Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapters 41-42: Summary and Analysis
by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Chapters 41-42: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Madame de Thoux (Emily): woman whom Master George Shelby meets while heading home, also George Harris’s long-lost sister

The scene changes to the Shelby plantation, several days after Tom’s beating. Mr. Shelby had taken ill and leaves the management of his estate to his wife. After Mr. Shelby dies, Mrs. Shelby settles the accounts and also receives Miss Ophelia’s letter about Uncle Tom. The letter, however, had been delayed for several months, and Tom had already been sold south by the time the Shelbys get the news. Master George, the Shelby’s son, travels to New Orleans on some business and decides to also look for Tom. He discovers that Simon Legree had purchased Tom and journeys to the Legree plantation only to find Tom near death. Master George promises to bring Tom back to Kentucky. But knowing it is too late to be reunited with his family, Tom declares a spiritual victory before dying.

Shocked and enraged at Tom’s treatment, Master George knocks down Legree and then buries Tom outside the plantation’s boundaries. Seeing his devotedness to Tom, other servants of Legree beg Master George to purchase them. Master George cannot, but swears on Tom’s grave that he will do his best to end slavery.

After Master George buries Uncle Tom and leaves, the house servants on the Legree plantation begin to hear mysterious whisperings and groanings within the house. Legree is aware of their fears and becomes more frightened himself, locking his bedroom door, drinking heavily, and experiencing more bad dreams. In one nightmare, Legree sees his mother’s shroud, or burial sheet, floating before him. But then Cassy appears in the dream, holding that very same shroud. When Legree awakes, a white veiled figure stands in front of him, saying: “Come! come! come!” The figure walks off, and although Legree tests the door, it is still locked. Afterwards, reports gather that Legree is ill and dying from too much drink and hallucinations. Some servants subsequently observe two white veiled figures, who are actually Cassy and Emmeline, heading toward the main road away from the plantation.

Later Cassy and Emmeline, disguised as a Spanish lady and her servant, board a boat sailing north. On the same boat is Master George, who is returning to Kentucky. Cassy and Master George fall into acquaintance, and Cassy eventually confesses to him about her intentions to escape from Legree. Master George, having met the brutal Legree, is sympathetic to the fugitives’ plight.

Master George also meets Madame de Thoux, a French woman who is traveling in the same direction. Madame de Thoux discovers that Master George is heading toward Kentucky, and asks him if he knows George Harris. Master George recounts what he can about him and includes the story of Eliza marrying him and running away to Canada. Madame de Thoux shockingly reveals herself as Emily, George Harris’s long-lost sister. She had been sold south, but then married her master and moved to the West Indies. Her husband then died, leaving her a fortune.

Cassy overhears some of their conversation, asking Master George about Eliza and from whom she was bought. Master George provides her with some information, and Cassy determines that Eliza is her long-lost daughter.

Chapter 41 examines the effects of Tom’s death on several characters, especially Master George Shelby. Most of the servants on Legree’s plantation are greatly saddened; they try to nurse and comfort Tom in his last moments because he had shown them a better way to live and had given them hope. Sambo and Quimbo are the two who change the most from this episode. Before Tom dies, they realize the savage emptiness of their lives and desire the spiritual nourishment that Tom eventually offers them. The other servants who help Master George with the burial plead with him to purchase them and take them away from Legree.

Legree himself remains somewhat unaffected by Tom’s death. When Master George first...

(The entire section is 1,053 words.)