Evolution of Evelyn from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” & “The Christian Slave”

The objective of my project is to tackle the character of Eve in the novel and comparing her to the version we are given in The Christian Slave. In the novel we are presented with a loving and angelic-natured version of the young white little girl that makes not just her parents and fellow white people cry for her suffering, but also create a grueling experience for the slaves of her household when she passes. The impact that she has in the novel is staggering and proceeds to shape the later event’s messages, however, I found that in The Christian Slave she did not provide nearly the same impact and in fact could have been removed entirely. After doing some research, I found an article entitled, “The Acoustics of Passing: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Supremacist Remix”, by Caitlin Marshall and it presents a rather interesting take on not only Eve but the subject of abolitionism present in the book as well as white supremacy. It suggests that the white characters and their treatment of African American characters, while obviously majority speaking was negatively impacting them, the act of acting well to them and being seen as righteous was also a form of white supremacy as here we have white characters being seen as “stooping to the level of Africans” and making them adopt white characteristics. In this regard, Eve, is one of the main white characters, who has descended to the level of black slaves and was friendly with them. The book shows that their friendship was grounded on her traumatic experience, as she has been saved by Tom from drowning into the river that leads to the idea that this is the main reason for her friendliness toward slaves. At the same time, the play Christian Slave gives a deeper insight into the character of Eva and uncover that she was a kind character, who grew up being different in her attitude to slaves and black people. Therefore, the play expands the nature of relations between Eve and black slaves and shows that it is not only the result of her connection to Tom after he saved her, but also her intrinsic inclination to treat people as equal. In this regard, Eva is not just the character that performs the part of angelic white child that stoops to the level of black slaves and attempts to raise them up to the level of the whites, as the book shows, but she is also the character that is intrinsically different and attempts to spread Christian ideas of equality among slaves and does not really pay much attention to the color of skin of people, as the play proves.

The specificity of the depiction of Eva in Uncle Tom’s Cabin is determined by the nature of the book and its focus on the problem of slavery and racial issues. The writer focuses on the social injustice and severe oppression of African Americans that resulted in the destruction of the family unity. Harriet Beecher Stowe uncovered the unbearable position of African Americans and her work made probably the greatest stir among the American public and stimulated the rise of the abolitionist movement. This literary work contributed to the understanding of the predatory nature of slavery and urgent need of its abolition in the US. Stowe showed that families of slaves were ruined and, more important. They have never existed as families in the traditional form, which white Americans were accustomed to. In this regard, Eva is a very important character that contrasts to other white characters. She is virtually the only white person, who is really friendly with black slaves and attempts to stand on the equal ground with them. This feature is distinct in both, the book and the play. The play gives a deeper insight into the character of Eva and uncovers her attitude to slaves and her relations with them along with the attitude of people from her proximate social environment toward such friendship.

However, the true character of Eva is uncovered in her relations with slave children:

Mar.

Eva ‘s peculiar. There are things about her so singular; she is n’t like me, now, a particle.

Mar.

Eva always was disposed to be with servants; and I think that well enough with some children. Now, I always played with father’s little negroes – it never did me any harm. But Eva, somehow, always seems to put herself on an equality with every creature that comes near her. It ‘s a strange thing about the child. I never have been able to break her of it. St. Clare, I believe, encourages her in it. The fact is, St. Clare indulges every creature under this roof but his own wife.

Mar.

Now, there’s no way with servants, but to put them down, and keep them down. It was always natural to me, from a child. Eva is enough to spoil a whole house-full. What she will do when she comes to keep house herself, I’m sure I don’t know. I hold to being kind to servants – I always am; but you must make ’em know their place. Eva never does; there’s no getting into the child’s head the first beginning of an idea what a servant’s place is! You heard her offering to take care of me nights, to let Mammy sleep! That’s just a specimen of the way the child would be doing all the time, if she was left to herself. (Stowe, 93). In this regard, Eva is identical to the character depicted in Tom’s Cabin, since her mother defines her as different from other children because she treated slave children as equal: ““Eva always was disposed to be with servants; and I think that well enough with some children. Now, I always played with father’s little negroes – it never did me any harm. But Eva somehow always seems to put herself on an equality with every creature that comes near her” (Stowe, 64). At the same time, the author uncovers more details about the childhood of Eva since she was not only friendly with slaves but also her parents and other whites attempted to discourage her friendship with black slaves. In such a way, to carry on her friendship and to maintain positive relations with slaves, she had to overcome the resistance of her family and her social environment because it was unacceptable for a white girl and a white person at large to stay on the friendly ground with black slaves. This detail uncovered in the play is very important because it shows that Eva was stubborn and committed in her efforts to maintain friendly relations with black slaves.

The play uncovers the childhood experience of Eve which might contribute to the development of such a positive attitude of Eve toward blacks. She was always friendly with Uncle Tom: “As I live! If there an’t Eva, sitting in Uncle Tom’s lap! Eugh! There, she’s hanging a wreath of roses round his neck!” (Stowe 71).  The friendship between Tom and Eva originates from the moment, when Tom saved her life, when Eva was about to drown in the river. Eva views Tom as her savior and their relationships are very important for the understanding of Eva’s attitude to black slaves in the book. As Tom saves her life he “now, is a hero to Eva; his stories are wonders in her eyes, his songs and Methodist hymns are better than an opera, and the traps and little bits of trash in his pocket a mine of jewels, and he the most wonderful Tom that ever wore a black skin” (Stowe 72). In such a way, the book makes Tom the key figure that had influenced the attitude of Eva to black slaves. In this regard, the play is not so focused on Tom-Eva relations. Instead, the play makes Eva’s relations with black slaves more diverse. She develops stronger ties in the play with other slaves as well. She interacts and communicates with them and she always stands on the equal ground with them. She treats them as equal. The expanded interaction of Eva with other slaves decrease the impact of Tom on her in a way that makes her character different from the character depicted in the book., where her relations with Tom is the key to understanding her care and attention to black slaves, whom other white characters treat as mere commodities.  

