Olya: Not that I know of. We do have novels and stories about the serfdom.
Kolya: Yes, like Radishev's " Traveling from St. Petersburg to Moscow". That one though is different.
Kolya: Radishev's story is from much more earlier times. Also, in Russia it was feudalism and serfs, peasants came with the landownership when land belonged to the nobility. Nobility was a relatively small group of people with significant privileges, the ruling elite. Russia was an Empire. But even they had to abolish the serfdom in 1861 because it became unsustainable. Meanwhile, US was a democracy; they proclaimed themselves being enlightened and had slaves at the same time, bought and sold. Sounds like an anomaly.
Natasha: That's true. In the book Eliza, George and other members of the family seek refuge in Canada. Canada was an English colony and it did not have slavery.
Teacher: Well, that means some kind of a specific arrangement for black people. Apparently, they were brought to the US as slaves and remained that way after the US Revolution. They were excluded from the citizenship, so to speak. Why?
Kolya: In the book a slave- owner St. Clare tells about it. He defines slavery as some kind of a convenient arrangement for everyone interested: for white planters who owned the Negroes and could use them as cotton harvesters and servants, for the commerce system which benefited from buy- sell roundabout, for the Northern companies and banks which could use the Negroes as commodities- they were rather expensive for that time. Owning people was a symbol of prosperity; in the US prosperous people were defined by their wealth.
Teacher; So it was about money. We agree on that. Now, which characters you like or dislike in the book?
Nina: I think, the book has several very deep characters, the ones that evolve and many rather shallow ones, created there just to prove the point. Such characters like Uncle Tom, Augustine St. Clare, his cousin Ophelia, George and Elisa, Cassy, Evangeline and Simon Legree are more "lively' than Shelby, Marie, slave- traders and many others.
Teacher: That's interesting. Why a little girl is a deep character?
Natasha; I think I know. Evangeline is perfectly natural. Girls her age are very much like that when they are brought up by loving fathers. I know such families. In fact, the father's influence is very important. Eva really loves Tom and others- she does not make a difference between the races and also influences others that way.
Kolya. Yes, and Shelby is just a good man, Marks is just a villain like on the illustrations. Legree though is a sort of an antagonist to Tom.
Teacher: So Tom is a protagonist, a driving character. Why?
Nina: He is consistent. He evolves, acquires knowledge but does not change as a personality. Whatever Tom does he does naturally -- he is intrinsically and perfectly honest whether he saves Eva or refuses to flog a woman Lucy. He has internal dignity.
Teacher: Do we have such characters in the Russian literature? Who can give us an example?
Sasha: I was trying to find something and the only one I found was Savelyich in the Pushkin's "The Captain's Daughter". He was also a middle- aged serf who was commandeered by his master to accompany the young man, the son of the family to serve as an officer to the army. That serf in fact nursed the young man to adulthood as if he was his own. During the service an serf uprising took place, a ferocious, powerful revolt and that man, a slave, really could join the insurgents and be free. He instead not only stayed with his young master but offered his life for him.