Summary of the Novel
Several stories intertwine throughout Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but they all center on two main plots. One plot focuses on the Harris family, the other on Uncle Tom.
Mr. Shelby is a considerate master, but he must sell Tom to Haley, the slave trader, to pay off some debts. Eliza, Mrs. Shelby’s servant, rightly fears that her son Harry will also be sold to Haley. She escapes to Ohio, taking Harry with her. Along the way, Eliza is assisted by Senator and Mrs. Bird, as well as a Quaker community. George Harris, Eliza’s husband, runs away too after learning that his master refuses to lend him any longer to Mr. Wilson, a generous factory owner. The Harris family eventually reaches the safety of Canada, after being pursued unsuccessfully by slave catchers.
Meanwhile, St. Clare purchases Tom from Haley after Little Eva befriends the pious slave. Miss Ophelia, St. Clare’s cousin from New England, visits and manages the St. Clare household in New Orleans. She also takes in Topsy as her ward. Eva dies after a prolonged illness, and a mournful St. Clare decides to free Tom. St. Clare is murdered, however, before he can draw up the papers. Tom is sold to Simon Legree, who runs a plantation in Louisiana. Legree beats Tom to death when the slave refuses to confess the whereabouts of Cassy and Emmeline, two of Legree’s slaves who have run away. Cassy joins the Harrises in Canada, and they relocate to Africa.
Estimated Reading Time
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is 451 pages long, and should take approximately 15-18 hours to read. The book consists of 45 chapters, and reading breaks can be taken after every two or three chapters.
The Life and Work of Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811, in Litchfield, Connecticut. She was raised in a family of ministers, two of them quite famous in their time: her father, Lyman Beecher, and her brother, Henry Ward Beecher. In fact, six of her seven brothers were ministers and she even married a clergyman, Calvin Stowe. Two of her sisters, Catharine and Isabella, became actively involved in reform movements, including education and women’s rights.
Stowe herself became known as the celebrated author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Written in 1852, nine years prior to the Civil War, the book stirred up much controversy among both Southerners and Northerners for its attack on slavery. Even then, the book quickly became a best-seller, with one million copies sold within the first year of its publication. Afterwards, upon meeting Stowe at the White House in 1862, Abraham Lincoln supposedly quipped: “So this is the little lady who wrote the book that made this great war.”
Prior to this renown, Stowe aided her sister Catharine at the Hartford Female Seminary from 1824 to 1832. The family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1832 when Lyman Beecher became the director of the Lane Theological Seminary. Here, Stowe came into contact with such abolitionists, or anti-slavery people, as Theodore Weld and Salmon Chase. She also met her husband Calvin, who was a professor of religion at the school. They married in 1836.
Stowe developed an early interest in writing and began to publish her work in 1833. Ten years later, a collection of her short stories entitled The Mayflower appeared. The task of writing, however, was never easy for her. She constantly had to find a balance between her life as an author and as a wife and a mother to seven children. As she put it: “I mean to have money enough to have my house kept in the best manner and yet to have time for reflection and that preparation for the education of my children which every mother needs.”
The Stowes moved and traveled a great deal. In 1850, they returned from the Midwest to New England, where Calvin taught at Bowdoin College in Maine. The family relocated to Andover, Massachusetts in 1852, and then to Hartford, Connecticut in 1864. They also maintained a summer residence in Florida from 1868 to 1884. At three intervals during the 1850s, Stowe journeyed to Europe.
Much of these experiences contributed to Stowe’s prolific writing. She published four novels about the New England region: The Minister’s Wooing (1859), The Pearl of Orr’s Island (1862), Oldtown Folks (1869), and Poganuc People (1878). Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands (1854) was gleaned from her European travels, and Palmetto-Leaves (1873) from her insights on Florida. Stowe also wrote for several magazines, such as the Atlantic Monthly, as well as other volumes of essays, novels, and histories. None of these projects, however, received the widespread notice that made Uncle Tom’s Cabin one of the most popular novels in the nineteenth century. Harriet Beecher Stowe died on July 1, 1896.
