Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

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A young slave child from abusive circumstances, Topsy is purchased by St. Clare and given to Ophelia in order that she might raise her and teach her Christian values. Initially Topsy misbehaves, but after befriending Eva and learning to love her, and to be loved, Topsy accepts Christian teachings and moves north with Miss Ophelia, who purchases Topsy and frees her, treating her as a daughter.

Topsy Quotes in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Uncle Tom's Cabin quotes below are all either spoken by Topsy or refer to Topsy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Bantam Books edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin published in 1981.
Chapter 20: Topsy Quotes

But, of course, I didn’t want you to confess things you didn’t do . . . that’s telling a lie, just as much as the other.

Related Characters: Miss Ophelia (speaker), Topsy
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

A complicated section in the novel. Miss Ophelia says that she will go about "civilizing" Topsy, attempting to make her less of a "heathen" and more of a "good Christian girl." This teaching, of course, requires a great many assumptions on Miss Ophelia's part. She believes that Topsy is naturally inclined to evil or wickedness, just as Eva is naturally inclined to goodness. And it is hard to read those "natural" inclinations as anything other than outgrowths, for Miss Ophelia, of the skin color of those two girls. Thus, although Miss Ophelia seems genuinely to want to help Topsy, her teaching is also inflected with the idea that white Americans are superior to African Americans, and that it is the duty of white Americans to "help" slaves whenever they can.

This notion of beneficent teaching, as above, is an aspect of the novel that has not aged well over the years - that is now seen as a paternalistic or condescending view of the relationship between black and white Americans. 

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Laws, now, is it?

Related Characters: Topsy (speaker)
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

The story is here told from Topsy's perspective. In the narrative Topsy appears to have a more fluid relationship to the truth, but there is a reason for this - as Topsy argues, she merely wants to say or do the thing that will make Miss Ophelia happy, because, at root, Topsy really does want Miss Ophelia to like her. What is exasperating to her teacher, of course, is Topsy's willingness to bend the truth in order to say the thing that Miss Ophelia might want to hear. Topsy's response in this section, then - "Laws, now, is it?" - is a coy one, indicating that Topsy has known all along she hasn't been truthful - but that being truthful, for Topsy, is not the most important thing.

Again, this section seems to validate a preconception about African Americans, common even to abolitionists of the time - that black people were more inclined to bend the truth to appease people in power. This, of course, is not true - and even if in particular instances that might occur, it is, as in Topsy's case, an indicator of wanting to please a person in a position of authority, as opposed to any inherent "wickedness."

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Topsy Character Timeline in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The timeline below shows where the character Topsy appears in Uncle Tom's Cabin. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 20: Topsy
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
St. Clare purchases an eight- or nine-year-old slave with very dark skin named Topsy, so that Miss Ophelia might teach her manners. Miss Ophelia is upset, feeling that there... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
When Miss Ophelia asks Topsy about her family and origins, Topsy replies that she has none; she has no knowledge... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Miss Ophelia wonders that St. Clare lets Eva play with Topsy—she thinks it will harm Eva’s development, but St. Clare believes Eva is in fact teaching... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Miss Ophelia tries to teach Topsy the Bible, but Topsy learns the passages only by rote, and perhaps willfully misunderstands them,... (full context)
Chapter 22: “The Grass Withereth—The Flowers Fadeth”
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...made to him in passing. Eva tells her mother that, since Miss Ophelia has taught Topsy to learn to read, she might teach Mammy. Although Marie thinks this is a distraction... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Little Evangelist
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...Eva, Tom, and Miss Ophelia return from a Methodist prayer service and Ophelia finds that Topsy has destroyed her cloth with a scissors. Ophelia, exasperated, wishes to whip her. St. Clare... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Eva, however, speaks to Topsy and asks her why she misbehaves. Topsy says no one can love her because she... (full context)
Chapter 26: Death
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Despite having appeared to improve in recent weeks, Eva enters another downturn. Marie thinks that Topsy has stolen flowers from the house, but really Topsy only wishes to give them Eva... (full context)
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Marie tells Eva to wait before believing that Topsy has changed. Eva asks her mother whether she thinks Topsy can be a good Christian;... (full context)
Chapter 27: “This Is the Last of the Earth”
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
...in mourning, and Adolph and Rosa have shrouded Eva’s room in white, where she lies. Topsy comes to pay her respects, and Miss Ophelia, moved by Topsy’s apparent change (inspired by... (full context)
Chapter 28: Reunion
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Miss Ophelia is “softened” after Eva’s death, and Topsy has taken to reading a collection of Bible passages Eva gave her before her death.... (full context)
Chapter 43: Results
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
Christianity and Christian Charity Theme Icon
Women Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Miss Ophelia and Topsy move to Vermont, where Topsy becomes a Christian and eventually serves as a missionary in... (full context)