Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary and Analysis
Summary of Chapter 41
At the Shelby plantation, Miss Ophelia's letter detailing how Tom was sold after St. Clare's death arrives. Mrs. Shelby is on her deathbed, but young George is now a man and decides to go to New Orleans to find Tom. Accidentally, George meets a man who knows about the sale to Legree, so George hastens on his way optimistic that he can buy Tom back.
George arrives at the Legree plantation two days later. Legree become angry when he hears Tom's name. He tells George that Tom is a "dog" who "set up my niggers to run away." He admits that he flogged Tom until he was near death. George runs to the shed and finds Tom where he has lain for two days. George begins to cry and wakes Tom, and Tom also sheds tears. It is too late though, for Tom knows that he will soon die. Because George is with him, he feels content and loved at the moment of his death. Tom takes his last breath, and George turns to see Legree sneering in the doorway. George offers to buy Tom's corpse so that he can bury him, but Legree refuses. George decides to take matters into his own hands anyway, and loads the body into the wagon. He tells Legree that he will "go to the very first magistrate and expose you" and have him tried for murder. Legree seems not at all worried, and retorts that George is making "a fuss for a dead nigger." George strikes him down, but then realizes that without any white witnesses, Legree cannot be convicted.
George buries Tom on a shady knoll, accompanied by some of Legree's slaves. They beg George to buy them, but George realizes that he can no longer be master over any man. George makes his life's promise over the grave of his faithful servant and friend, Uncle Tom: " oh, witness, that, from this hour, I will do what one man can do to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!"
Analysis of Chapter 41
The most important aspect of the death of Uncle Tom is the power he finally gains. For the first time in the novel, Tom speaks with "vehemence and power." He reprimands George not to pity him but rather celebrates his death as a victory. It is ironic, however, that even meeting ones creator is described in terms of the master-slave relationship. Indeed, it is a fitting analogy for Tom to say "the Lord's bought me." Nevertheless, the reader is left impacted by the realization that slavery transforms not merely a man's actions, but his way of seeing himself and his world. Even in heaven, Tom is still a slave.
Another important theme is Tom's celebration of Christian love at the time of his death. He tells George to give his love to Aunt Chloe and the Shelby's: "I loves em all! I loves every creature, everywhar!" Indeed, this death scene is a parallel of Little Eva giving her love to the slaves she would leave in this world. Another similarity between this death scene and Little Eva's is the fact that the deaths of such pious, loving individuals inspired others to free the slaves. This is an important authorial technique, as it makes the reader associate pure goodness abolition.
The fact that there is no monument marking Tom's grave serves as Stowes commentary to the readers. When she says, "the Lord knows where he lies," Stowe reminds the reader not to pity Tom, but rather to respect him as a Christian martyr. His body has been abused and his beliefs and piety scoffed, but he has survived and is cognizant of his due reward in heaven.
Summary of Chapter 42
This chapter opens with descriptions of the "ghosts" that have been haunting the Legree plantation. These phantoms are really Cassy and Emmeline, who are still hiding in the attic. When George hears about the hidden slave women, he is able to help them escape past their drunken master. Dressed as Spanish Creoles, Cassy and Emmeline board the boat for the north with George. There, Cassy relates her background to George, and a woman, Madame de Thoux, overhears and reveals that she is George Harris's sister. It is then discovered that George Harris's wife, Eliza, is Cassy's daughter.
Analysis of Chapter 42
The series of fantastic coincidences are a metaphor for the slave experience; that is, that all slaves are united by the experience of being torn away from a loved one. The discovery of family ties among this group of slaves is an effective way to bring Stowe's theme of families to a close. It also gives Stowe ample room for social commentary. The family unit is valued in religion; however, slavery destroyed this unit. Thus, according to Stowe, religious people must oppose slavery for the simple fact that is divides something so natural as God's plan for the family. This is an especially good tactic for swaying the opinions of Stowe's female readers, to whom she specifically directed the book.
Summary of Chapter 43
Cassy, Emmeline, and Madame de Thoux travel to Montreal, where George and Eliza are living. George is working in a machinist's shop, and they have a new daughter, little Eliza. Upon such a joyous reunion, the five family members kneel together and pray. Madame de Thoux is a wealthy widow and gives money to the family. They sail to France from Canada, where they live until political turmoil their prompts them to seek asylum in the United States. George Harris then writes a letter about his dreams for a colony of freed slaves in Liberia. The family travels there, and Cassy's son is also found and sent to Africa.
