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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 21-23

Summary

Tom's letter reaches Aunt Chloe in Kentucky. Mrs. Shelby and Aunt Chloe decide to try and earn the money to redeem Tom. Young George Shelby writes a letter to Tom and tells him of this.

Two years pass and Tom is still with the St. Clare household. Though he longs for home he has learned to be content. He treasures George Shelby's letter. The friendship between Tom and Eva gradually blossoms. Eva reads the Bible aloud for Tom. The St. Clare establishment shift residence to a villa on Lake Pontchartrain to escape the heat of New Orleans. One Sunday evening when Tom and Eva discuss the Bible, Eva tells Tom that she is expecting to join the "bright bend of spirits" soon. Tom suddenly realizes how thin Eva has become. Miss Ophelia always speaks of a persistent cough but St. Clare tries to ignore the symptoms of consumption that have overcome his young daughter.

Eva is totally absorbed in works of love and kindness now that she feels her death is near. She tells her mother that the servants should be taught to read. She announces her decision to begin by giving Mammy some reading lessons. Marie takes no notice of her daughter's illness. She is more worried about Eva's desire to teach the blacks to read. Stowe remarks that Marie "always had a headache on hand for any conversation that did not exactly suit her."

About this time St. Clare's brother Alfred and his son Henrique spend a few days with the family. Henrique is about twelve years old and very spirited. He whips his mulatto boy Dodo in front of Eva. After their ride Eva makes Henrique promise to treat Dodo with more love and consideration. Augustine and Alfred St. Clare have also witnessed the incident. Augustine censures the behavior but Alfred does not reprimand Henrique. Alfred boasts about the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race.


Notes

Chapter 21 takes the readers back to Kentucky. St. Clare's intuition that Mr. Shelby had no intention of redeeming Tom has crystallized into certainty. Mr. Shelby is still in debt. He feels his wife has burdened the servants with a sense of morality to which they cannot adhere, since she has taught the sanctity of marriage to slaves who by necessity cannot realistically observe it. To her credit, however, Mrs. Shelby believes in the values she has taught, and refuses to let her promise become idle. She toys with the idea of giving music lessons to raise Tom's redemption money. She allows Aunt Chloe to take a paid job in Louisville, even though it will be inconvenient for her. She even volunteers to contribute a part of the redemption money. This demonstrates her nobility and honesty of purpose. This chapter also demonstrates the longings and yearnings of the black husband and wife for each other. It also shows how family values are ingrained in people of all races.

In Chapter 22, the eminent decline of Eva is introduced. Eva has a premonition that she will not live long, for she has seen the "spirits bright". Her failing health reinforces this idea. Therefore she makes the admirable decision of devoting the rest of her life to charity and good will toward the slaves; she will be "absorbed in works of love and kindness." She feels for the slaves and would like to give them educational instruction. Her desire to sell her diamond necklace and educate the slaves is selfless as well as touching. She is more sensitive to the needs of people around her, in shocking contrast to her own mother, who fails to notice her child's failing health.

Chapter 23 introduces two new characters: Alfred St. Clare and his son Henrique. Henrique whips his mulatto boy Dodo on the least provocation. Though one may not approve of this behavior, it needs to be pointed out that it is only the result of his upbringing. Henrique is surprised that Eva considers it cruel and wicked. He is astounded by Eva's declaration, "You frighten him into deceiving, if you treat him so." Eva makes her cousin aware of how Dodo is separated from everyone he loves. On the other hand, she tells Henrique that he should love Dodo in the ways taught by the Bible. Henrique, never having heard such things, is enchanted. He promises he will change his attitude. Thus one can see how Eva's generosity and essential goodness influence an imperious boy like Henrique.

As has already been pointed out, Eva and Henrique's attitudes towards slaves are the result of the influences of their fathers. If Eva displays a genuine concern for the slaves and tries to alleviate their suffering, it is due to her father Augustine, who in his own passive way tries to do the same. If Henrique is imperious and whips his slaves it is because his father has not taught him the equality of man. Such people can only maintain that equal rights belong to the educated, wealthy, intelligent and the refined, not to the rabble. Slaves must not be educated; they must be crushed. Alfred proclaims the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race and their right to rule. He intends educating Henrique in the North because he will not be mixing with his dependents (blacks) but with his equals (whites). Alfred is an archetypal plantation owner who proclaims the superiority of the white race.

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