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. Cassy then draws nearer to Tom, placing some of her own cotton into his bag, but warning him that the Legree plantation is too harsh for Tom to act kindly toward anyone.
When Sambo tells Legree of Tom’s actions in the fields, Legree decides that he must break Tom of his charitable habits. After pretending that Lucy did not make her weight in cotton-picking, Legree commands Tom to whip her. Tom refuses, even though Legree confesses that he wants to promote Tom. Greatly angered by this stubborn refusal, Legree beats Tom savagely and then orders his two slave drivers to batter him more.
Tom is put in a shed to recuperate, and Cassy visits to nurse him. She tells him some of the brutal past on the Legree plantation, concluding: “There’s no law here, of God or man, that can do you, or any one of us, the least good.” Cassy then remarks that slaves cannot be individually accountable for their sins because of their terrible situation. Tom, however, replies that even though they can blame their difficult circumstances, “that won’t keep us from growing wicked.” He fears that he or anyone else would become as depraved as Sambo and Quimbo. Tom declares that he would rather die than be one of Legree’s followers.
Cassy recounts her tormented past to Tom, telling him how she had received a Christian upbringing and how her father, a slave owner, had died before emancipating her. From then on, she was bought by and sold to several owners. She gave birth to several children who were sold from her, and eventually she ended up on Legree’s plantation. Despite Tom’s encouragement, Cassy cannot find the faith of her childhood religion anymore.
The physical and spiritual struggle between Tom and Legree continues, and with harsh results for Tom. These chapters depict the tense and brutal situations that slaves must face. Tom is repeatedly beaten, a practice that he is unfamiliar with because of his previous kind masters, Mr. Shelby and St. Clare. Legree intends on making Tom one of the drivers and wants to toughen the slave’s character. But Legree angrily discovers that the task will be difficult because of Tom’s strong faith and refusal to participate in Legree’s sins.
Tom’s kindness becomes evident to others on the plantation when he helps Lucy with her load of cotton. At this point, the reader is introduced to Cassy, a thirty-five-year-old woman who has a mysterious connection to Legree. She has a character that appears “to convey…an idea of a wild, painful, and romantic history.” Cassy aids Tom with his own cotton load, but with a warning that kindness provokes only trouble on Legree’s place. “The Lord never visits these parts,” she irreligiously states. Tom is whipped by Sambo, but the driver stops short of hitting Cassy. This incident emphasizes Cassy’s power to resist punishment. Something about her character brings forth Sambo’s respect and fear.
When Legree hears about Tom’s benevolent deeds, he is more determined to break...
(The entire section is 969 words.)