Harriet Beecher Stowe composed Uncle Tom’s Cabin during the tumultuous pre-Civil War period. She developed an intense abolitionist attitude, combining it with her Christian faith, as a result of living in Ohio. Because of its proximity to Kentucky, a slave state, Cincinnati served as a way station for slaves escaping north to Canada. Stowe based several characters and incidents in Uncle Tom’s Cabin on her own family’s and friends’ experiences helping runaway slaves.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was Stowe’s response to the politics of her time. As part of the Compromise of 1850, Northern and Southern congressmen passed the Fugitive Slave Law. This legislation ordered that Southern slave catchers could retain the aid of any law enforcers in the North to search for fugitive slaves. By this logic, the North and the South became direct partners in the perpetuation of slavery.
Stowe wanted to indict the system of slavery itself, and not solely individuals. She argued that Christianity provided the moral force to overcome the evils of her day, both for slaves and masters, as well as for indifferent Northerners. The character, Uncle Tom, personifies her ideal of Christian humility and goodness.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been translated into numerous foreign languages, and has sold in the millions. Plays, songs, poetry, films, and other novels have been based on the book.
Modern critics have displayed various reactions to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Until recently, most scholars have ignored Stowe’s work, or have decried its outdated, sentimental tone. Such African-American writers as James Baldwin and Richard Wright have denounced Stowe’s racist portrayal of slaves. Others have felt uncomfortable with the author’s views supporting women’s limited roles in society. More critics, however, are beginning to pay close attention to the novel in light of its historical context. Whatever the response, Uncle Tom’s Cabin will continue to elicit diverse interpretations for some time to come.
Master List of Characters
Mr. and Mrs. Shelby—kind owners of Uncle Tom in Kentucky.
Young Master George—the Shelbys’ son.
Haley—slave trader who buys Uncle Tom from the Shelbys, and then sells him farther South.
Eliza—servant to Mrs. Shelby, mother of Harry, and is married to George Harris.
Harry—son of Eliza and George Harris.
George Harris—husband of Eliza, father of Harry, works in Mr. Wilson’s factory.
Uncle Tom—Christian slave of Shelbys’, married to Aunt Chloe.
Aunt Chloe—Uncle Tom’s wife, cook on Shelby plantation.
Mose and Pete—children of Tom and Chloe.
Sam and Andy—slaves on the Shelby plantation.
Mr. Symmes—helps Eliza and Harry onshore after they run across ice floes on the Ohio River to escape from Haley.
Tom Loker—acquaintance of Haley’s, slave catcher who looks for Eliza and Harry.
Marks—Tom Loker’s conniving companion.
Senator John Bird—Congressman who supports the Fugitive Slave Law, but ultimately helps Eliza and Harry escape.
Mrs. Mary Bird—Senator Bird’s Christian wife, who argues against her husband’s politics and convinces him to aid fugitives.
John Van Trompe—a neighbor of the Birds.
Mr. Wilson—George Harris’s considerate employer at a factory.
a drover—a cattle driver who talks with Mr. Wilson about slavery.
Mr. Harris—George Harris’s harsh master.
Lucy—woman whom Haley buys and separates from her child, drowns herself in despair.
Aunt Hagar and Albert—mother and son whom Haley separates by buying the son.
Simeon and Rachel Halliday—Quaker couple who assist Eliza and Harry, reunites them with George Harris when he runs from a harsh master.
Ruth Stedman—a Quaker friend and neighbor of the Hallidays.
Augustine St. Clare—little Eva’s father and Marie St. Clare’s husband, Uncle Tom’s second benevolent owner after buying him from Haley, lives in New Orleans.
Eva—saintly daughter of St. Clares’, befriends Uncle Tom.