Analysis of Chapter 43
This chapter is laden with Stowe's social commentary. First, the reader is witness to a reunion of a slave family. This is important as it counteracts the prevalent idea that slaves did not have the same family ties as whites. In fact, according to Stowe's depiction of the joy these people found in each other, slaves perhaps had even stronger bonds, as they were able to retain their love and hope for reunification despite terrible odds.
The second important political theme is the idea, popular during Stowe's time, of a separate nation for the freed slaves in Africa. George Harris's letter reveals that an independent nation in Africa would give these individuals the agency and respect they lacked in the United States, even as free men in the north. However, Stowe still emphasizes the idea, as she did previously through the character of Miss Ophelia, that free slaves should be welcome in the United States and that northerners should work to educate them so that they will be self-sufficient wherever they may choose to live.
Summary of Chapter 44
When George Shelby returns home he tells Chloe about Tom's death. Chloe has prepared him a welcome home dinner, and afterwards George frees the slaves in Uncle Tom's name. When he gives the slaves their free papers, they beg him not to be sent away. George tells then they can work for him for wages and enjoy their freedom upon his death. He tells the slaves of Uncle Tom's martyrdom: "Rejoice in your freedom and be as honest and as faithful a Christian as Tom was." George reminds the newly free men to think of their freedom when they gaze upon Uncle Tom's cabin.
Analysis of Chapter 44
Throughout the novel, Stowe's narrative style is undeniably preachy, as she is trying to convince her readers that they are committing a moral sin by even allowing slavery to exist. No where is Stowe more adamant than in this chapter, as she reveals her hatred of slavery through the voice of young George Shelby. George's description of Uncle Tom's death as the cause of their freedom makes him a martyr. Indeed, Tom is a Christ-figure thus a true Christian could not be a slave owner. She uses his brutal death and unyielding piety to make the abolitionist argument that any one who allowed the master-slave relationship upon which society was based to continue was just as guilty as Simon Legree for the death of Tom.
Moreover, as Tom's death results in freedom for the Shelby's slaves, he represents the victimization of all the slaves in the United States. According to Stowe's text, slavery could be purged from the country only if her individual citizens heeded their consciences and followed the example of Christ. Indeed, when George Shelby tells his slaves to celebrate their freedom and to strive to act like Tom, Stowe is symbolically telling her readers the same: they should be grateful for the freedom they were lucky to inherit with their skin color, and try to think and act as Christ. In that way, according to Stowe, being a true Christian inherently meant being an abolitionist.
Summary of Chapter 45
This chapter consists of Stowe's concluding remarks on the topic of slavery. She says that the characters she has presented and their experiences represent only "a faint shadow, a dim picture, of the anguish and despair that are at this very moment, riving thousands of hearts, shattering thousands of families, and driving a helpless and sensitive race to frenzy and despair."
Stowe then makes a direct plea to her fellow women, especially to mothers. She tells mothers to think of the slave mothers who so often lose their children to the slave trade. She reprimands the North for condoning slavery; as it is not their custom they should fight slavery instead of abetting it. She says that northerners have "defended, encouraged, and participated; and are more guilty for it, before God, than the South, in that they have not the apology of education or custom."
Stowe also criticizes the notion that all the slaves should be sent to Liberia, which is where George, Eliza, and Harry migrated and founded a colony. She says that the slaves are not prepared to go to Africa because they are "an ignorant, inexperienced, half-barbarized race, just escaped from the chains of slavery." Instead, the Christian northerners should help the slaves attain "a moral and intellectual maturity." Only when they are educated; Stowe places the responsibility for this education in the hands of the Christian church. She goes so far to say that if the church does not address slavery, or its "heavy account to answer," then "the wrath of Almighty God" will punish America.
Analysis of Chapter 45
In the concluding chapter we hear Stowe's own unadulterated voice on the issue of slavery. The most convincing argument she makes is that her narrative is not fiction, but rather she and her abolitionist comrades have witnessed "the separate incidents that compose the narrative." Uncle Tom, thus, is a symbol for the sufferings of all the slaves under the brutality and injustice inherent to the system.
In Stowe's appeal, we hear echoes of the two main themes of Uncle Tom's Cabin: motherhood and Christian duty. She asks mothers to not allow more families to be broken apart, as were Tom and Eliza's. She also tells Christians that they have a duty to educate slaves. Indeed, Stowe is preaching to her readers, and her words evoke images of punishment upon the judgement day. Stowe wants her readers to feel that time is short before they are punished for the sin of allowing slavery to exist; Stowe demands nothing short of immediate action, that is, complete and full abolition of the brutal institution of slavery.
Uncle Tom's Cabin Essays and Related Content
- Uncle Tom's Cabin: Essays
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- 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
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