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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin


by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 16 Summary

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 16

  • Marie is a total whiner. She complains ad nauseam about how much trouble slaves are.
  • Eva wonders why her mother keeps slaves if they bother her so much.
  • Marie says she doesn’t know why she keeps them, especially since slaves are such a hassle and so selfish. She uses Mammy as an example: Mammy knows that Marie suffers at night and needs attention every single hour, but Mammy falls asleep and is difficult to wake up. Which clearly means that Mammy is selfish – not a human being in need of rest herself.
  • They discuss Mammy and how she’s separated from her children. Marie is sure Mammy can’t possibly miss those "dirty things."
  • Eva wants to know if she can take care of Mama just one night, to let Mammy rest.
  • Marie thinks that’s the silliest thing she’s ever heard.
  • Marie continues instructing Miss Ophelia. Her main point is that servants are difficult, so you have to put them down and keep them down.
  • Miss Ophelia wonders if Marie thinks slaves are human and should be allowed to rest sometimes.
  • Marie responds that she’s very particular about making sure they get everything they need…if it’s convenient. She’s sure they get plenty of sleep.
  • As evidence, Marie brings up Mammy again: Mammy can fall asleep almost any time and everywhere, she’s always nodding off, so she clearly gets enough sleep. (Hmm…interesting logic there. We tend to nod off when we’re tired.)
  • Miss Ophelia asks, "Don't you believe that the Lord made them of one blood with us [white people]?" Marie thinks the "one blood" argument is a bunch of bull; black people are "degraded creatures."
  • Even though Marie claims to "make it a principle to endure everything in silence," she continues to whine about what a hard life she has trying to manage the slaves that her husband has spoiled. She’s sure the slaves need to get beaten, but her husband isn’t man enough to do it.
  • Miss Ophelia has quite a different view on how to treat slaves. She sees being a slaveholder as a huge responsibility; masters must educate their slaves and treat them "like reasonable creatures."
  • Outside, Tom and Eva are talking. Eva is on his knee, hanging a wreath of roses around his neck. They’re laughing and enjoying each other’s company immensely.
  • Miss Ophelia wonders how St. Clare can let his little girl behave in such a "dreadful" way. St. Clare has no problem with his daughter’s behavior.
  • St. Clare points out that Miss Ophelia is prejudiced after all, and Miss Ophelia concedes that there may be some truth in what he says.
  • The narrator turns now to Tom, and says that he seems to have nothing to complain about. Tom likes Little Eva and she loves him. He lives in a good place with a kind master. He has very little work to do and his environment is beautiful.
  • One Sunday morning, Marie is on the verandah, dressed for church, wondering where Eva is.
  • Eva has stopped to give her vinaigrette (not the salad dressing; it’s a bottle of smelling salts) to Mammy to use when Mammy has headaches.
  • Marie thinks this is terrible – Eva has given her gold, diamond-studded vinaigrette, to Mammy? She demands that Eva go take it back, but St. Clare intervenes.
  • Marie and Miss Ophelia go to church, but St. Clare stays home.
  • When the women return, he asks how the sermon was. Marie responds that it was a wonderful sermon, all about how God made the world in a natural order, with beautiful distinctions and levels in society. She wishes St. Clare had heard it, because the lesson would have done him good.
  • St. Clare responds that he has gotten just as much good out of reading the newspaper as he would have out of hearing such a stupid sermon.
  • Miss Ophelia questions whether St. Clare really believes what he just said. The cousins get into an intense discussion about slavery.
  • St. Clare exclaims that it’s ridiculous to use religion or the Bible to justify slavery, and if they do, he’s very sorry to hear it.
  • He asks Eva if she would rather live in a house full of servants or the way they live in New England. Eva replies that she wants to live in a house full of servants because there are more people to love that way.
  • St. Clare asks Eva what she’s been up to today. The young girl responds that she’s been up in Tom’s room listening to him sing.
  • St. Clare says he overheard Tom praying for St. Clare earlier that day, quite zealously, and gave his opinion of St. Clare freely. He seems to think St. Clare has a great deal of room for improvement, which St. Clare finds amusing.

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 16

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