Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-25

Summary of Chapter 21

The scene now shifts back to the Shelby plantation in Kentucky, where Aunt Chloe has just received the letter Tom wrote her with Little Eva's help. Mrs. Shelby tells her husband about the letter, in which Tom says that although his new family is kind, he still longs to return to his "real home."

Mr. Shelby, in the meantime, has still been plagued by debt. Mrs. Shelby offers to help raise money, especially so that they can buy Tom. Mr. Shelby becomes angry, and his wife lets the unlikely hope drop for the present. Chloe then calls for Mrs. Shelby and asks if she could be hired out as a pastry cook in Louisville in order to earn money for Tom. Mrs. Shelby gives Chloe her blessing.

Analysis of Chapter 21

This chapter reveals the parallels between mistress and slave, as both Mrs. Shelby and Aunt Chloe desire to work to help their husbands. The novel's feminist slant is revealed, as Mr. Shelby's irrational anger is a criticism of the attitude that a woman must be a constant caretaker without crossing the line separating the domestic and social spheres.

Mrs. Shelby is a moral force in her household, however, Stowe implies that her Christian intentions will do nothing to change society until women's concerns are considered valid outside of the home. In Mrs. Shelby's shrugging of her shoulders in relegation to the fact that Tom will probably never be bought back, Stowe points to the complicity of women, Northern Christian women in particular, in propagating the system of slavery. Mrs. Shelby's concern for Tom and Chloe and denunciation of slavery within the home is futile; Stowe means this to be a lesson, indeed a call to swift abolitionist action, to her readers.

Summary of Chapter 22

The scene now returns to the St. Clare plantation two years later. Tom has just received a letter from young George Shelby telling him of Aunt Chloe's success in the pastry store: "her skill in the pastry line was gaining wonderful sums of money." Tom is so happy with this news that he tells Little Eva that they should "frame the letter."

Eva and Uncle Tom have grown even closer over the years. Tom is constantly bringing the little girl special presents, and they spend much time discussing the Bible and heaven. When Eva asks Tom to reassure her that heaven will be as the Bible promises, and confesses that she knows she will soon be going there, Tom realizes that Eva is sick. Indeed, she has grown thin and feverish, and has a persistent cough.

Although Mr. St. Clare will not voice his fears, he is also very worried about his daughter. Marie St. Clare, on the other hand, still criticizes Eva's constant association with the blacks, and tries to stop her from teaching them to read the Bible.

Analysis of Chapter 22

As well as an abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin contains subtle feminist themes. One such is that of women working to aid and support their men. Aunt Chloe, as a slave and a woman, represents a double victory. She has traveled from the plantation and has gained success in business. The fact that she acts out of wifely concern does not diminish the fact that she is a strong, independent character. It is likely that Stowe meant to use Aunt Chloe as an example to her female readers to urge them to use their own judgment in matters and to take action for themselves. In this way, Uncle Tom's Cabin both presents a moral question to female readers- that of the justness of slavery, particularly in the way it breaks up the family. She then gives an example of a woman taking action in the hopes that they will follow suit in joining the abolitionist cause.

Summary of Chapter 23

Mr. St. Clare's brother Alfred and nephew come to the plantation for a visit. Eva and Henrique are playmates, until the day the boy strikes his slave Dodo because his horse is dusty. Eva is mournful and indignant at her cousin's cruelty. Henrique offers Dodo candy to make Eva happy, but Eva sincerely thanks Dodo instead.

This incident sparks an argument between the St. Clare brothers on the rightness of slavery and how slaves should be treated. Mr. St. Clare predicts that the slaves will not tolerate their condition much longer and rebel. For his part, Alfred will work his slaves for as long as he can and try to prevent their liberating themselves. In the last scene of the chapter, Eva and Henrique join their fathers and Eva beseeches Henrique to be kind to Dodo. Her cousin, who adores little Eva, agrees.

Analysis of Chapter 23

In this chapter, we notice Stowe's technique of creating diametrically opposed characters in order to reveal a didactic example. In contrast to the kind, dreamy, intellectual Augustine St. Clare, his twin brother Alfred is "as determined a despot as ever walked." Thus, although Mr. St. Clare may be kind to his slaves, this does not erase or lessen the inherent moral wrong he commits by owning human property. Stowe reminds the reader, through the cruel pragmatism of Alfred, that slave owner's come in as many varieties as people; thus, the reader's imagination is left to imagine the horrible possibilities.

