Uncle Tom's Cabin | Study Guide

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Uncle Tom's Cabin | Chapters 33–36 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 33

Uncle Tom quickly establishes himself as an excellent worker, but Legree does not like him, having "the native antipathy of bad to good." He determines to abuse all of the goodness out of him.

One day a new woman worker appears in the fields. She is a faded beauty, neatly dressed and proudly defiant. She notices that Tom is helping the mulatto (three-eighths to five-eighths African American blood) woman who has been given to Sambo and is obviously in a great deal of distress, by filling her basket with cotton he picks. The new woman, in turn, puts her cotton into his basket and warns him not to continue to assist others. Her action is observed, and the driver threatens her, but she scoffs at him and tells him, "I've power enough, yet, to have you torn by the dogs, burnt alive, cut to inches!" The man backs off, calling her "Misse Cassy."

At the end of the day Sambo and Quimbo advise Legree that Tom has helped the mulatto woman with her picking. He decides he will punish Tom in a particularly sadistic way by forcing him to flog the mulatto woman before taking his own beating. However, Tom steadfastly refuses to do what he is told and the furious Legree tells his henchmen to give him a beating "he won't get over."

Chapter 34

An extremely injured Tom is thrown into an abandoned shed, where Cassy finds him. She gives him water and does her best to bind his wounds and ease his suffering. She then begs him to give up on his ideals and do his best to survive "in the devil's hands" by doing whatever he is told to do. She tells him of the horrors she has seen and endured on the Legree plantation. But Tom replies that he cannot give up and become as evil as they are, and he asks Cassy to find his Bible in his coat pocket and read a marked passage that includes the words Jesus said at his death, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Cassy's hard outer shell breaks at this, and she cries and begins to seek religious counseling from Uncle Tom.

Cassy then tells Tom her amazing life story. Raised in luxury by a master who always intended to set her free, when he died she was sold to a man for $2,000. They were lovers, and he treated her marvelously, although he would not marry her. They had two children, Henry and Elise, but eventually the man left her for another woman. At that point she and the children were sold to the man's cruel cousin, who quickly sold the children. This act drove her to desperation, and she attacked him with a knife and was then taken away to be sold again. This time the kindly Captain Stuart bought her, and she had a son with him. However, she killed the boy after he was born rather than have him live the life of a slave. When Captain Stuart died of cholera and she caught it, she lived and was passed around until Legree acquired her for himself.

After telling the story Cassy asks Uncle Tom how she can possibly believe in a God who allows such terrible things to happen. Then she makes him as comfortable as possible before leaving.

Chapter 35

When Cassy enters Legree's house after finishing her day of labor—the cost of her defending Emmeline from him—he has been drinking and so is susceptible to one of the ways she manages to control him, which is by making him think she is possessed by a demon. She scares him with the words "I've got the devil in me" before warning him that he will never be able to break Uncle Tom's spirit. Then Sambo arrives with "a witch thing" he found around Uncle Tom's neck, and Legree is even more spooked when Eva's curl falls out along with the silver dollar Tom has worn since young George Shelby hung it around his neck. Cassy and Sambo are both nonplussed by the extremity of Legree's reaction to the lock of hair, not knowing that he has been haunted since his mother's death by the lock of hair that fell from the letter announcing her death and saying that she "blest and forgave him" for the horrible way he treated her the last time he saw her.

Determined to help himself feel better with the company of Emmeline, Legree goes to the stairs to demand that she come down. However, he hears her singing a hymn and feels even more haunted by the sound. And so he calls Sambo and Quimbo in for a wild, drunken reverie that lasts all through the night.

Chapter 36

After tending to Tom, Cassy arrives home during the wild party at the house and goes directly to Emmeline's room to comfort her. The advice she gives about surviving at Legree's is to drink alcohol, which Emmeline's Christian upbringing forbids.

Downstairs the drunken Legree falls asleep and has a demon-filled nightmare. When he awakens in the morning, Cassy again advises him to leave Tom alone, pointing out that a wounded Tom cannot help Legree rake in the profits he wants from the crops. Nevertheless, Legree goes to Tom and tries to get an apology out of him, but Tom will not beg for forgiveness for doing what was right and good. He tells Legree he will die before turning his back on his Christian principles. Frustrated, Legree begins to abuse Tom again but Cassy stops him. For the moment Legree agrees that he needs Tom in the fields and will take his revenge later.

Analysis

Stowe intends for readers to be shocked by the cruelty and violence described in these chapters. Each time she arouses compassion for the enslaved and contempt for the slaveholders, she is shining a positive light on the abolitionist cause. Readers surely see now that no enslaved person is safe from separation from family, horrible beatings, and exploitation at the hands of those who own them. Even the most obedient slaves, the Uncle Toms, are subject to abuse.

As clearly as Eva is an angelic, Christlike figure and Tom is a Christlike martyr, Legree is a devil. The battle between good and evil is in full force, with slavery at the center of the struggle.

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