Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin Summary and Analysis of Chapters 31-35

Summary of Chapter 31

Tom and the other slaves arrive on the Legree plantation. It is full of weeds and ramshackle buildings. There are only two black men who are the head workhands, and Legree has trained them to be savage. The slave quarters are even more dismal than the rest of the plantation- crude shacks with only a heap of straw upon the waste-covered floor.

Tom feels very lonely and desperate, but when the slaves return from the fields, he takes out his Bible and reads to them. None of the slaves have ever seen the Bible, and Tom shares his favorite passages and prays for them all.

Analysis of Chapter 31

The brutal life on the Legree plantation is an example of how cruelty breeds only more cruelty. Legree, in order to salvage the respect he does not receive from his peers, has brutalized his slaves. They, in turn, do not respect him but brutalize each other. This ironic cycle of cruelty is a metaphor for the system of slavery, which causes men who are supposed to be brothers to turn upon one another for social survival.

Into this cruel, hell like atmosphere Tom is striving to spread his religious message. Indeed, in his prophesizing the recurrent symbol of Christ is present. Tom does not share his faith because he is self-righteous, but because he wants to give the slaves hope and teach them that there is another way to survive besides turning upon each other. This is important because it is the first time that we have seen Tom break a rule, that of not religion or Bibles on the Legree plantation. Just like George Harris defied the Christian rule of meekness to gain his societal liberty, Tom feels it is worth the risk to maintain his religious freedom.

Summary of Chapter 32

Legree soon notices what a good worker Tom is, yet he feels a "secret dislike for him." He feels that Tom could be an overseer is he were tough, but notices the goodness and compassion in Tom and resents it. In the cotton fields one day, Tom witnesses a woman being kicked in the head. Indeed, even the slaves are cruel to each other on Legree's plantation. He attempts to help the woman, Cassy, by filling her sack with his cotton. Afraid, she protests. When Legree learns of the incident, he orders Tom to flog the woman. Tom refuses by saying there is "no way possible." Even when Legree strikes him on the face and orders him, Tom will not flog Cassy. Instead, Legree has Tom whipped until he falls unconscious.

Analysis of Chapter 32

Stowe's portrait of Legree is one of the most probing character analyses that she makes in the novel. Indeed, she reaches into his psyche and decries how a master neither morally nor physically sound can brutalize slaves. The fact that Legree is an alcoholic means that he does not even realize how cruel he is. The only thing he lives for is feeling his power; thus, he particularly dislikes Tom, who submits to any punishment without displaying fear or resentment. Legree craves Tom's groveling subservience to feel self-worth, that he is the master.

It is interesting to note that the only slave who can influence Legree is a woman, Cassy. On one hand, Stowe uses this fact to emphasize the strong powers women can hold over men, who in those days were stereotyped as decision-makers. It is not a man, but a woman who dares to help Tom; Stowe's message is clear- it is the duty of her female readers to reach out to all Uncle Tom's. Cassy also adds a supernatural element to this religious novel. She tricks Legree into fearing her by telling him she is a witch with "the devil in me." Legree is susceptible to this ploy because of his lack of religious faith; according to Stowe, those who lack religion are the most likely to believe lies. Thus, she appeals to her readers to believe, just as they believe in Christianity, that slavery is indeed a moral wrong that should be stopped.

Summary of Chapter 33

Cassy slips into the shed to tend to Tom's wounds. She tells Tom how horrible life is with Legree. It is especially hard for her, for she is his mistress. When Tom invokes God for help, Cassy says that God can't help them. She says that she has suffered so much that she believes God does not care about the fate of the blacks. Legree's cruelty is proof that "everything is pushing us into hell." She bemoans the fact that there is no law on the plantation to protect the slaves.

Uncle Tom, however, refuses to stop believing in God. He asks Cassy to bring him the Bible and she reads to him about the passion of Christ. When she reads "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" she cries aloud. Tom prays and tells her that "the Lord han't forgot us."

Analysis of Chapter 33

Again, we see Tom perform a religious conversion. Cassy's attitude is shifted from reliance upon her wits and longing for secular laws to a realization that religious faith is perhaps the only alternative she has. The fact that the law cannot stop Legree from killing his slaves is a call to readers to put the laws of God over those of the state. What starts with moral reform will end in a total transformation of society.

The fact that Uncle Tom chooses to read about the death of Christ is important foreshadowing. He assures Cassy that they will be freed by faith, but it seems that the liberty he looks forward to is that in death. He shows himself to be resigned and ready for martyrdom. Cassy, on the other hand, continues to flash defiance through her symbolically bright eyes and slender, sharp stature.

Summary of Chapter 34

Cassy tells Tom her life story. Her first master was kinder than Legree, and he had agreed to free her. He was not able to do so before he died, however, and instead she was sold to a handsome man. She bore this man two children, Henry and Elise. She calls the days with her beautiful children her happiest.

Cassy's children were sold to pay for her master's gambling debts, and she went mad. Her next master was Mr. Stuart, whom she also bore a child. When Stuart died, Legree bought Cassy. Cassy hates Legree, and she vows to send him to hell "if they burn me alive for it!" She then bursts into violent tears. When she regains her composure, she leaves water for Tom before fleeing the shed.

Analysis of Chapter 34

In many ways, Uncle Tom's Cabin can be seen as a series of parables that explain why slavery should be outlawed. Just as Stowe repeats her main themes of religion, motherhood, and the separation of the family, she uses many parallel subplots in the novel to drive her message home. For example, Cassy's children were sold because of a master's debts, as was Eliza's son Harry and Uncle Tom. This coincidence is Stowe's ironic use of foreshadowing, for as we will see Cassy and Eliza have more than threatened motherhood in common. While Eliza is an example of a mother who triumphed over this adversity, Cassy could not save her children or herself from ruin with a series of men. Thus, like the slave mother who through herself over the boat, Stowe gives the reader an example of the grimmer realities of slavery. Although Eliza's escape is inspirational and adds excitement to the plot, escaping to freedom with ones children was not the normal fate of the slave mother.

Summary of Chapter 35

This chapter is a flashback to Cassy's and Legree's interaction before she goes to treat Tom's wounds. The setting is Legree's living room, which is in shambles and reeks of decay. Legree is making himself a drink from a cracked liquor bottle. Legree calls Cassy a "she-devil," and it is obvious that he fears her. She tells Legree "I've got the devil in me," and the superstitious Legree seems to believe her."

Legree begins to sweat and grow fearful; he calls for Sambo and Quimbo, his two henchmen. They all begin to drink and the room soon become full of rowdiness. Legree is tormented by memories of how horribly he treated his mother. Cassy has now left the shed and she peers at the men through the window. She wonders if it would "be a sin to rid the world of such a wretch."

Analysis of Chapter 35

The theme of motherhood is once again evoked in this chapter. Legree's mother was apparently a good woman, and Legree's cruelty to her is not only a sign of his brutality, but the fact that he cannot forgive himself for this reveals the power and sanctity of the mother-child bond. Legree is not a monster, but a man, albeit an evil individual. Thus, by emphasizing that Legree was once a child, and not always a callous slave driver, Stowe calls the reader to ponder what makes a person become who they are. Beyond the question of nature versus nurture, she wants us to consider society's influence on individuals. Not only is Legree guilty for his murderous deeds, but for every member of society who does not act to stop such horrors that occur under slavery.