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Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Chapters XXXIX–XLV

Chapters XXXIV–XXXVIII

Important Quotations Explained

Summary: Chapter XXXIX

Cassy devises a plan to make Legree think that ghosts haunt the garret of the house. Then she and Emmeline conspicuously attempt an escape, running from the house and into the nearby swamp. The overseers order a hunt, and while the household searches for the women, they slip back into the house and into the garret, where Cassy has been hoarding food and supplies. Cassy and Emmeline can remain safely in the garret, for Legree and the others will attribute any noises they make to the “ghosts” and will never dare to venture upstairs to investigate.

Summary: Chapter XL

“Oh, Mas’r! . . . Do the worst you can, my troubles’ll be over soon; but, if ye don’t repent, yours won’t never end!”

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Unable to act on his fury over Cassy and Emmeline’s escape, Legree directs his wrath toward Tom. He suspects that Tom knows something about the women’s plan and sends for him for questioning.

He tells Tom that he will kill him if Tom does not tell him what he knows about the women’s escape, but Tom says that he would rather die than speak. Legree pauses for a moment, as if good and evil were battling inside his heart, but evil wins. Legree beats Tom all night, and then he orders Sambo and Quimbo, the overseers, to continue the beating. Tom prays and remains pious to the end, touching Sambo and Quimbo’s hearts. They believe him when he tells them of Jesus. Tom prays that their hearts can be saved.

Summary: Chapter XLI

“Witness, eternal God! . . . [F]rom this hour, I will do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!”

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Two days later, George Shelby, Mr. Shelby’s son, arrives at Legree’s plantation. He has spent much time searching for his beloved former slave after the death of his father. George finds Tom near death, but Tom is delighted to see “Mas’r George” after their long separation, and he dies a contented man. George takes Tom’s body and tells Legree that he will have him tried for murder. Legree points out that no whites witnessed the flogging, and thus the case could not go to court. George strikes him and knocks him to the ground. The other slaves plead with him to buy them, but he cannot. As he leaves, he resolves to do all he can to abolish slavery.

Summary: Chapter XLII

Cassy, disguised as a Creole Spanish lady, escapes from the plantation with Emmeline. They board the same boat as George Shelby, who notices Cassy. Fearing that he sees through her disguise, she tells him everything. George promises to protect her to the best of his abilities. The passenger in the next cabin, a French woman named Madame de Thoux, asks George questions about his home and realizes that George Harris, Eliza’s husband, is her brother. Madame de Thoux was born into slavery like her brother, but she was later sold to a kind man who took her to the West Indies, set her free, and married her. Her husband died only recently. Cassy, too, has listened to George Shelby’s story, and when she hears his description of Eliza, she realizes that Eliza may be her daughter.

Summary: Chapter XLIII

Cassy, Emmeline, and Madame de Thoux travel to Montreal, where George and Eliza Harris are living. George works in a machinist’s shop, and Eliza has given birth to a second child, a daughter. The five reunite with tears and joy. Madame de Thoux’s husband has recently died and left her a great fortune, which she offers to the family. From Canada, they sail to France, where they live for a few years before returning to the United States. In a letter to one of his friends, George advocates the immigration of blacks to Liberia, a West African nation founded by private organizations and the U. S. government in order to resettle freed slaves. George and his family immigrate to Liberia and are not heard from again.

Summary: Chapter XLIV

“. . . Think of your freedom, every time you see UNCLE TOM’S CABIN; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps. . . .”

(See Important Quotations Explained)

When George Shelby returns home he tells Chloe about Tom. He then gives free papers to all of the slaves. They ask him not to send them away, but he tells them that he will pay them wages, and that when he dies they will be free. He relates to them the story of Uncle Tom’s death and asks them to think of their freedom each time they see Tom’s cabin.

Summary: Chapter XLV

Chapter XLV serves more as an epilogue than a chapter proper. Here Stowe offers an author’s note, or set of “concluding remarks,” in which she declares that most of the events of the story actually occurred, not among the characters mentioned, but in the lives of various people at various times. She makes a direct and impassioned appeal to Northerners and Southerners alike to end slavery in the name of Christianity, and of God.

Analysis: Chapters XXXIX–XLV

In this final section, Uncle Tom’s martyrdom shines forth, and in his death he evokes Christ just as Eva did in hers, for he would rather die than betray his Christian principles—or Cassy and Emmeline. Further, Tom dies in the act of forgiving the overseers who beat him to death, just as Christ died forgiving those who crucified him. Moreover, his death indirectly enables the freeing of the Shelby slaves, as George Shelby’s decision to free them stems from his emotional response to Tom’s sacrifice. The former slaveholder declares that it was on Tom’s grave that he resolved never to own another slave, and that when his former slaves look at Uncle Tom’s cabin, they should remember that they owe their liberty to the selfless soul of Uncle Tom. Thus the meaning of the novel’s title becomes clear. The modest cabin symbolizes both the suffering of Uncle Tom and the influence of that Christ-like suffering on the conscience of George Shelby. In this way, it connects directly to two of the main themes of the novel, the evils of slavery and the effectiveness of Christianity in abolishing it.

While the reunions between George Harris and Madame de Thoux and between Cassy and Eliza may seem nothing more than an example of logic-stretching nineteenth-century sentimentalism, they do provide some literary value. While the trope of the family reunion does constitute a trite convention in much of literature, here it symbolically resolves Stowe’s theme of families torn apart by slavery. The book repeatedly condemns slavery for separating parents and children, especially mothers and daughters. Now, after and partly because of Tom’s death, the family is reunited.

The family’s final trip to Africa touches on an issue that sparked much debate during Stowe’s time. This debate centered on whether blacks should belong to a separate nation of their own, a notion that Abraham Lincoln briefly supported. Although Stowe portrays the family’s move to Africa as a positive development, she vehemently emphasizes in Chapter XLV that freed slaves should not be shipped off to Africa without consideration of their individual needs and wishes. Rather, if they choose, they should be able to live in the United States and partake of an American society.

In her final chapter, Stowe articulates as an expository polemic what she has implied throughout the book in her literary narrative. While she has periodically erupted into direct addresses of her reader, now she shifts to a sustained mode of pointed persuasion. Her last paragraphs deliver a charged sermon demanding the freedom of all slaves. She notes that, although Tom’s death offers salvation to many, it cannot end black oppression definitively. At the conclusion of the story, many slaves continue to live in misery under Legree. Such misery will persist, Stowe argues, until slavery is eliminated as an institution.

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Just a comment on the analysis

by mar_vin_kaiser, June 15, 2014

In the analysis of Chapters XXIV–XXVIII of Uncle Tom's Cabin, would it be ok if the reference to Uncle Tom's death was removed? It was really a spoiler for me, reading each analysis after finishing the set of chapters for that analysis, and I think other readers won't like these kinds of spoilers as well. Thanks and

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