Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Uncle Tom's Cabin Chapter 32: Dark Places Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tom marches behind Legree’s wagon with the other recently-purchased slaves. When Legree demands they sing a song, the slaves try a Methodist hymn, which Legree loathes. He tells them to change to something else, and they begin a nonsense tune. Legree, who has been drinking, notices that Emmeline, seated beside him in the wagon, doesn’t wear earrings, and he promises to get her some back at the plantation.
This is an example of Legree’s desire to strip religion away from his slaves, as he is afraid of it and its power to encourage slave resistance. Even a hymn is too much for Legree to bear, as he understands that many Christian hymns promise liberty in heaven. He doesn't want his slaves to think or hope, just to do what he tells them to do. So he has them sing nonsense.
Themes
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Legree’s plantation is in disrepair, with a ragged lawn and a dilapidated interior and exterior. He spends only enough money on it to keep it from falling apart, and uses it to turn a profit only. Legree checks in with Sambo and Quimbo, two of the “first mates” on the plantation, brutal slaves who enforce their master’s wishes and punish fellow-slaves for their “laziness.” Legree encourages the two to spy on and compete with one another. Tom is led to the slave quarters, and Emmeline is asked to stay in the plantation house with Legree.
Legree’s plantation is a physical symbol of his moral decay. His “associates” Sambo and Quimbo, black slave overseers, are nearly as wicked as he is, and have been trained to injure their fellow slaves rather than help them. This is perhaps the most tragic example of slavery: that its cruelty might be taught to other black people, who for a little power or better treatment in turn perpetuate the system.
Themes
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Beecher Stowe relates the picking of cotton to a slow form of torture. Tom watches as the slaves come in, broken and exhausted, from the fields. He is given his ration of corn meal for the week, and despite his tiredness he tries to spread the word of God among the slaves, who are mostly too feeble to believe that the Lord could abide with them there. Tom has a pleasant dream of Eva reading the Bible near Lake Ponchartrain and wonders if she has visited him in his sleep.
Eva is now a vision of religious salvation for Tom, and a symbol of earthly goodness toward which he might strive. Beecher Stowe takes pains to discuss the physical drudgery of picking cotton, as some have argued that the work really isn’t so difficult. In fact it is back-breaking, and Legree demands more of his slaves than is possible to complete in a day.
Themes
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon