Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-30

Summary of Chapter 26

Eva is now upon her deathbed, and she asks for all the servants to gather around her bed. She tells the slaves of her belief in Jesus, and asks them to convert to Christianity so that she may see them in heaven. Miss Ophelia, at Eva's request, cuts some of the curls from Eva's head to give to each slave as a remembrance. Topsy then appears suddenly at Eva's bedside; she promises Eva that she is trying, "but, Lord, it's so hard to be good!"

Uncle Tom carries Eva into the orchard so that she can be comforted among the flowers. He sings hymns, and sleeps on the veranda next to her room at night. Tom holds Mr. St. Clare's hand as Eva tells him she is going to heaven. He does not feel the Christian faith so fervently as his daughter, and is deeply distraught over her passing.

When Eva breathes her last, she tells Tom and her father that she has seen a land of "love- joy- peace." At the funeral, Marie mourns melodramatically, but St. Clare is lost in pain. Tom assures Mr. St. Clare that heaven does indeed exist, but he cannot believe. Tom prays for Mr. St. Clare who lacks the faith to do so himself.

Analysis of Chapter 26

Eva's death scene is a montage of black and white, light and dark symbolism. She is characterized as a golden-haired angel clad in white opon her deathbed, and this is a stark contrast to the dark characters around her. Topsy is the poor black imp, and thus functions as the antithesis of the placid goodness and privelaged circumstances of Eva. The black and white contrast between Tom and Eva, on the other hand, represents the differences between the sexes and age. Bonded by their goodness and love, while divided only by these physical characteristics, Uncle Tom and Little Eva symbolize Christ at two stages of his life. The child Little Eva, bathed in white light of holiness and swaddled in her bedclothes by Uncle Tom, is a metaphor for the baby Jesus. Indeed, she is surrounded by the adoration of the plantation folk, as was Christ visited upon his birth. Thus, Stowe hints that Eva's death is a kind of birth in the novel, as it will inspire the goodness of others and leaves a lasting didactic example for her readers.

Little Eva's father, although his skin is white, figures in this scene as a figure of darkness. Confused about his faith and despairing for his daughter, St. Clare lacks the light of sobriety and peace. The sober expressions that Tom gives to his master when he sees him in his drunken, doubting state symbolize the ruin into which his life may fall when the light of his daughter is extinguished. Indeed, St. Clare did not have to make his own moral decisions and determine his beliefs when Little Eva lived. Like Mr. Shelby's reliance upon his wife to carry the moral weight, St. Clare is helpless when he must think and more importantly, believe, for himself.

Summary of Chapter 27

St. Clare considers the deceased Little Eva's wishes about setting his slaves free. He reads the Bible, and then gives Topsy to Miss Ophelia to raise. He tells her that he will make arrangements to free all his other slaves as well.

St. Clare then speaks to Tom about his sorrow. Without his daughter, St. Clare finds "the whole world is as empty as an eggshell." Tom tries to comfort St. Clare by describing Eva's new home in heaven. St. Clare asks Tom to teach him about Jesus, and he realizes that his slave truly loves him.

Tom then prays over St. Clare, and admits that he loves his master so much that he would give up his life to see him become a Christian. This is a source of great comfort to St. Clare, and he begins to feel his daughter's presence through Tom's prayers.

Analysis of Chapter 27

It is important to note that the relationship between St. Clare and Little Eva is the only key father-daughter relationship in Uncle Tom's Cabin. This is a novel that celebrates the emotional strength and influence of mothers. A mother's devoted love for her child, the supernatural courage and strength that love gives her, and the pain of separation are all key themes. However, the reader comes to question the universality of a mother's influence on the character of her child because Marie St. Clare is a calculating and cold woman. (We will also see in subsequent chapters that the cruel plantation owner Legree had a devoted mother whom he mistreated.) St. Clare did not fill the exemplary role of mother, but rather looked to his daughter for moral instruction. Thus, this reafirms the symbolism surrounding Eva as an angelic, otherworldly being.

St. Clare's loss of self-hood with the death of his daughter is also the opportunity for Stowe to reiterate two of her key themes: the moral influence of women and their special duty in influencing religious affairs. In many ways, Eva was a moral mother and practical mother to St. Clare. She convinced him to buy Tom in the first place, explained the tenets of faith to him, and inspired him to free his slaves. Thus, through the sanctifying language with which Stowe descibes little Eva's death, she is reminding her female readers that they, as mothers, have a duty to fulfill the wishes of this child symbolic of all they should believe.