Mammy—St. Clares’ family servant.
Marie St. Clare—Augustine St. Clare’s pouting and selfish wife, Little Eva’s mother.
Miss Ophelia—Augustine’s efficient Vermont cousin who comes to visit.
Phineas Fletcher—Quaker who helps the Harris family escape, fends off Tom Loker.
Jim and his mother—two slaves who run away with the Harris family.
Old Dinah—cook in St. Clares’ home.
Prue—slave woman from another house who visits St. Clares’ and is often drunk, whipped to death by a harsh master.
Alfred St. Clare—Augustine’s twin brother who manages a plantation in Louisiana.
Henrique—Alfred’s son, Little Eva’s cousin.
Dodo—Henrique’s boy servant.
Topsy—eight- or nine-year-old slave girl whom Augustine buys for Miss Ophelia to educate.
Rosa, Jane, and Adolph—Augustine’s haughty servants.
Mr. Skeggs—keeper of a slave warehouse in which St. Clares’ servants are held before being sold on the auction block.
Sambo—a slave in Mr. Skeggs’s warehouse.
Emmeline—religious fifteen-year-old girl sold with Uncle Tom to Simon Legree.
Simon Legree—severe and tough-fisted master of a run-down plantation on the Red River in Louisiana, buys Emmeline and Uncle Tom.
Sambo and Quimbo—Simon Legree’s brutal slave drivers, slaves themselves.
Lucy—slave whom Simon Legree buys for Sambo; Uncle Tom helps her in the cotton fields.
Cassy—Simon Legree’s fiery slave mistress who escapes with Emmeline, discovered to be Eliza Harris’s long-lost mother.
Aunt Dorcas—Quaker woman who nurses Tom Loker back to health.
Mrs. Smyth—Quaker woman from Canada who helps the Harris family escape through disguises.
Madame de Thoux (Emily)—woman whom Master George meets after burying Uncle Tom and traveling north, discovered to be George Harris’s long-lost sister.
Little Eliza—Eliza and George Harris’s daughter, Cassy’s granddaughter, who is born free in Canada.
Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was Stowe’s first novel. Initially printed by installments in the National Era, an antislavery weekly published in Washington, D.C., from June 5, 1851, to April 1, 1852, it was a best-selling book of previously unheard of proportions. It was an instant success and soon acquired fame in many parts of the world.
It is not easy, however, to make a clear judgment of the merits of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Those who exclude works that cater to the taste of the masses from the realm of high culture have difficulty describing its artistry in positive terms. Moreover, Stowe has been criticized for her depiction and characterization of black people, which led to numerous stereotypical...
(The entire section is 621 words.)
Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly is a sentimental novel that exaggerates the goodness of Eva, the loyalty of Uncle Tom, and the viciousness of Simon Legree. Despite the sentimentality, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abhorrence of slavery resonates throughout.
The story is about the sufferings of kindly old Uncle Tom, who originally belongs to a humane slaveholder named Shelby, and the delightfully talented little black boy named Harry. Eliza, Harry’s mother, overhearing the plan to sell her, Harry, and Uncle Tom, flees with her son. Uncle Tom remains behind as a sign of loyalty to his “mas’r.” He is sold to a vicious slave trader named Haley, who is determined to capture Eliza and her son....
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Because his Kentucky plantation is encumbered by debt, Mr. Shelby makes plans to sell one of his slaves to his chief creditor, a New Orleans slave dealer named Haley. The dealer shrewdly selects Uncle Tom as partial payment on Shelby’s debt. While Haley and Shelby are discussing the transaction, Harry, the son of another slave, Eliza, comes into the room. Haley wants to buy Harry too, but at first Shelby is unwilling to part with the child. Eliza hears enough of the conversation to be frightened. She confides her fears to George Harris, her husband, a slave on an adjoining plantation. George, who is already bitter because his master has put him to work in the fields when he is capable of doing better work, promises that someday...