Henrique, Alfred's son, is an example of how cruelty and justification of slave ownership is inherited from one generation to the next. The fact that a young boy can beat a slave so cruelly is meant to inspire fear in the reader as to what adult masters with equal of worse tempers can do. So too, Stowe wants us to question the fact that from birth, white children are taught that other human beings are their property and slave children know they have no agency over their own destinies nor physical persons.

Henrique's fascination with "the spiritual graces of his cousin Evangeline" emphasizes Eva's role as a spiritual force in the novel. Indeed, she is often likened to an angel and here we see her actually enacting a religious conversion of sorts upon her cousin. Her imploring that Henrique "love Dodo" for her sake is a religious argument. Thus, once more Stowe argues for the abolition of slavery on the grounds that it is what Christian's must do to save their souls as well as those of the degraded slaves.

Summary of Chapter 24

When Alfred and Henrique depart, Eva's health begins to decline rapidly.

Marie, as a ploy for attention, begins to despair over the daughter she had never shown interest in before. Eva, on the other hand, is not concerned for herself but for the slaves, whose plight she has come to learn through her close friendship with Uncle Tom. She tells Tom that she wishes she could be like Jesus and die to free the slaves: "dying would end all this misery."

Eva then speaks to her father about her last wishes. She tells him she has had a dream about freedom for the slaves, and worries about what would happen to them if her father were not there to protect them. To convince St. Clare that he should free the slaves, she contrasts her carefree life to that of the slaves, which are "pain and sorrow all their lives." Mr. St. Clare tells Eva that he will "do anything you wish," and promises to free all his slaves, especially Tom, when she dies. Eva tells her father that she is going to heaven, and begs her father to come to the same place when it is his time to leave this world. St. Clare then holds his beloved daughter in his arms until she falls asleep.

Analysis of Chapter 24

True to her role as the counterpart to Uncle Tom, Little Eva is the character who represents angelic faith. Her conversation with St. Clare about faith is an important scene, as Stowe uses it to define faith. Little Eva tells her father that although she has not scene him, she loves Christ "most of all." This belief in something one has no physical proof of is pure faith. Eva is the standard of purity and goodness against which Stowe holds her readers. If Eva believes something which she cannot be proven, and indeed the majority of her readers share this very faith, then how can they condone slavery after Stowe has presented the horrible evidence before their eyes?

Summary of Chapter 25

This chapter begins when Miss Ophelia declares to Mr. St. Clare and Marie that she can no longer try to educate Topsy. Her cousin asks her how she expects to convert thousands as a missionary when she has already given up on one soul. Eva then comes in and plays with Topsy, despite her poor health. Topsy tells Eva that she doesn't love anyone because she doesn't even know what love is. According to Topsy's bleak experience, "Nobody love niggers."

Topsy understands that Miss Ophelia can hardly stand to touch her, let alone love her. As her reply, Eva touches Topsy and tells her she loves her. She asks Topsy to be good for her sake. "A ray of heavenly love" descends upon Topsy with Eva's touch and words of love. Topsy begins to weep and promises she will try to "be good."

After this touching scene, Miss Ophelia realizes that she has harbored a hidden prejudice against blacks. She never knew before why she didn't want to touch Topsy, but now she admits to Mr. St. Clare that she realizes she felt racially superior.

Analysis of Chapter 25

The scenes between Miss Ophelia and Topsy provide much-needed comic relief to the novel. Topsy's explosions of antics and Ophelia's inability to contain her appalled horror are entertaining in itself, but they also serve as social commentary. We learn that Ophelia is not only horrified by Topsy's mischief, but by her color.

Stowe uses Ophelia's racial superiority as a metaphor for the hypocrisy of Christians. St. Clare's criticism of his missionary cousin's inability to educate a single black girl, "that's you Christians all over," indicts the holier-than-thou attitudes of all self-proclaimed "pious" Christians. Ophelia, who claims to want to be a missionary and airs her northern superiority, cannot even touch the person she claims to want to help; Christians who call themselves true followers of Christ cannot even follow in his footsteps and aid the masses of slaves in need around them.