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.
On the boat, three passengers are introduced: Augustine St. Clare, his five-year-old daughter Eva, and Miss Ophelia, St. Clare’s cousin from Vermont. Eva is “the perfection of childish beauty” and “something almost divine” with “long golden-brown hair.” Tom is immediately taken with her, and they become fast friends, leading Eva to promise Tom that her father will purchase him. When she accidentally falls overboard, Tom rescues her.
St. Clare is a New Orleans gentleman who wears “a proud and somewhat sarcastic expression.” He barters with Haley over the purchase of Tom, teasing and mocking the slave trader by suggesting that Tom’s valued piousness and intelligence would only cause him trouble. Eventually, St. Clare buys Tom at Little Eva’s prompting. Much of St. Clare’s personal history is given. His father had been a rich Louisiana planter. St. Clare grew up with a sensitive character, having been influenced by his religious mother. He had been in love with a woman, but from misunderstandings, married instead Marie, his present wife. Marie, who is at New Orleans, possesses “a most intense and unconscious selfishness.” St. Clare is closely attached to his daughter Eva because she reminds him of his departed mother.
Miss Ophelia is from the New England branch of the St. Clare family. A 45-year-old spinster who is efficient, dutiful, and religious, she travels to New Orleans with her cousin and niece to help them run the household because Marie feels too ill to manage.
Landing at New Orleans, the party then proceeds to the St. Clare mansion and is greeted by Adolph, St. Clare’s haughty servant. Tom is impressed by the calm and beauty of the place, but receives a cold response from Adolph. When Eva runs to hug and kiss Mammy, one of the servants, Miss Ophelia expresses her disgust and prejudice at the affectionate display. St. Clare then greets his wife, Marie, who is unappreciative of the gifts her husband brings. Upon meeting Tom, who will be her coachman, Marie declares that he will probably get drunk and be of little use to her.
These chapters introduce Tom’s new acquaintances and owners, the St. Clares. While on the riverboat, Eva and Tom take a fancy toward one another. Both are characterized as spiritual. The reader senses that Eva is sympathetic to the slaves’ condition, as she becomes sorrowful at the sight of Haley’s gang in chains. Because of her saintly nature, Eva’s humanity is never in doubt. When St. Clare asks his daughter why she wants to buy Tom, she responds, “I want to make him happy.” This statement characterizes the Christian ethic of doing good for others, as the Quakers had accomplished for the Harrises in the book’s earlier chapters.
St. Clare and Miss Ophelia provide contrasting temperaments. St. Clare is proud, sarcastic, good-humored, humane, and leisurely. Miss Ophelia is regimented, organized, and determined, which inspires her to help run the St. Clare household. Although the two possess opposite personalities, they are fond of each other. Miss...
(The entire section is 931 words.)