(The entire section is 1408 words.)
Summary (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Or, Life Among the Lowly (1852) is a romance that protests the Fugitive Slave Act (1850). As part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act made the federal government, via federal commissioners, responsible for apprehending runaway slaves and returning them to their alleged owners in the South. The federal commissioners were allowed to deputize citizens and force them to seize and report fugitive slaves, even against their wills, or face fines and imprisonment. This act galvanized opinions in the North against slavery and fueled the movement for abolition. Stowe’s novel uses abolitionist rhetoric to criticize Christian churches, particularly the Presbyterian Church,...
(The entire section is 935 words.)
Chapter Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1: Summary and Analysis
Mr. Shelby: benevolent owner of a Kentucky plantation
Mrs. Shelby: Mr. Shelby’s religious wife
Haley: a slave trader
Eliza: Mrs. Shelby’s servant, Harry’s mother
Harry: four- or five-year-old son of Eliza
The book opens with a scene in which Mr. Shelby and Haley the slave trader are discussing business matters on Shelby’s plantation in Kentucky. Mr. Shelby, a gentleman planter described as “a fair average kind of man, good-natured and kindly,” has fallen into debt and must sell Uncle Tom, a trustworthy servant. Mr. Shelby vouches for Tom’s good working habits and Christian character. Haley, however, desires...
(The entire section is 793 words.)
Chapters 2-3: Summary and Analysis
George Harris: Eliza’s husband and Harry’s father
Mr. Harris: George’s hard plantation master
A kind manufacturer: George’s employer at a factory, as yet unnamed
The two chapters here include the personal histories of George and Eliza Harris. The reader learns that Eliza had been raised from childhood by Mrs. Shelby. Eliza then met and married George, a slave on a nearby plantation. Hired out by his master, Mr. Harris, George works at a factory, in which he invents a hemp-cleaning machine. Because of George’s diligence and handiness, he becomes a favorite among his employer and fellow laborers. During this period of their lives, George...
(The entire section is 712 words.)
Chapters 4-5: Summary and Analysis
Uncle Tom: Shelby’s devout and trusted slave
Aunt Chloe: Tom’s wife, a cook for the Shelbys
Master George: thirteen-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Shelby
Mose, Pete, and the baby: Tom’s and Chloe’s children
Chapter 4 opens with a description of Uncle Tom’s cabin, “a small log building” near the plantation house. Inside, Aunt Chloe prepares dinner, fixing a variety of dishes. She is the head cook on the Shelby plantation, and her talents are known throughout the neighborhood. Also in the cabin are the three children of Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe. Here the reader is introduced to Uncle Tom, the main character. He is described...
(The entire section is 1309 words.)
Chapter 6: Summary and Analysis
Sam and Andy: slaves on the Shelby plantation
Mr. and Mrs. Shelby are brought news the following morning of Eliza’s escape. Mrs. Shelby reacts gratefully while her husband is less than thankful. The surprising report spreads throughout the house as the servants tell one another about the event.
Haley arrives at the plantation to pick up Uncle Tom and Harry. Much to his annoyance, he too learns of Eliza’s and Harry’s escape. He tells Mr. Shelby about the unfairness of the situation. Mr. Shelby responds angrily that he will not be accused of helping the fugitives run away. He then invites Haley in for breakfast to discuss what can be done.
(The entire section is 570 words.)
Chapters 7-8: Summary and Analysis
Mr. Symmes: a man who helps Eliza and Harry escape
Tom Loker: a slave catcher and acquaintance of Haley’s
Marks: a lawyer, Tom Loker’s partner
Eliza and Harry walk past the Shelby plantation’s boundaries as the mother thinks about the life she is leaving behind. Eliza plans to head toward the Ohio River and cross it from Kentucky into Ohio, a free state. She assures a frightened Harry that she will not let anyone harm him. They eventually stop at a tavern to rest. Nearby, the river is clogged by ice, and the water is turbulent. Eliza asks the tavernkeeper if a ferryboat will come to take them across. She receives an uncertain answer since...
