out. He

says great things yet does horrible things. Perhaps not as horrible as

Simon Legree, but the principle is the same--just like Legree, he holds

slaves. He keeps other human beings in legal and social inferiority to

himself. And in another way, he's even worse than Legree in that he

makes promises he doesn't keep. He promises Tom his freedom, but

does not deliver it. Legree at least is honest about his character and

makes no pretensions to
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