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 to make her feel better. Eva is delighted by the artfully-arranged flowers and asks Topsy to fill a vase for her every day.
An instance of Topsy’s change. She now desires to be Christian and to be “good.” Despite this, however, many in the household, including Marie, believe that Topsy is still bent on mischief.
Marie tells Eva to wait before believing that Topsy has changed. Eva asks her mother whether she thinks Topsy can be a good Christian; Marie scoffs. Eva wishes to cut her hair off to give it to friends and loved ones after she is gone. She calls the servants and her family into her room, asking them to care for their eternal souls and follow the Bible’s teachings. The slaves in particular are struck by her speech and sob intensely. Eva distributes locks of her hair.
Eva’s lock of hair will factor into the novel later, when it is taken from Uncle Tom at Legree’s plantation. It is a physical symbol of her universal love for mankind, and it happens coincidentally to evoke in Legree a memory of his mother, another Christian exemplar (like St. Clare’s mother).
After the slaves leave, St. Clare complains that he has been dealt terrible blows in life, with his daughter’s coming death being the most severe. Although St. Clare questions how Eva can love Jesus without having proof of his existence, Eva says that she believes in him completely. Tom often carries Eva outside and sings to her.
St. Clare asks the fundamental question of what is known as “theodicy,” or the problem of God in the world: how can God exist if there is so much evil on earth? And if God does exist, why does he permit this evil to take place?
Tom and Miss Ophelia sense that Eva will die soon. For her part, Eva seems content. Tom, St. Clare, and the family gather by her bedside at midnight, and as she slips away she remarks that she sees only “love—joy—peace.”
Eva’s death marks a fundamental change in St. Clare and foreshadows significant changes for the family and for Uncle Tom.