(The entire section is 1413 words.)
Chapter 9: Summary and Analysis
Senator Bird: a politician who supports the Fugitive Slave Law
Mrs. Bird: the Senator’s pious wife
John Van Trompe: a neighbor of the Birds
The scene changes to Senator and Mrs. Bird’s home in Ohio. The Senator, a man who possesses “a particularly humane and accessible nature,” has just returned from Washington, D.C. after a period of legislating. Mrs. Bird, a religious woman, questions her husband on the morals of passing the Fugitive Slave Law. She wonders how a supposedly Christian legislature could make laws that forbid assisting runaways. Her own Christian sense of morality leads Mrs. Bird to declare that she will break the law if she...
(The entire section is 728 words.)
Chapter 10: Summary and Analysis
The scene returns to Uncle Tom’s cabin. Tom gets ready to be taken and sold by Haley. Tom accepts his fate, saying, “I’m in the Lord’s hands.” Aunt Chloe, however, expresses her anguish at the injustice of the situation and finds little comfort in religion. Mrs. Shelby stops by the cabin to let Tom know that she will try to buy him back as soon as possible.
Haley then arrives to seize Tom. As they leave the plantation, Master George rides up to say his goodbyes to Tom. Knowing how their son is attached to Tom, the Shelbys decide not to tell Master George of the trade while he is visiting friends. Master George, however, rides back to the plantation in time and gives Tom a dollar coin. The...
(The entire section is 541 words.)
Chapter 11: Summary and Analysis
Mr. Wilson: George Harris’s former employer at the factory
A drover: a cattle driver who converses with Mr. Wilson
Jim: a slave who escapes with George Harris
Mr. Wilson, who is now identified as the manufacturer who employed George Harris from Chapter 2, appears at a hotel bar room in Kentucky. An “honest drover,” or cattle driver, converses with Mr. Wilson, showing him an advertisement notifying its readers that George Harris has escaped. The notice gives a description of George, offering a four hundred dollar reward for his capture or death. The drover recounts how he had freed his own slaves, noting that if treated humanely, they would...
(The entire section is 641 words.)
Chapter 12: Summary and Analysis
Lucy: a slave whom Haley buys
Aunt Hagar and Albert: mother and son separated when Haley buys the boy
As Haley and Uncle Tom head toward Washington, D.C., Haley notices an advertisement for a slave auction and plans on buying more laborers to sell south. Haley examines several of the slaves before the auction begins and buys a boy, Albert, away from his mother, Aunt Hagar. Aunt Hagar pleads with Haley to buy her too, so that she can be with her son. But Haley refuses because he would lose money on the deal, growling that Hagar is “an old rack o’ bones,—not worth her salt.” The trader then takes his gang of slaves onto a riverboat, heading further...
(The entire section is 548 words.)
Chapter 13: Summary and Analysis
Simeon and Rachel Halliday: a Quaker couple who aid the Harris family
Ruth Stedman: a Quaker friend of the Hallidays’
Eliza and Harry rest at the Quaker home of Simeon and Rachel Halliday, having been directed there by Van Trompe. A neighbor in the Quaker settlement, Ruth Stedman, visits the Hallidays and chats about the happenings in their community. Later, Simeon arrives with news that several other Quakers are bringing fugitives to the settlement, one of whom is Eliza’s husband, George Harris. Eliza faints when she receives this information, waking later to find George at her bedside. The next day, the Quakers help the Harrises make plans to escape to...
(The entire section is 392 words.)
