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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

CHAPTERS 15 - 16

Summary

This chapter reveals some Background Information on the St. Clare household. Augustine St. Clare is the child of a wealthy Louisiana planter. He has a twin brother Alfred. In his youth, he had fallen in love with a beautiful woman in one of the Northern states, but her guardian prevented the marriage. He had then married Marie St. Clare, the reigning belle of the season. From the beginning of their marriage, Marie never possessed much capacity for affection. Brought up as a spoilt child, whose every whim was indulged, Marie developed hypochondriac affectations. She neglected her husband and child, and always had a variety of vague but dramatic illnesses. Augustine, concerned about his daughter's welfare, persuaded his cousin in Vermont, Miss Ophelia St. Clare, to become his housekeeper. Miss Ophelia accompanied him on the journey across the Mississippi.

St. Clare, Miss Ophelia, Tom, and Eva return to the ancient St. Clare mansion. Eva rushes in to embrace her mother, who kisses her "languidly" saying she will give her a headache. When Eva sees Mammy, a middle-aged mulatto woman, she throws herself in her arms and kisses her repeatedly. She greets all the slaves standing there in a similar manner, behavior that greatly troubles her mother.

Tom is made Eva's special attendant as well as head coachman. Mrs. St. Clare makes known her belief that slavery is commanded in the Bible. Her husband disagrees, telling her slavery is convenient. Were it not financially beneficial to the South, the Bible would take on entirely new interpretation. Tom prays at night for the St. Clare's and Mr. St. Clare hears. This touches him, and he praises Tom.


Notes

These two chapters focus on Tom's new master and mistress and the hope (albeit temporary) that Tom will find a good home. The family members of the St. Clare household are varied in temperament and very interesting. Augustine is a sensitive man who promises to be a good master. His wife Marie is self-indulgent and shallow. Somehow, their daughter Eva has turned out to be an angel of goodness, pure right down to the white clothing she wears. She sees no color, only opportunity for love. The fourth family member is Miss Ophelia, an extremely efficient housekeeper who agrees to run the St. Clare household out of a sense of duty as well. She is not much of a talker but when she does speak, her opinions are very direct and frank. She is a very methodical, orderly, conscientious, and thrifty person. She is exactly the opposite of Augustine St. Clare in temperament.

Though she has never owned a slave, she still chooses not to love them as Eva does. In fact, she still harbors a prejudice against blacks, although she does from time to protest against the injustices perpetrated against slaves. She shows herself to be sensitive in that she points out to Marie that Mammy is deeply distressed about her separation from her family. She admirably declares that the slaves do not belong to a "degraded race". Out of the two women, Miss Ophelia is a more likable person even if she has a no-nonsense, sensible approach to life and work.

Tom is happy in the St. Clare household. This is predominantly because of Augustine St. Clare's idealistic benevolence and Eva's adoration. Obviously, Eva and Augustine are the only characters actively in favor of Tom. To the rest, he is merely a slave. The consequences of such a situation will be borne out later, when Augustine dies and Tom is again sold.

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