Uncle Tom's Cabin | Study Guide

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Uncle Tom's Cabin | Chapters 30–32 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 30

At the slave warehouse it becomes clear that all of New Orleans views St. Clare's treatment of his slaves as too easy. Even the other slaves make fun of the practice, referring to Adolph as "one o' yer white niggers."

Emmeline, a beautiful 15-year-old quadroon (one-quarter African American blood), is with her mother in the women's part of the warehouse. They sit apart from others and talk about their hopes that they might be sold together, but in her heart the mother despairs over her daughter's beauty, knowing that it will likely result in her being purchased by a man who wants to own her in every way.

The next morning the auction is held. A coarse, cruel master named Simon Legree purchases both Uncle Tom and Emmeline, along with two other men. A kind gentleman purchases Susan; mother and daughter are heartbroken to be separated.

Chapter 31

This chapter opens with Tom in shackles aboard a boat traveling up the Red River to the place Legree owns. Legree has purchased eight slaves in all. He takes Tom's trunk and auctions off his clothes to the ship hands, and then turns his cruel attention to Emmeline and the rest of his newly acquired slaves. In a short speech he announces his harshness as a master and warns them he will physically abuse them at the least provocation. Smugly he tells another man on the boat that his way of overseeing his slaves is great and brags about getting his money out of them by working them to death.

Emmeline is chained to a mulatto (between three-eighths and five-eighths African American blood) woman, and the two become acquainted. The woman has been sold without her husband knowing and is leaving four children behind.

Chapter 32

The action moves from water to land, as the slaves are now transported by wagon to Legree's plantation. The road is desolate and the land is swampy. Legree demands that the slaves sing to entertain him but forbids the singing of any hymns, as he hates religion. He tells Emmeline, who is in the seat beside him, that she will "live like a lady" with him if she is a "good girl."

As they reach the plantation the feeling of desolation is not lessened. Although it was probably once opulent, the property is now ugly and in ill repair. The enslaved people are dressed in rags and kept in line by two extremely cruel African Americans, Sambo and Quimbo, who have attack dogs to assist them. Legree presents the mulatto women to Sambo as now his, and he takes Emmeline to the house with him, where he seems to already keep another woman.

The slave quarters are barren and dirty. When the field hands arrive from work and are given hardly anything to eat, Tom sees that they live in the squalor without the light of faith or hope. He talks about God with two of the women, but they show little interest in anything except getting some rest before another horrible day begins. Tom feels disconsolate, but a dream of Eva reading her Bible to him brings back to his heart the familiar flame of faith and hope.

Analysis

There could not be a more opposite master to Augustine St. Clare than the evil Simon Legree. The comfort and beauty of the St. Clare world stands in equally sharp contrast to the ugliness of Uncle Tom's new world. Stowe masterfully establishes the mood of the place with her clear description of its setting, using words like dreary, doleful, shattered, and rotting. The despair of the enslaved people nearly drags even Uncle Tom down, but it is Christianity that once again saves the day for him. At the end of Chapter 32, after describing Tom's dream, Stowe implies that it is more than a dream; it is an angelic visitation from Eva.

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