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 other slaves, immediately greets and mocks the new arrivals. Mr. Skeggs wants the slaves to appear merry and contented, forcing them to sing and dance, despite their sorrowful moods.
In the women’s warehouse, a slave mother and her daughter, Susan and Emmeline, are introduced here. They discuss the possibilities of their being sold together; Emmeline is young and hopeful while her mother frets about being separated. Both have been raised in a religious home by a kind woman. The owner’s son, however, had been careless in managing the estate and consequently fell into debt. Susan and Emmeline therefore had to be sold.
Simon Legree first appears in this chapter, at whom Tom “felt an immediate and revolting horror…, that increased as he came near.” Legree possesses a “round, bullet head,” a “large, coarse mouth,” and hands that are “immensely large, hairy, sun-burned, freckled, and very dirty.” He forcefully inspects Tom and Emmeline, eventually buying them at the auction. A humane gentleman purchases Susan, and at her pleas, tries to bid for Emmeline as well to keep them together. Legree, however, is intent on getting Emmeline and outbids everyone for her.
After purchasing his slaves, Legree puts them on a boat and heads for his plantation on the Red River in Louisiana. He barters off Tom’s clothes and trunk to the boat crew, but Tom manages to hide his Bible from Legree. Legree then tells his newly purchased servants that he shows no mercy and is used to beating his slaves, displaying for them his huge, ironlike fist. Two gentlemen, one a Southerner and the other a Northerner, overhear Legree’s speech. The Southerner apologetically comments that Legree cannot be taken as an example of how masters treat their slaves. The Northerner, however, criticizes his companion, noting that respectable Southern gentlemen play an important part in supporting the system that gives rise to such men as Legree.
Meanwhile Emmeline meets Lucy, one of the other slaves bought by Legree. Emmeline learns that Lucy had been separated from her husband and four children. Both Emmeline and Lucy have been raised religiously, but have difficulty finding comfort in their faith because they are terrified by Legree.
Upon arriving at Legree’s “desolate and uncomfortable” plantation, the group is greeted by Sambo and Quimbo, two slaves who are Legree’s drivers, or overseers. Legree has cruelly manipulated them into hating one another, and setting them against the rest of the fieldhands. Lucy is given to Sambo as a new mate, Emmeline goes unwillingly with Legree, and the remaining slaves, including Tom, are shown their rundown lodgings.
Later in the evening, Legree’s fieldhands return to their cabins. Tom helps two women who are too tired to cook their own dinner. Touched by his kindness, they chat with him, and Tom tells them about the Bible. As Tom falls asleep afterwards, he dreams of little Eva, which consoles him somewhat.
Chapter 30 presents various aspects of the slave trade, examining how several different parties are involved. The reader is first introduced to Mr. Skeggs, who tries to make the slaves as presentable as possible. He is mainly concerned with turning a profit and knows that he must force a certain amount of happiness on them through the antics of Sambo. The author here relates how...
(The entire section is 1,393 words.)