© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin


by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 19 Summary

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 19

  • Eva tells Tom that Prue’s story has sunk "deep into [her] heart." What a perfect little angel.
  • A few days later, when Miss Ophelia is in the kitchen, another woman comes in Prue’s place.
  • Dinah asks where Prue is and finds out that, when the old woman got drunk again, her owners left her in the cellar, where she died
  • Eva overhears the story, and it upsets her badly.
  • Miss Ophelia goes upstairs and tells St. Clare that Prue was whipped to death. Why, she wonders, doesn’t anybody do something about such cruelty?
  • St. Clare explains how the system works. Because there are so many people treating their slaves badly, what can one man do? He can’t buy every slave himself.
  • The cousins argue over slavery. St. Clare says he’s not defending it – in fact, he thinks slavery is of the devil – he’s simply Mr. Passive and doesn’t have the desire to reform it.
  • Miss Ophelia is surprised at how adamant St. Clare is when he declares that the entire system of slavery is an abomination.
  • St. Clare says that the major problem is that the system of slavery perpetuates itself. And, he says, the aristocratic system is no different – it just goes by a different name.
  • Despite his anti-slavery attitudes, St. Clare doesn’t take responsibility for his own inaction. Instead, he suggests that his cavalier attitude has to do with the fact that his mother died when he was thirteen. If he had been under her influence all his life, he might have become the heartiest of abolitionists.
  • He describes how he and his brother, Alfred, tried to run a plantation together after their father’s death. It didn’t work at all because the brothers had fundamentally different ideas about how to manage it. St. Clare wanted to be democratic and kind, while Alfred was fundamentally an aristocrat.
  • No matter how much Alfred reformed the plantation, St. Clare was dissatisfied. The truth is, he hates slavery. When St. Clare decided the system couldn’t be reformed, he left the planting life.
  • Miss Ophelia asks why he hasn’t freed his slaves, if he hates slavery so much. (Good question.)
  • St. Clare responds that he’s against using slaves "as tools for money-making" but he doesn’t mind keeping them around to help him spend his money. And this is what he claims to have done.
  • At supper, Marie brings up the topic of Prue and wonders if Miss Ophelia thinks that southerners are all "barbarians."
  • Miss Ophelia says she thinks it was a barbarous act, but southerners are not all barbarians.
  • Marie thinks that, if slaves would just behave themselves, this sort of thing would never happen.
  • Eva interrupts and says that Prue didn’t behave because she was unhappy.
  • Marie says the problem is that Prue wasn’t broken in, and that it’s very difficult to break in these people.
  • St. Clare describes how he "broke" in a slave once: St. Clare bought the slave when he had been wounded with a gun, put the slave in St. Clare’s own bed, and nursed him back to health. Then St. Clare signed papers making the slave a free man. And wouldn’t you know it? The man wouldn’t leave St. Clare after that.
  • Eva starts crying at the conversation, and everybody wants to know what’s wrong. She says it’s just that these things "sink into [her] heart."
  • Tom misses home so badly that he finally writes to his family. St. Clare helps Tom draft the letter because it takes Tom so long to write, and because he keeps forgetting certain letters of the alphabet. Together, they send the letter off to the post office.
  • The servants discuss Miss Ophelia and decide she is no "lady" because no "lady" works the way Miss Ophelia works.

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 19

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...