Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe [...] character of Simon Legree and his great cruelty toward the slaves he managed. Simon Legree is certainly the villain in this story about a gentle black slave and his life. In fact, the name Simon Legree has come to mean cruelty and bitter hatred in our society. Legree's character may be a larger-than-life villain, but he represents many of the most cruel and inhumane slave owners of the time. He may seem "over the top" now, but when "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written in the 1850s, Simon Legrees were quite common, which makes the character all the more chilling. Legree serves an important purpose in the novel. He is a metaphor for the atrocities some slaves had to endure, and why they hoped so passionately for freedom, and in addition, he represents the devil, or ultimate evil in the world.
There is no doubt about it; Simon Legree is a cruel and uncaring master. Author Harriet Beecher Stowe introduces him to readers as he is ransacking Tom's trunk, throwing away personal items that are important to him, and stealing Tom's clothing. Immediately it is clear that Simon Legree is an evil, cruel master who will hurt and degrade Tom as much as he can. Sadly, he is not as fictional as he may seem, and that is one reason so many white abolitionists like Stowe fought to free the slaves. They knew cruel masters and they knew many of the slaves suffered atrocities that most people could not even imagine.
Stowe creates Legree as an evil man -- so evil that he could be a metaphor for the devil, and for the hellish practice of keeping slaves in the first place. Some of the first words he says to Tom are "I have none o' yer bawling, praying, singing niggers on my place; so remember. Now, mind yourself,' he said, with a stamp and a fierce glance of his gray eye, directed at Tom, 'I'm your church now! You understand, -- you've got to be as I say'" (Stowe 397). He is not a religious man, and he does not want his slaves practicing religion either, because they will know just what a cruel and evil man he is. He is the devil, which is why he is not religious and why he is such a hateful, spiteful, and evil person.
Legree is a violent man and he uses violence to keep his slaves in order. He tells them soon after he buys them, "Well, I tell ye this yer fist has got as hard as iron knocking down niggers. I never see the nigger, yet, I couldn't bring down with one crack,' said he, bringing his fist down so near to the face of Tom that he winked and drew back" (Stowe 400). By keeping his slaves cowed with fear, he makes sure they will obey him and makes sure they will fear him. He wants them to fear him because the will have the upper hand over them, and he knows he will be able to keep ultimate control over them. It would be difficult for one man to control a group of unruly slaves who had risen in revolt. However, if the man keeps them cowed and fearful in the first place, he has a much better chance of keeping control over a larger number of people. Legree knows this, and knows violence is something that all mean fear and shrink from. In this, he is also very much like the devil, because the devil maintains control over all the souls in Hell with violence and fear.
The slaves see through Legree soon enough, and so do the people around him. He tells one man on board the ship that his arm is as hard as iron. The man replies, "practice has made your heart just like it.' 'Why, yes, I may say so,' said Simon, with a hearty laugh, 'I reckon there's as little soft in me as in any one going. Tell you, nobody comes it over me! Niggers never gets round me, neither with squalling nor soft soap, -- that's a fact'" (Stowe 401). Legree is hard as nails and has no soft or sentimental heart. Again, this shows he is the devil in his heart. He shows no mercy to even the weak or the infirm, and he prides himself on…