At the same time, the play shows that Eva was not only friendly toward slaves and black people, but also she opposed to any violence toward them. In this regard, her Christian beliefs could play probably the determinant part in her attitude to slaves and violence.  She was apparently influenced by Christian ideas and values. This is why she rejected any violence toward slaves. This is why she repulses Rosa’s suggestion over possible corporal punishment of slaves:

Rosa.

La, there an’t any such thing as the truth in that limb! If I was Mas’r St. Clare, I ‘d whip her till the blood run, I would! I ‘d let her catch it!

Eva.

 No, no, Rosa! you must n’t talk so, Rosa. I can’t bear to hear it.

Rosa.

La, sakes! Miss Eva, you ‘s so good, you don’t know nothing how to get along with niggers. There ‘s no way but cut ’em well up, I tell ye.

Eva.

Rosa, hush! Don’t say another word of that sort. (Stowe 115).

Therefore, Eva does not even admit the possibility of the physical violence and punishment of black slaves. The play explains such attitude of Eva to slaves by her strong Christian beliefs and probably innate sympathy and repulsion of violence and abuse. The book does not reveal so much details about Eva’s character and does not overemphasizes her Christian beliefs and values which are determinant for Eva and her attitude to black slaves. The repulsion of violence is an important feature of Eva that is particularly obvious in the play and not so evident in the book. This feature is also the feature of a true Christian that reveals the importance of Christian faith and values for Eva.

The evolution of Eva is quite significant due to the revelation of her religious background. At this point, Harriet Beecher Stowe probably attempted to bring in Christina teaching into the play and convey it to the audience to remind people about universal humanistic values promoted by Christian teaching. Love, respect of other people, obedience to God laws, non-violence is all the key features of Christian teaching, but also they are the key features of Eva. In such a way, the writer expanded the character of Eva and made her the personification of Christian values which she attempted to remind and bring not only to slaves but also to white people (Marshall 11). Ironically, even though whites around her were adults and pretended to be Christians, none of them actually followed Christina norms and ethics because they took slavery for granted and, thus, admitted the violation of divine laws because of the exploitation and punishment of slaves, while slavery was already the act unwelcomed by Christian teaching which taught people to love each other rather than enslave each other.

The enhancement of Christian aspect of Eva’s character is very important in terms of understanding of her evolution in Christian Slave compared to the book. In fact, the focus on Christian views of Eva and the importance of Christian faith and values for her explains and justifies her actions described in the book. For example, she was quite stubborn in converting slaves into Christians through teaching them Christianity rather than mere baptizing of slaves as some slaveholders did. She performed a part of a sort of missionary which is probably not so evident in the book but is quite clear in the play.

The force of the Christian faith of Eva becomes evident in the book only by the end of her life and her tragic death. As she was about to die, she gives a lock of her hair to slaves and tells them to become Christians to meet each other after their death in Heaven. However, the book depicts it as a sort of a childish dream of meeting her friend after their death. The book makes it a gesture of the last attempt of Eva to stay connected to her friends and people who were important for her in her after life (Posner 120). The play changes the meaning of this episode and changes the overall context of the story. As the play reveals the full extent to which Christian faith and teaching was important for Eva and, more important, as the play shows that Eva was a sort of Christian teacher for slaves, the episode reveals her action as the last and probably the most effective attempt to convert black slaves to Christianity. In a way, her gesture to give her locks of hair to slaves to convert them to Christianity makes her similar to prophets or even to Jesus Christ, since slaves could keep a piece of her, who converted them to Christianity and helped them to find their way to God. Such accomplishment is difficult to achieve for experienced missionaries and priests, but Eva, whatever little child she was, has succeeded in converting slaves to Christianity.

Thus, the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the play Christian Faith are closely connected to each other since they actually convey the same story, but, at the same time, the play is the extension of the book that may be clearly traced through the character of Eva. Eva is depicted as an angelic type of character, who loves everyone and adores the life and wants to make all people happy. However, what is the most shocking for her family and white characters is her friendship with slaves, which, according to the book, derives from Tom, who saved her life. However, the play gives a deeper insight into the character of Eva. She is under the impact of Tom but her worldview and her actions are, to a significant extent, driven by her Christian beliefs and values, which the writer uses to promote humanistic ideas which Christianity teaches people. In such a way, Harriet Beecher Stowe reveals the evolution of Eva character and gives more keys to understand this character better.

Works Cited:

Beecher-Stowe, H. Uncle’s Tom Cabin. New York: Penguin Classics, 2016.

Beecher-Stowe, H. Christian Slave. New York: Penguin Classics, 2014.

Marshall, Caitlin. The Acoustics of Passing: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Supremacist Remix, Sounding Out, 2013. Web. Accessed on https://soundstudiesblog.com/2013/12/23/the-acoustics-of-passing-harriet-beecher-stowes-uncle-toms-cabin-as-supremacist-remix/

Posner, R. Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Harvard University Press, 2002.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

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freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]
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