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

Uncle Tom's Cabin


by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 20 Summary

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 20

  • St. Clare buys a little girl, Topsy, and "gives" her to Miss Ophelia. He suggests that now, Miss Ophelia has a chance to prove that she can raise up a little slave as a good Christian girl.
  • Of course, Topsy is full of natural mischievousness, made worse by her position in life.
  • The servants express their opinion: none of them is very glad about this addition, and they certainly don’t want to take her under their wings to train.
  • Miss Ophelia questions Topsy and discovers that Topsy doesn’t know who God is. The girl also doesn’t remember having a mother or a father.
  • Miss Ophelia begins by training Topsy how to make her bed (that would be Miss Ophelia’s bed) the particular way she likes it. It turns out, Topsy is a fast learner and she does it just the way Miss Ophelia likes it.
  • As Topsy makes the bed, a ribbon comes out of her sleeve. It’s Miss Ophelia’s ribbon, but Topsy insists she didn’t steal it. Somehow it just happened to end up there.
  • Then Miss Ophelia finds gloves on Topsy. The girl admits to stealing those, but continues to insist that she didn’t steal the ribbon.
  • Miss Ophelia tells her to confess the other things she’s stolen. Topsy says she stole Eva’s necklace and Rosa’s earrings.
  • Eva comes into the room and she has her necklace. Rosa passes by and she has the earrings in her ears.
  • Miss Ophelia is bewildered. Topsy explains that Miss Ophelia simply commanded her to confess, so she did.
  • Miss Ophelia is at her wits’ end. She doesn’t know what to do with Topsy.
  • When she states categorically that it’s the system of slavery that makes such children, St. Clare agrees. But, he says, such children exist. What are we to do with them now?
  • Topsy is smart and quick and amusing. She continues to misbehave, though. When Miss Ophelia asks why, she just answers, "I spects ‘cause I’s so wicked!"
  • Finally Miss Ophelia tries to whip her. Topsy carries on like it hurts, but later she tells the other young slaves that it was nothing to worry about.
  • St. Clare finds Topsy’s recitation of the catechism amusing. He’s always kind to the child.

READ THE BOOK: Chapter 20

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...