Uncle Tom's Cabin | Study Guide

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Uncle Tom's Cabin | Chapters 41–44 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41

Uncle Tom holds on for two days after the fatal beating, and this is when young George Shelby arrives at Legree's plantation to try to buy him back. Tom rallies enough to have a final conversation with George, but then he dies.

George takes Tom's body and buries it on a nearby shady knoll. Just before leaving Legree, he knocks him to the ground with a single blow after telling him how loathsome he is and how despicable his actions are. A sorrowful George prays at Tom's gravesite, promising he will do whatever he can "to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!"

Chapter 42

Cassy makes the haunting ruse as realistic as possible. She wears a white sheet and glides through the house at night. She succeeds in driving Legree insane with fear, and then she and Emmeline make their escape. Dressed as a Spanish woman of means, Cassy buys a trunk on the outskirts of town for the possessions the two women have carried. She then sweeps into a tavern with Emmeline posing as her servant, coolly confident.

George Shelby is staying at the tavern, and when a boat arrives that evening he and the two women get aboard. Cassy and Emmeline keep to themselves. When they transfer to the next boat traveling north, George also boards it, and Cassy decides it is safe to tell him her story. He is thrilled that she and Emmeline have managed to escape the evil Simon Legree.

Also on the boat are Madame de Thoux and her 12-year-old daughter, with whom George also strikes up a relationship. It turns out Madame de Thoux is George Harris's sister. In an even more remarkable twist, they learn that Eliza is Cassy's long-lost daughter.

Chapter 43

Cassy and Madame de Thoux go to Canada to find George and Eliza, who have been living in Montreal for five years and have added a daughter, little Eliza, to their family. The reunion of all the parties is incredibly joyful. With Emmeline they all move to France so George can receive a university degree, paid for by his sister whose wealthy owner took her to the West Indies to marry her and set her free—and left her with plenty of means when he died. Emmeline falls in love with the first mate of the ship, and they are married.

When it comes time to leave France, George Harris decides he would rather live in Africa than in the place where he has been so oppressed. So they all go to Liberia, where he intends to work to build a new nation based on Christian principles.

Miss Ophelia, readers learn, has returned to New England and taken Topsy with her. Topsy grows up to be a fine Christian woman who is a teacher in Africa. One other person bound for Africa is Cassy's son, who will finally rejoin his mother there.

Chapter 44

At the Shelby farm Aunt Chloe is eagerly awaiting her reunion with Uncle Tom. Her heart breaks when she learns he is dead. A month later young George frees every Shelby slave, proclaiming that he is doing it in memory of Uncle Tom and asking everyone to take care of Chloe and the children. Many of the former slaves decide to stay on the farm, working and being paid as free at last.

Analysis

All of the coincidences Stowe uses to tie up the loose strings of characters' stories is hard for modern readers to accept. Even the characters in the novel are shocked to find one another, despite having hoped for such sweet reunions. For example, Cassy faints upon learning that Eliza is her daughter. However, Stowe also provides more humanizing details as she shows the joy of families who are reunited, a joy that readers can share—just as they can relate to the grief in losing the heroic Uncle Tom.

A key message continues to resound in the words of these chapters: the evils of slavery must be addressed, rigorously and consistently, because the institution is so deeply entrenched in American society. The Simon Legrees of the world will continue to devalue African Americans. They must be knocked down over and over, as represented by young George's action in Chapter 41. And, like young George, individuals must take it upon themselves to do the right thing and end slavery.

The other message Stowe highlights in these chapters is that fine people such as George Harris and his family, so damaged by enslavement, will not choose to be citizens of such a country nor desire to call it home. Instead, they will make their homes elsewhere, such as the West African nation of Liberia that was founded to help freed slaves resettle. Stowe finds this an undesirable solution but wants readers to know the truth—her goal throughout the book. Much more desirable would be to make freed slaves feel welcome and supported in the United States, where everyone would benefit.

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