St. Clare buys a young slave named Topsy, who has never received any education, and gives her to Miss Ophelia to tutor. Miss Ophelia protests, but St. Clare tells her that Topsy’s previous owners have abused her. He notes that the child’s back bears multiple scars. He also points out that, in teaching Topsy, Ophelia would be fulfilling a role akin to that of a missionary. This statement awakens Ophelia’s conscience and she agrees to take on Topsy’s instruction. However, Topsy proves disobedient and wild, unacquainted with the conventions of Christian behavior. After she steals a pair of gloves, Ophelia presses her to confess her other sins, and she confesses falsely to stealing other items. Later, Topsy explains that she had nothing to confess but wanted to oblige the older woman. When Eva speaks a few words of kindness to the girl, Topsy looks at her in bewilderment, having never heard kindness before. Still, the young slave and Eva quickly become friends, and traipse about playing together. But Topsy remains just as unmanageable as before. Ophelia tries to teach Topsy the catechism, but the girl fails to understand even its words, and thus she recites them back mangled and confused, without any comprehension of their meaning.
Back on the farm in Kentucky, Aunt Chloe receives Tom’s letter. Though Mr. Shelby’s business remains fraught with debt, Mrs. Shelby wants to try to raise enough money to buy Tom back. Mr. Shelby begins to shout and tells her not to meddle in his affairs. Chloe calls Mrs. Shelby outside, ostensibly to look at the chickens, and asks to be hired out to make cakes and pies to help earn money for Tom. Mrs. Shelby agrees.
Two years pass while Tom serves the St. Clares. He gets a letter from Mas’r George telling about life in Kentucky and about the studies he has undertaken. Tom and Eva grow increasingly close; he gives her little gifts, and she reads the Bible aloud to him.
The whole family goes out to a villa on Lake Pontchartrain for the summer, hoping to escape the heat of the city. Tom and Eva sit together in the villa’s garden, reading the Prophecies and the Revelation, and Tom sings hymns about the new Jerusalem and angels. Eva says that she has seen angels, and points up to the sky. She declares that she will be joining them in heaven soon. Miss Ophelia calls them inside and reminds them that Eva has been sick and should not spend too long outdoors. Ophelia worries about the child’s cough, and Tom notices that she has grown thinner.
St. Clare’s brother Alfred visits with his son, Henrique. Eva and Henrique enjoy playing together, but, one day, Henrique strikes his slave, Dodo, because he has allowed Henrique’s horse to get dusty. Eva reacts with sadness, asking Henrique how he could act so wickedly. He responds with incomprehension, and, after Dodo saddles the horse, he gives the slave money so that he may go buy candy for himself. Eva thanks Dodo for his work, and Dodo appreciates Eva’s gesture far more than Henrique’s. The fathers watch what has happened and begin to argue about slavery. St. Clare says that soon the slaves will rise up; Alfred replies that he will keep them down as long as possible. Eva and Henrique return, and she asks him to love Dodo. He says that he will, because he would do anything that she asked.
This section emphasizes the importance of love—both Christian and romantic—in eradicating slavery and its mindset. The reader notes the value of Christian love through its absence, as Miss Ophelia teaches Topsy the catechism without conveying the spirit of it. Because Ophelia forces Topsy to memorize the words without any sense of the emotions behind them, it is no surprise when Topsy spews the prayer back in a mangled and confused form. Without love, the words are simply meaningless sounds. As we have seen, Stowe uses Ophelia as a kind of surrogate within the book for her Northern audience. Now she suggests to these readers that for them, as for Ophelia, it is not enough to support abolition out of a sense of duty alone. Their anti-slavery sentiments must stem from a deeper place, from a love for human beings.
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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This really helped with my reading of the book. It made it so much easier!! There wasn't any heavy vocab to go through, and it helped me understand the context easily. I will definitely come to this website first from now on!!