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 fire and tossing the coin out the window. Here the reader learns about Legree’s past, which further explains his behavior. He had been raised in New England by a devout mother. His father, however, was a coarse man, and Simon followed his rough habits. Going out to sea, Simon learns of his mother’s death in a letter that contained a lock of her hair. This lock appears identical to Eva’s and thus reminds Legree of his guilty conscience for spurning his mother and a moral life.
Legree vows to leave Tom alone after this episode, but remains scared by it. He invites Sambo and Quimbo into his house to help ward off his loneliness, and they all participate in a drunken revelry.
In Chapter 36, Cassy visits Emmeline. Emmeline declares that she would rather hide in the swamps surrounding the plantation than live any longer with Legree. Cassy, however, dissuades her, knowing that Legree would send out dogs after her. Cassy even recounts other past incidents in which Legree tortured his slaves once he had caught them. Cassy then advises Emmeline to get accustomed to life on the plantation, since it will not get any better.
Meanwhile, Legree tries to sleep off his drunkenness. He dreams of hearing faint voices and sees a veiled figure approaching him, which turns out to be his mother. Laughing, Cassy appears behind Legree, and she pushes him. Legree has a sensation of falling and then wakes in a horror-stricken panic.
The next morning, Cassy again confronts Legree regarding his ill treatment of Tom. She warns Legree that Tom will not break under any trying circumstance. Cassy repeats her reason for leaving Tom alone, stating that he is a good worker. Legree grudgingly concurs, but he still must have the last word, visiting Tom at the shed. Legree asks if Tom is ready to beg forgiveness. Tom reiterates his commitment to be a good laborer, but will not participate in any cruelty toward anyone. Legree once again becomes enraged and beats Tom. Cassy appears and persuades Legree to stop.
Chapter 35 portrays the relationship between Cassy and Legree as one fraught with mutual anger and bitterness. Both are aware that Cassy holds a strong and unexplainable influence over Legree, and the slave owner treats her differently from the rest of the slaves. Cassy is intelligent as she is fierce. She challenges Legree’s strategy regarding Tom based on a financial logic, which is in the only terms Legree can think.
When Sambo shows Legree the lock of hair, another side of Legree’s weakness and superstitions displays itself. Although he fears Cassy, he also is frightened by that part of his past that focuses on his mother. Eva’s lock of hair, which resembles his mother’s, sends Legree into fits of terror and anguish. Because of her saintly life and death, the image of Legree’s mother represents to him an eternal judgment for the worst. He had spurned all that was good in his life.
The description of Legree’s sitting room characterizes his own state of mind. The glare from the fireplace shows the “confused and unpromising aspect of the room.” The air has a “peculiar sickening, unwholesome smell, compounded of mingled damp, dirt and decay.” Cassy’s appearance in the room foreshadows Legree’s mood of alarm and fear, by which...
(The entire section is 1,093 words.)