Summary of Chapter 28

After a few weeks pass, St. Clare is still engrossed in his daughter's Bible. St. Clare abruptly tells Tom one day that he is a free man. He tells Tom joyously to "have your trunk packed and get ready to set out for Kentuck." Tom refuses to leave his master and renounce his slavery; he feels he has a duty to convert St. Clare so that he may be happy in the next life.

Confused, St. Clare talks to Miss Ophelia about her opinions on freeing the slaves. Miss Ophelia assures her cousin that Northerners will educate and care for freed slaves. She emphasizes that people in the North are good hearted, but they need to be "taught what their duty is."

Cheered by her words, St. Clare goes to a café downtown. A fight between two drunken men has erupted there, and St. Clare tries to intervene. He is wounded with a knife and carried home where he calls for Tom. He tells his faithful servant to pray. The plantation gathers together to mourn, but St. Clare himself is happy to die. He says he is "coming home, at last." Before he dies, he cries out for his mother.

Analysis of Chapter 28

Stowe continues the theme of conversion that she began with Miss Ophelia in the scene between Tom and St. Clare. The theme of Uncle Tom as a Jesus figure is prevalent in the language Tom uses when he attempts to convert St. Clare. The fact that his master's faith is more important than his freedom is key. Indeed, Christ died to free others with the gift of faith. Stowe's message here is evident: religion and true freedom go hand in hand. Perhaps those Christians who do not feel the need for all men have their liberty are not truly free, in other words religious, themselves. By freeing the slaves, argues Stowe, Christians will free themselves from a great sin.

Summary of Chapter 29

St. Clare died before he actually freed his slaves, and his widow Marie decides it would be wrong to do so, for she does not believe that the slaves deserve their liberty. She instead sells about twelve slaves, including Tom. Miss Ophelia pleads for Marie to reconsider, but her beseeching falls upon deaf ears and a cold heart.

At the slave auction at the market, Tom is treated cruelly. His mouth is forced open for his teeth to be inspected, and his clothes torn so buyers could see his muscular body. Tom is purchased by a northerner named Simon Legree, a harsh man who moved South seeking his fortune in the slave trade and cotton farming.

Analysis of Chapter 29

An important argument that Stowe reiterates throughout the novel is that a master's death does not equal freedom for a slave. It is ironic that the papers for Tom's freedom where not written and that St. Clare's words mean nothing. Thus, Stowe emphasizes that slaves really truly were nothing more than property. She continues to display the grimmer realities of slavery throughout the rest of the novel. The themes of religion and love are important means for Stowe to deliver her abolitionist argument, but she becomes more realistic and shows that faith does not break earthly chains.

Marie St. Clare is the first example the novel offers of a woman who can be cruel. Her characterization as "unfeeling, tyrannical" adds more realism to the novel, which up to this point revered women as moral angels. Indeed, Marie lacks any of regards for the bonds of womanhood and motherhood with which Stowe has strived to appeal to her readers. For example, she sends her young quadroon girl to the whipping house even though they are run by "the lowest of men" who expose and sexual assault their victims.

Summary of Chapter 30

On the riverboat, Legree gives Tom rags and coarse shoes to wear. He confiscates Tom's hymnal, yelling that he will not tolerate "bawling, praying, singing niggers." He tells Tom that "I'm your church- you've got to be as I say." Tom pretends to concede, but hides his Bible from Legree. Tom is wise, and he knows "it is best to say nothing" to an irrational master such as Legree.

Tom's one comfort during Legree's tirade is the voice of Little Eva in his head; she tells Tom to "fear not." Legree's most stern warning is that he has no overseers, but rather beats his slaves with his own hands to maintain order. He tells them that they must obey or pay an extreme penalty, for he has no "soft spot" and "I don't show no mercy."

Analysis of Chapter 30

Stowe's physical description of Legree is very important, as it gives the reader clues to his cruel nature. His "gigantic strength" sets an ominous tone, for next to him even large Uncle Tom is threatened. He is also "bullet-headed," a characterization full of symbolism. Firstly, he is stubborn and unrelenting. Secondly, the word "bullet" conotes images of murder and death, which foreshadows the fate of Uncle Tom.

The chaining of Tom and the other slaves is aptly used to show one of the inherent wrongs of slavery. Stowe argues that the slaves should not be treated like mere pieces of furniture because "a man can feel." The scene in which Legree bellows the rules of his plantation is also important, as it shows he is a manical dictator who thrives upon brutality. His "great heavy fist" crashing down upon Tom's hands is a metaphor for his nature. The fact that he sees his slaves as merely objects to be broken is evident in Stowe's choice of the word "crack" in Legree's theat: "I never see the nigger, yet, I couldn't bring down with one crack."