Chapters 14-15: Summary and Analysis
Augustine St. Clare: a slave owner in New Orleans who buys Uncle Tom
Marie: St. Clare’s selfish wife
Eva: the St. Clares’ angelic daughter
Miss Ophelia: St. Clare’s cousin from Vermont
Adolph: St. Clare’s haughty servant
Mammy: another family servant
Chapters 14 and 15 return to the plight of Uncle Tom. As the riverboat continues down the Mississippi River, Tom’s goodwill wins the confidence of Haley. The slave trader unchains Tom, leaving him free to walk around. Occasionally, Tom even helps the boat crew with its chores. The pious slave also thinks of his family, trying to find comfort in his Bible....
(The entire section is 931 words.)
Chapter 16: Summary and Analysis
St. Clare, Marie, and Miss Ophelia discuss the nature of slavery and religion in this chapter. At first, Marie complains about how people, especially her servants, are inattentive to her concerns. She also believes that her husband fits this uncaring category and calls Eva “peculiar” for wanting to help others, including the servants.
St. Clare states that servants sometimes cannot help their behavior, given the circumstances that they face in slavery. When Miss Ophelia says that slave owners have a responsibility to their servants, St. Clare cites Northerners’ prejudice against blacks despite denouncing the Southerners’ ill treatment of slaves. When Marie enjoys a church sermon that defends...
(The entire section is 566 words.)
Chapter 17: Summary and Analysis
Phineas Fletcher: a Quaker neighbor of the Hallidays’ who helps the Harris family escape
This chapter returns to the Hallidays’ home, with George and Eliza Harris making plans on what they might do once they reach Canada. Simeon Halliday introduces them to his friend Phineas Fletcher, a “hearty, two-fisted backwoodsman” who married a Quaker woman and joined the settlement. Phineas brings news that slave catchers are nearby, and with his guidance, the escaped slaves head out. Included in their party is Jim, who earlier had run away with George, and Jim’s mother.
As the group travels along during the night, Tom Loker and his gang spot it, and a chase...
(The entire section is 638 words.)
Chapters 18-19: Summary and Analysis
Old Dinah: the St. Clares’ cook
Prue: an old slave at a neighboring house
Jane and Rosa: some other of St. Clare’s haughty servants
As time passes at the St. Clare house, Uncle Tom earns St. Clare’s trust and confidence. Since St. Clare is described as “indolent and careless of money,” he begins to rely on Tom to take charge of everyday business matters such as marketing. Adolph, St. Clare’s personal servant, is just as heedless as his master, and he grows jealous of Tom’s success within the household. When St. Clare comes home drunk late one evening, Tom tearfully implores him the next morning to look after his own soul. St. Clare...
(The entire section is 1721 words.)
Chapter 20: Summary and Analysis
Topsy: eight or nine-year-old slave girl whom St. Clare purchases
St. Clare decides to put his and Miss Ophelia’s ideas about slavery to the test. He buys Topsy, a slave girl, for Ophelia to raise and educate. Topsy’s expression is “an odd mixture of shrewdness and cunning” and “the most doleful gravity and solemnity.” At first, Ophelia protests that she has no use for Topsy, being also repulsed by the slave girl. St. Clare, however, is quick to point out the hypocrisy of Christians like Ophelia, who willingly send missionaries overseas, but refuse to help and reform blacks in their own homes. St. Clare also recounts some of Topsy’s past, in which she had...
(The entire section is 938 words.)
Chapter 21: Summary and Analysis
This chapter returns to the Shelby plantation. Aunt Chloe has received Uncle Tom’s letter that St. Clare had written for him. Mrs. Shelby in the mean time brings up the subject to her husband of buying back Tom. Mr. Shelby, however, is still financially troubled and cannot spare the money for purchasing his former servant. When Mrs. Shelby offers to help with the debts, Mr. Shelby retorts: “You don’t know anything about business.” But as the author points out, Mrs. Shelby possessed “a clear, energetic, practical mind, and a force of character every way superior to that of her husband.” She offers to give music lessons to raise money, but Mr. Shelby refuses to dishonor the family in this way by...
