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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 26-28

Summary

Eva is now confined to her bedroom. Miss Ophelia efficiently carries out the duties of nurse to her young niece. Tom carries Eva in his arms for occasional walks. At night he sleeps on the verandah. Shortly before her death, Eva asks all the servants to assemble in her room. She exhorts them to become Christians and to have the Bible read to them so that she can meet them in heaven. She says that she has prayed for them and gives each of them a lock of her golden hair as a token of her love. Topsy is the last to leave the room. Eva tells Topsy that she loves her, that she wants her to be good, and that Jesus knows she is trying to be good. The last they hear of her is her whisper that at last she has seen a land of "love-joy-peace."

Everyone is grief-stricken after Eva's death. Topsy feels there is no one left to love her. Miss Ophelia assures her that she loves her and will help her become a good Christian girl. Augustine St. Clare returns to New Orleans and falls into a depression. Only Tom can approach St. Clare about his state. Tom urges him to have faith in Christ and pray to God. St. Clare begins to read Eva's Bible.

St. Clare seriously contemplates setting all his slaves free. He begins taking the legal steps necessary for Tom's emancipation. Tom is overjoyed, but promises not to leave St. Clare till he becomes a Christian. Marie St. Clare is becoming more tyrannical toward the slaves, perhaps as a response to her husband's gradual change of heart. Miss Ophelia herself softens, hoping for the eventual education of all the slaves once they are free.


One day St. Clare goes into a café where a drunken brawl is taking place. He tries to mediate and is stabbed. Though the wound is fatal, he is brought home to die. He tells Tom he is dying and asks him to pray. When Tom finishes with his prayers, St. Clare takes his hand and looks earnestly at him, telling him he feels he is coming home, at last.

Notes

These three chapters are full of tragedy and sadness. Eva's death scene is one of the most famous death scenes in American literature, operatic in intensity and weight. The atmosphere of serenity and peace and the hush that prevails in the death chamber has been captured in detailed perfection. As well, the scene describing Tom carrying Eva in his arms is a highly dramatic and fulfilling one, wherein goodness is cradling goodness. Eva's last words are words of promise, words that represent the keystones of Stowe's Christian faith: "Love, - joy,-peace!"

Even when death is at her doorstep, Eva, is considerate towards the servants. She has a strongly entrenched belief that blacks can become Christians and even a child-like Topsy can be transformed into an angel. She argues very rationally that the same God is her Father as much as theirs is, and that Jesus is their savior too. Her farewell speech to the servants, whom she calls "our people," reveals her firm faith in God.

The pervading gloom, the sense of loss, the death chamber shrouded in white, and Eva's angelic form are all effectively portrayed to win every bit of sympathy from the reader. What's more, the different reactions of each character to her death are extremely significant to the development of the novel. Marie becomes tyrannical towards the servants, foreshadowing the fate that awaits after her husband's death. Topsy feels desolate, discarded and neglected, but Miss Ophelia, is softened by the loss, manages to gain a hold over the child's mind which she never again loses. Topsy now has a desire to be good and strives to please her mentor. Miss Ophelia also expresses concern about the fate of the other slaves, pleading with St. Clare to emancipate them at once. Again, this dramatic foreshadowing serves a purpose in that it creates suspense.

Tom, ever the saint, understands the silent grief and suffering St. Clare is going through. He knows his master is a tormented soul. He offers him simple words of wisdom: become a believer, have faith in God, pray for strength and sustenance. Though Tom is happy about his approaching freedom, he feels he has a duty before he can leave. His generosity is revealed in his sincere desire to ensure Christian happiness for his master.

The tragic death of St. Clare comes after reading a chapter in Matthew. Augustine realizes he has always been a neutral spectator and a procrastinator. He believes the time has come for him to act. The irony is that his first "act" is to interfere and break up a fight in a bar. His decision to become active and involved results in his death before he is able to make good on his promises. It is a tragic comment on St. Clare's eternal inability to make the changes he knows he ought, and the terrible consequences of such inactivity on the lives of Tom and the other slaves.

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