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Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin


by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 18 Summary

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 18

  • Uncle Tom knows he’s lucky. His "master," St. Clare, is careless with money. The narrator tells us that, if Tom were dishonest, he would have plenty of opportunity to snag some cash from the guy. But unlike St. Clare’s personal servant, Adolph, Tom’s not tempted to steal.
  • When Tom sees St. Clare get drunk one night, he confronts St. Clare the next morning.
  • Tom insists that St. Clare is good to everybody but himself; he shouldn’t drink like that.
  • St. Clare promises that Tom won’t see him drunk again.
  • Meanwhile, Miss Ophelia, in her fussy New England way, decides she’s going to get the house in order and make sure things are being run efficiently without money being wasted. Woe to her!
  • Miss Ophelia suddenly comes up against the stubbornness of servants, who are used to running things the way they want.
  • In the kitchen, Miss Ophelia meets her match in Dinah, the head cook. Dinah cooks up really wonderful dinners, but there’s no order in her kitchen.
  • Random junk is left in the kitchen cupboards and drawers, which Miss Ophelia discovers when she finds shoes, flannel, towels, twine, darning needles, nutmeg, and a hymnbook in one drawer alone.
  • When she confronts Dinah about it, Dinah just wonders what a lady like Miss Ophelia knows about work.
  • But in a few days, Miss Ophelia manages to give every section of the house a system – without the cooperation of the servants.
  • Frustrated, she complains to St. Clare. He basically tells her not to be so fussy; there’s plenty of time and money to waste in the South, so she’ll never reach her northern-style perfection.
  • When Miss Ophelia questions whether the servants are honest, St. Clare just laughs. Who would expect them to be honest? The whole system is set up to create dishonesty!
  • Later that day, when Miss Ophelia is in the kitchen, a slave woman comes to sell some rusks (that’s like a kind of dry, sweetened biscuit, kind of like biscotti). Her name is Prue and she’s got a hangover.
  • The St. Clare servants tease Prue, but Miss Ophelia criticizes, also adding that Prue has no other way to live and nothing to hope for.
  • Various servants commence to insult Prue. They consider her of "lower class" than themselves. But Dinah puts the St. Clare servants in their place, saying they’re all black, just like Prue, and no better than her.
  • Outside, Tom tells Prue he’ll carry her basket for her a while. She doesn’t understand his kindness, but Tom tries to tell her that God loves her. The woman has never heard of Jesus Christ.
  • She tells Tom her story in brief: how her first master used her to "breed chil’en for market" so she lost all her kids. When her mistress took sick, Prue got sick, too and her milk dried up. Her mistress wouldn’t buy milk for her baby and the baby ended up dying.
  • From that moment on, Prue lost interest in life.
  • Prue goes on to say she doesn’t want to go to heaven, if that’s where white folks are going. They’ve tormented her enough – she doesn’t need to be with them in the afterlife too.
  • Miss Eva meets Tom on the way back to the house, and he relates Prue’s story. Eva’s response is to sigh heavily.

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 18

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