(The entire section is 517 words.)
Chapters 22-24: Summary and Analysis
Alfred St. Clare: Augustine St. Clare’s twin brother
Henrique: Alfred’s arrogant, twelve-year-old son
Dodo: Henrique’s thirteen-year-old servant
These chapters focus primarily on Eva and her influence on other characters. Two years pass, and Uncle Tom still looks forward to the day when he can return to his family on the Shelby plantation. When the summer arrives, the entire St. Clare household moves to a villa near Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana. Tom and Eva have become even closer friends than before, and as they sit by the lake, Eva has a vision of heaven. She prophesies her own early death, pointing to the sky and declaring: “I’m...
(The entire section is 1143 words.)
Chapters 25-27: Summary and Analysis
These chapters continue with a focus on Eva and her influence on the St. Clare household, especially on Topsy. In Chapter 25, Miss Ophelia discovers that one of her bonnets has been destroyed by Topsy. When St. Clare questions Topsy about her mischief, she answers: “Spects it’s my wicked heart.” Ophelia decides that she can no longer tolerate Topsy’s antics and wants to give up on her. St. Clare forces Ophelia to reconsider, however, when he again raises the issue of her supposed Christian endurance.
Eva draws Topsy aside to find out why the servant girl misbehaves. Topsy repeats her history of having no family and no one to love her. She also knows that Ophelia personally dislikes her,...
(The entire section is 962 words.)
Chapters 28-29: Summary and Analysis
After returning from the lake villa to the New Orleans mansion, St. Clare tries to make sense of Eva’s death. Although refraining from spiritual considerations, he reads Eva’s Bible and thinks more seriously about his role as slave holder. St. Clare then decides to free Tom.
Miss Ophelia also changes in character, becoming more lenient and understanding toward Topsy. Ophelia approaches St. Clare to have him make out papers of Topsy’s ownership to her so that she can bring Topsy north to freedom. St. Clare jokes with Ophelia at this suggestion, asking her: “What will the Abolition Society think…if you become a slave-holder!” Ophelia, however, is well-intentioned toward Topsy’s future...
(The entire section is 1225 words.)
Chapters 30-32: Summary and Analysis
Mr. Skeggs: keeper of a slave warehouse
Sambo: slave in Skeggs’s warehouse
Susan and Emmeline: mother and daughter auctioned off separately
Simon Legree: brutal master who buys Tom and Emmeline
Sambo and Quimbo: Legree’s drivers, slaves themselves
Lucy: slave whom Legree purchased for Sambo
Chapter 30 depicts the slave warehouse owned by Mr. Skeggs, at which Tom and the other St. Clare servants arrive. The slaves are kept “well fed, well cleaned, tended, and looked after” to bring the highest prices from bidders at the upcoming auction. Sambo, a large and tough slave whom Mr. Skeggs keeps to entertain...
(The entire section is 1393 words.)
Chapters 33-34: Summary and Analysis
Cassy: Simon Legree’s defiant slave mistress
As time passes, Tom still works diligently on the Legree plantation. Simon Legree thinks of making Tom into an overseer because of the slave’s intelligence and hard work. But Legree is ultimately dissatisfied with Tom’s upright character and seeks to make him more hardhearted like Sambo and Quimbo.
While Tom is working in the cotton fields, Cassy, Legree’s slave mistress, labors next to him. Lucy also picks cotton, but is slower than the rest; Tom tries to help her by putting some of his cotton into her bag. Sambo sees this act and hits them both with his whip. Tom continues his aid despite Lucy’s protest....
(The entire section is 969 words.)
Chapters 35-36: Summary and Analysis
In Chapter 35, Cassy confronts Legree about Tom’s beating. She calls Legree’s attention to his wastefulness of harming a good slave, especially at the height of the picking season. Earlier, he had threatened to put Cassy to work in the fields, which she actually did to show him the emptiness of his threats. Cassy knows that Legree keeps his distance from her. As she says to him: “You’re afraid of me, Simon...and you’ve reason to be! But be careful, for I’ve got the devil in me!”
Sambo brings to Legree some of Tom’s possessions: the dollar coin that Master George had given him, and Eva’s lock of hair. Legree throws a fit of alarm at the sight of Eva’s curls, throwing them into the...
(The entire section is 1093 words.)
Chapter 37: Summary and Analysis
Aunt Dorcas: Quaker woman who nurses Tom Loker
Mrs. Smyth: Quaker woman who helps the Harris family escape to Canada
Chapter 37 returns to the Harris family in Ohio. After turning away the slave catchers, they journey to another Quaker settlement and bring the wounded Tom Loker with them. Aunt Dorcas, a “tall, dignified, spiritual woman,” nurses Tom Loker, who for three weeks is bedridden from his wounds and a fever. Although he grunts and curses, Aunt Dorcas patiently reminds him to watch his language. To show his appreciation for the Quakers’ hospitality, Tom warns them that his slave catching companions are waiting for the Harrises at Sandusky, a...
(The entire section is 662 words.)
Chapters 38-40: Summary and Analysis
Chapter 38 centers on Uncle Tom’s plight at the Legree plantation. As days and weeks pass, Tom begins to feel his physical and spiritual health declining. He derives little comfort from his Bible, being too weary from heavy labor, and even begins to question whether God had forgotten him.
Simon Legree still torments Tom, telling him: “This yer religion is all a mess of lying trumpery, Tom.” Legree’s taunts send Tom deeper into despair. Suddenly Tom has a vision of Christ that appears before him. A voice tells Tom that overcoming earthly sufferings will be rewarded in the heavenly kingdom. From then on, Tom starts to strengthen spiritually and becomes more cheerful. Everyone on the plantation...
(The entire section is 1376 words.)
Chapters 41-42: Summary and Analysis
Madame de Thoux (Emily): woman whom Master George Shelby meets while heading home, also George Harris’s long-lost sister
The scene changes to the Shelby plantation, several days after Tom’s beating. Mr. Shelby had taken ill and leaves the management of his estate to his wife. After Mr. Shelby dies, Mrs. Shelby settles the accounts and also receives Miss Ophelia’s letter about Uncle Tom. The letter, however, had been delayed for several months, and Tom had already been sold south by the time the Shelbys get the news. Master George, the Shelby’s son, travels to New Orleans on some business and decides to also look for Tom. He discovers that Simon Legree had...
(The entire section is 1053 words.)
Chapters 43-44: Summary and Analysis
Little Eliza: Eliza and George Harris’s daughter
Because of their related circumstances, Madame de Thoux and Cassy travel together to Canada to search for their family members. They track the Harris family to Montreal where for the past five years, Eliza and George have lived in freedom. Their son Harry has grown, and the daughter, Little Eliza, is their newest addition to the family. Through the help of a missionary, Madame de Thoux and Cassy are joyfully reunited with the Harrises.
Cassy’s character softens once she sees her daughter Eliza and granddaughter Little Eliza. Eliza converts her mother, convincing Cassy of Christianity’s moral power. Madame...
(The entire section is 658 words.)
Chapter 45: Summary and Analysis
In this final chapter, Harriet Beecher Stowe provides incidents and observations that led her to the writing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The characters of Eliza Harris and Uncle Tom, she notes, were drawn from her own personal knowledge. One of Stowe’s brothers supplied the anecdotes on which she based Old Prue and Simon Legree. A slave mother’s crossing of the ice-packed Ohio River had also been taken from a real-life occurrence. Stowe points out that Uncle Tom’s experience of being legally unprotected was a common one among slaves. The sale of mulatto women as slave mistresses was also a well-known practice among Southerners.
The greatest factor that led the author to write her book was the...
(The entire section is 457 words.)