Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary and Analysis
Summary of Chapter 36
Legree awakens with a hangover and begins to drink brandy. Cassy tells him to leave Tom alone, and Legree says he will be easier on Tom if he apologizes. Cassy insists that Tom will never beg false pardon, and Legree turns on her. He yells that Tom will indeed "beg like a dog." He charges towards Tom's shed, throws open the door, and begins kicking and taunting him.
Tom tells Legree that he may do terrible things to him on earth, but that he believes in the eternal life awaiting him. He tells Legree that he is not afraid to die because God is with him. Legree knocks Tom down and leaves. Cassy tells Tom that Legree will now forever loathe him, and that this hatred will follow him like "a dog on your throat- sucking your blood, bleeding away your life, drop by drop." She assures Tom of the truth of her words by saying, "I know the man."
Analysis of Chapter 36
Cassy's emphasis on the blood Tom will shed is a foreshadowing of his murder by Legree. Not only is he murdered, but also he is martyred for the religious beliefs that allow him to forgive even the evil Legree. The "drops" he will bleed cannote the idolic representations of Christ with his crown of thorns.
The repetition of the dog imagery reveals Tom's earthly position as a slave. Both Legree and Cassy can only see him living as an animal, and dying as one. Here, Stowe shows that even slaves, such as Cassy, often did not see themselves as human beings worthy of a nobler end.
Summary of Chapter 37
This chapter returns to the story of George, Eliza, and young Harry. The Quakers help disguise the family and Mrs. Smyth, a woman from Canada, helps then board a ship that takes then to a village called Amherstberg in her country. When they arrive, the couple kneels and sings to God in thanks for their freedom.
Analysis of Chapter 37
The flight of the Harris family from the United States is important for two reasons. First, Stowe emphasizes that even in the north, where attitudes are supposed to be anti-slavery, slaves are not safe. The only solution, thus, is abolition. Also, the characterization of the family's Quaker helpers is important. These are people who truly live their religion and aid their neighbors- regardless of whether they are a slave or a slave-catcher. Stowe wants her readers to find inspiration in their Christian example, which happens to coincide with her anti-slavery message.
Summary of Chapter 38
Tom, still injured, is sent back to the fields. He continues to read secretly from his Bible and pray for deliverance. Legree taunts Tom, telling him to join his "church" of liquor and cruelty as Sambo and Quimbo have done. Tom holds firmly to his faith. He tells Legree "the Lord may help me, or not help; but I'll hold to Him, and believe Him to the last."
Analysis of Chapter 38
Perhaps even worse than the physical beatings he will soon receive are the taunts and jibes at his religion that Tom must endure. Not only do Legree and his overseers taunt Tom because of his faith, so too the slaves around him do not understand the Bible. Thus, Tom is completely isolated and with only his faith to convince him of his rightness.
The theme of Tom as a Jesus figure is very prevalent in this chapter. Indeed, when Tom asserts that he will believe whether or not God saves him from martyrdom, we are reminded of the taunts Jesus received of "save yourself" as he was crucified.
Summary of Chapter 39
One night, Cassy comes to Tom with a plan of escape. She has drugged Legree, and she wants Tom to join she and Emmeline. Tom feels he cannot go, but rather must stay with the rest of the slaves and "bear any crosstill the end." He urges Cassy to go, nevertheless, and prays for her: "The Lord help ye!"
Cassy has convinced Legree that the garret is haunted, and when the slaves are outdoors looking for them she and Emmeline slip into the very place where the superstitious Legree dares not tread. Any noise the runaways make will now be attributed to the ghost. Cassy has been hiding food in the garret, and on their way through the house she snatches a roll of bills "that will pay our way to the free states." When Legree returns, he falls exhausted from his search into bed and vows revenge.
Analysis of Chapter 39
Tom's inability to betray the cruel Legree may raise some questions about the reality of Stowe's protagonist. How good can one person actually be? Or should the reader consider Tom to merely be a Christ-like symbol crucified on the cross of slavery? Tom indeed is a symbolic character, but his character has many layers that teach a different lesson. Tom refuses to escape from his brutal master because of his inability to be disloyal or false to any man. Thus, he is a lesson against the hypocrisy of Christians who turn their backs upon the plight of the slaves. So too, Tom is a martyr for his brothers and sisters who cannot escape. On the authorial level, only if he dies in the novel will Stowe's abolitionist message be driven home. Thus the character will not abandon his people and the author will not allow Tom's ending to be pleasant for the sake of saving the real individuals for whom she writes her book.
The reader must also consider, as well, the dramatic intentions with which Stowe constructs her characters. It is possible that Tom is not only a pious man, but also is desperate to leave the world that has caused him so much pain. As he tells Legree: "you may whip me, starve me, burn me, it'll only send me sooner where I want to go." What better way for Stowe to drive home her abolitionist message, than to have the most pious of men driven to despair of life and wish to end it?
Summary of Chapter 40
The next day, Legree questions Tom about the runaway slaves. Tom admits that he does know something, but adds that he is ready to die before he betrays Cassy and Emmeline. Even when Legree threatens to "count every drop of blood there is in you," Tom remains faithful. He tells Legree that he is ready to die and his "troubles will soon be over," but that if Legree does not repent, his troubles will never end.
There is a moment of silence in which Legree seems to be contemplating his next move, and Tom hears heavenly music. Then Legree beats Tom all night, and has Sambo and Quimbo continue his dirty deed. Tom's piety touches all the slaves, including the two overseers. Sambo and Quimbo beg forgiveness while the others wash his wounds and prepare a place for him to rest. The slaves want to know more about Jesus, who inspires such strength and faith in Tom. Tom asks God to accept the slaves' souls, and according to the narrator "that prayer was answered."
Analysis of Chapter 40
In this chapter, the metaphor of Tom as Christ is quite prevalent. Indeed, the action runs the course of the questioning of Christ by Pontius Pilot before his crucifixion. For example, Tom will not speak to Legree, but seems ready to die. Also, when Quimbo attacks Tom, he directly quotes Jesus' words in the Bible: "into your hands I commend my spirit." Moreover, Tom calls his imminent death "the hour of release." Not only does he know that paradise awaits him, but it seems to be implied that he realizes that his death will "release," or free, some of his fellow slaves. Thus, Stowe is foreshadowing the symbolic importance of Tom's death.
Uncle Tom's Cabin Essays and Related Content
- Uncle Tom's Cabin: Essays
- Uncle Tom's Cabin: E-Text
- Uncle Tom's Cabin: Questions
- Uncle Tom's Cabin: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Harriet Stowe: Biography
- Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary
- About Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-5
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 6-10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-25
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-30
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 31-35
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 36-40
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 41-45
- Related Links on Uncle Tom's Cabin
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources