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 slavery, St. Clare is quick to criticize the uses to which religion is put. St. Clare announces that Eva is the “only true democrat,” caring for everyone equally regardless of race or social condition.
The nature of slavery is addressed here in various ways. Despite Marie’s views that servants are already lazy and spoiled, St. Clare believes that slaves behave in certain ways because of the surrounding conditions in which they exist. He thinks it unfair for owners to “make the fault and punish it too.” By this, he hints that slavery is inefficient as a labor system because it is forced upon unwilling participants. Therefore, one cannot brand slaves as lazy and punish them for it. St. Clare also distrusts the religious support of slavery, viewing it as unreasonable. He suggests that if cotton prices declined and the need for slavery decreased as well, sermons would justify the abolishment of slavery.
When Miss Ophelia adds her opinions to the topic, the issues become more complicated. She believes that slaves have souls as well as white people, and that masters have a responsibility to educate their servants. However, St. Clare cuts through this self-righteous stance. He accuses Northerners like Miss Ophelia of personally disdaining black people while trying to help them, saying: “You loathe them as you would a snake or a toad, yet you are indignant of their wrongs.” Miss Ophelia admits the partial truth in this statement.
In response, Ophelia attempts to force St. Clare to clarify his views on slavery, asking him...
(The entire section is 566 words.)