Chapter 19 Notes from Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 19

Eva tells Tom that he needn't get the horses, as she no longer feels like riding. He asks why, and she tells him that Prue's story has upset her, and that "these things sink into my heart." A few days later, a different woman comes in Prue's place, selling bread. Dinah asks what has happened to Prue, and the woman says she doesn't know, while throwing a sideways glance at Miss Ophelia, indicating she doesn't want to speak about it in front of Miss Ophelia. After Miss Ophelia conducts the transaction and leaves, Dinah follows the woman to the door, asking her to tell her what happened. The woman tells Dinah that Prue got drunk again, and her master beat her and left her in the cellar, where she died.

Topic Tracking: Violence 2

Eva overhears the story and promptly loses all the color in her face, and she trudges upstairs, depressed. Dinah explains what happened to Miss Ophelia, who relates the story to St. Clare with horror. He calmly tells her that he knew it was going to happen eventually, and she expresses her disgust, asking him if and what he is going to do about it. He tells her there is nothing he can do, as property interest wins out in the eyes of the law. She tells him that it will bring vengeance upon him for not trying to do something. She asks him how he could possibly ignore the horrors of what happens to slaves. He tells her that the best he can do is to take care of his own slaves and try to shut his eyes to what happens, as the cruelty is so vast and pervasive that it cannot be overrun.

Topic Tracking: Morality 9

The two get into an intense discussion of slavery, and Miss Ophelia asks him why he has not repented for what he knows is a sin. He tells her that he has tried, but cannot divest himself of the lifestyle to which he is accustomed. The two continue talking, and St. Clare surprises Miss Ophelia with his fervency when he declares that he sometimes wishes the whole nation would sink under the abomination of slavery, and he would gladly sink with it. He explains his childhood, and how his father was a rational man of order who placed profit above all else, and how his mother was precisely the opposite, a generous and caring woman. Alfred, St. Clare's brother, took after his father and was left with the duty of managing the family business along with St. Clare. St. Clare explains that he did not have the temperament to do this, as Alfred's way of dealing with the slaves was too harsh for him. He tells Miss Ophelia that at one time, he had planned to do something about the injustice of slavery, but he was eventually overcome with depression and never got the initiative to do anything about it. He tells her that this is the reason for his lazy, careless nature. He tells her that he still believes slavery is intolerable, but he thinks that one day the slaves will rise up and defend themselves:

"'One thing is certain,--that there is a mustering among the masses, the world over; and there is a dis irae coming on, sooner or later. The same thing is working in Europe, in England, and in this country. My mother used to tell me of a millennium that was coming, when Christ should reign, and all men should be free and happy. And she taught me, when I was a boy, to pray, 'Thy kingdom come.' Sometimes I think all this sighing, and groaning, and stirring among the dry bones foretells what she used to tell me was coming. But who may abide the day of His appearing?'" Chapter 19, pg. 230

Miss Ophelia declares that she believes he is "not far from the Kingdom." He thanks her, but tells her that "it's up and down with me--up to heaven's gate in theory, down in earth's dust in practice." Just then, the tea-bell rings, and they interrupt their discussion and gather around the table. Marie asks Miss Ophelia if she has heard of what happened to Prue and if she thinks they are all barbarians. Miss Ophelia says she does not, but she believes that what happened was barbaric. Marie contemptibly says she hasn't any sympathy for Prue, as the woman wouldn't have been punished if she had kept in line. Eva tells her mother that the reason Prue drank was because she was unhappy, and Marie brushes off the excuse, saying that she is unhappy much of the time, that she has probably suffered more than Prue ever did, and that the reason Prue drank is simply because blacks, by nature, "are so bad."

Topic Tracking: Morality 10

Marie tells a story of a slave her father had who eventually died from beatings because he kept stealing and running away; the incident was wholly unnecessary, as her father was kind to his slaves and would have never beaten him if he had simply obeyed. St. Clare tells the story of a slave he and Alfred had, and how he broke the slave in after Alfred had tried beatings in vain. The slave, named Scipio, escaped, and St. Clare bet his brother that if he could be caught, he would "tame" him. Alfred agreed, and a search party was dispatched. Scipio was caught, though in their zeal, one of his pursuers shot him. He lived, and St. Clare bought him from Alfred and nursed him back to health. After he got well, St. Clare gave Scipio papers setting him free, and Scipio ripped them in half in gratitude to his master. He embraced Christianity shortly thereafter and became gentle, but he eventually died of cholera.

After hearing the story, Eva bursts into tears and sobs convulsively. Her father asks what's wrong, and she says again, "these things sink into my heart." He asks her what she means, and she says she cannot explain it at the moment, but that she thinks "a great many thoughts," and perhaps one day she'll be able to explain them to him. He tells her to think away, but not to cry and worry him. Later, Eva comes to visit Tom in his quarters above the stable, where she sees him trying to write a letter to Chloe and his children. She tries to help him but cannot, as she has not learned to write well yet. St. Clare finds them huddled over the paper and tells Tom that he will write the letter for him when he returns from his ride.

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