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Free Study Guide-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-Free Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 10

Summary

It is the morning of Tom's departure with Haley, and his cabin is enveloped in gloom. Aunt Chloe irons clothes for Tom, who sits nearby with his Testament on his knee. She cannot resign herself to the separation. Tom tries to comfort her, saying God will look after him. He tells her at least it is only he, and not she or the children, who has been sold to a less kind master.

Mrs. Shelby comes to the cabin to support the family in their distress. She takes a solemn oath to redeem Tom as soon as she gets the money. Haley takes Tom to his wagon and shackles his feet. The Shelby's other slaves watch this indignantly, knowing there is no need to shackle good old Tom. Tom asks Mrs. Shelby to say good-bye to little George, who has been a faithful friend.

After Haley has driven the wagon a few miles on the pike, he stops at a blacksmith's to have some handcuffs adjusted for Tom. The blacksmith remarks that slaves die "tol'able fast" on the plantations farther south. At that moment, George Shelby comes riding very fast to bid Tom a tearful farewell. He also promises to redeem him soon. He has brought a dollar with a hole pierced in it. He ties it round Tom's neck and tells him it is a token of his pledge to redeem him at the earliest possible time. Tom tells George to be a comfort to his mother and to become "a great, learned, good-man."


Notes

The overwhelming feeling in this chapter is that of gloom and pathos. Even nature shares in the sorrow, with Tom's lot for it is a gray and drizzly February morning. Aunt Chloe has tears coursing down her cheeks. There is a marked silence in the cabin as she irons Tom's clothes, probably for the last time. Aunt Chloe rails against God and her master. She quite rightly points out that Tom has earned all Mr. Shelby has given him twice over. She is apprehensive of the fact that Tom will be sold down South to work on the plantations where slaves die more quickly due to the brutal treatment meted out to them. Even Haley's conversation with the blacksmith brings out the hellish life on the plantations. Stowe reinforces this notion over and over again with the idea of evoking sympathy for Tom. It is also, perhaps, a foreshadowing of things to come.

Tom is resigned to his fate. He comforts himself with the thought that God will help him in the plantations. Faithful to the core, he refuses to allow any criticism against Mr. Shelby. Even when young George Shelby's indignation is aroused on seeing Tom in shackles, Tom tells the young boy not to argue with Haley. Tom is touched, and so are the readers, when George ties the dollar round his neck. Even in these terrible circumstances, Tom does not think about himself. Instead, he exhorts George to be a comfort to his mother and become a good learned man. He also tells him to be a good "Mas'r" like his father, a "Christian" like his mother, and to remember the "Creator" always.

The reader is meant to see and believe that Tom's abiding faith in God carries him from one tribulation to the other. Stowe herself says the book is not merely meant to point out the ravages of slavery, but also the healing force of Christianity. Tom, for his part, is the essence of that message. In fact, many critics have noticed the Christ-like sacrifice and behavior of Tom in the face of great adversity. He is a better man than any other character, black or white, slave or free. In this respect he must be contrasted with George Harris, the mulatto slave. The latter does not speak well of his master and cannot make himself believe in God and thus gain reassurance from Him. It is an important distinction, one that makes Tom's faith all the more powerful.

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