The Bird Home



When the reader is introduced to Senator Bird, he is at home, slipping off his boots, ready to draw on new slippers and bask in the glow of the "cheerful fire." He shares "a cosey parlor" with "the very picture of delight" - Mrs. Bird, who prepares the table and cares for the children. He has stolen home from politicking to "have a little comfort at home." But fate does not hold for him an evening of uninterrupted domestic solace; instead he is faced with a moral dilemma -- the choice between earthly and divine law.

In his kitchen are Eliza and Harry, the real versions of the abstractions known as fugitive slaves, about which he has been accustomed to speak so easily on the Senate floor. In having Senator Bird contrast "legislating" and "good home living" Stowe underscored the disparity between the public and the domestic spheres; the female world of home was the sanctuary of Virtue while man's world of work was cold and heartless. Whereas at home Mrs. Bird follows God's bidding, Mr. Bird has been led to vote for a law which his own humanity will not allow him to obey.

Like the Shelby Plantation, the Bird home is an active front in the war between Christian virtues and slavery. There it is shown that although the great issues of the day are debated in lofty places like the Senate, they must pass the test of the home. The Fugitive Slave Law fails miserably.


Chapter IX
In Which It Appears That a Senator Is But a Man