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February 26, 1852

Transcription of Chapter 35

Chapter XXXV.

“Which long for death, but it fleeth from them.”

Cassy entered the room, and found Emmeline sitting, pale with fear, in the farthest corner of it. As she came in, the girl started nervously up, but, on seeing who it was, rushed forward, and catching her arm, said:

“Oh, Cassy, is it you? I’m so glad you’ve come. I was afraid it was ——. Oh, you don’t know what a horrid noise there has been down stairs, all this evening!”

“I ought to know,” said Cassy, drily, “I’ve heard it often enough.”

“Oh, Cassy, do tell me, couldn’t we get away from this place? I don’t care where—into the swamps—among the snakes—anywhere. Couldn’t we get somewhere, away from here?”

“Nowhere but into our graves!” said Cassy.

“Did you ever try?”

“I’ve seen enough of trying; and what comes of it?” said Cassy.

“I’d be willing to live in the swamps, and gnaw the bark from trees. I aint afraid even of snakes. I’d rather have one near me than—him,” said Emmeline, eagerly.

“There have been a good many here of your opinion,” said Cassy. “But you couldn’t stay in the swamps; you’d be tracked by the dogs, and brought back, and then”——

“What would he do?” said the girl, looking with breathless interest in her face.

[Continue reading the full text of chapter 35, here.]

Commentary by Les Harrison

 Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University

While this installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin does little to advance the plot of the novel, it contains three actions central to the amplification of Stowe’s themes of motherhood and the world to come. The first of these is Cassy’s conversation with Emmeline. Reprising her role as an atheistic tempter from her conversations with Tom in chapter 33, “The Quadroon’s Story,” Cassy’s counsels Emmeline to turn to alcohol in order to cope with the brutality of slavery.

For Stowe, Cassy’s gravest error is embodied in her impassioned exclamation to Emmeline at the start of the chapter: “What use is it for mothers to say anything? You are all to be bought and paid for, and your souls belong to whoever gets you. That’s the way it goes.” Here, Cassy inverts Tom’s famous declaration in chapter 32, “Cassy,” and present in nearly every single dramatic and cinematic adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: “No! no! no! my soul an’t yours, Mas’r!  You have n’t bought it,–ye can’t buy it!  It ‘s been bought and paid for, by one that is able to keep it.” So anxious is Stowe to emphasize this contrast between Tom and Cassy’s understanding of the extent of their bondage that she has Tom repeat a similar version of this line near the close of the current installment: “I ‘ll give ye all the work of my hands, all my time, all my strength; but my soul I won’t give up to mortal man.”

Cassy’s conversation with Emmeline is book-ended by Tom’s confrontation with Legree in which he again defies his owner’s request to replace his Christian values with the debased values of a slaveholder.  The scene opens with Tom’s almost rapturous anticipation of his death, his heart literally “throbb[ing] with joy” at his vision of the world to come.  And time and time again in his conversation with Legree, Tom finds solace in the transitory nature of his sufferings when compared with “all ETERNITY to come after.”

The third major element of the chapter bracketed by these two conversations is Legree’s nightmare vision of his dead mother.  This seemingly minor detail became a key scene in the H. J. Conway adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin staged at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in 1853.  In addition to featuring an Uncle Tom who survives his trials on the Legree plantation to settle “down east,” the Conway version has Eliza Harris (who replaces Emmeline in the Legree section) and Cassy staging this dream sequence to bring about Legree’s death:

Legree. A witch thing. (Takes it uneasily. Cassy watches his every movement eagerly. He opens the paper, the silver dollar falls with the ribbon on the stage, but the ringlet of hair turns round his finger (Eva’s)

Legree with piercing shriek, echoed by Cassy, she in exultation.

Legree. Take it off, tear it from me, burn it up, it up! Where did it come from?

Cassy. (claps her hands loudly and shrieks) There! From your murdered mother—see!

Points to C[enter] window of house over verandah which suddenly becomes illuminated with white fire and shows Eliza with a long white dress, bosom bloody, and a white veil, points to Legree with her left hand and to heaven with her R[ight] H[and].

Legree. Ha! (wild scream) Hide me! Snatch this from me. (struggling) Drag it off, it turns tight round my hand, my arm, my neck! Now tighter, tighter still. (with effort) Help! I choke! Ha! What hand is this? It grasps my throat, it drags me to that yawning abyss. (struggling as if dragged) Now, now! Dark hands stretch forth around me! They clasp me, they shout, they shriek! They laugh, the demons laugh! They drag me, the demons drag me! Down, down! (falls) I choke, choke! I, I, choke!

Dies struggling. Sambo drags him off R.1.E. Cassy flies into house C.[1]

Here, Conway unites the two themes of this installment in one dramatic tableau. In the role of Legree’s mother Eliza’s job is not to condemn or even to berate her wayward son, but merely, like Tom and, through him, Stowe herself, to point to heaven and the world to come.

1.  “Conway’s Uncle Tom, Act V.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture. Ed. Stephen Railton: http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/onstage/scripts/osplhcaVIt.html

How did Stowe connect this chapter to real-life stories? Find out here!

Check out the top news stories, this week in 1852, here!

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January 29, 1852

Transcription of Chapter 31, Part 1

Chapter XXXI.

“The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty.”

Trailing wearily behind a rude wagon and over a ruder road, Tom and his associates faced onward.

In the wagon was seated Simon Legree, and the two women, still fettered together, were stowed away with some baggage in the back part of it, and the whole company were seeking Legree’s plantation, which lay a good distance off.

It was a wild, forsaken road, now winding through dreary pine barrens, where the wind whispered mournfully, and now over log causeways through long cypress swamps, the doleful trees rising out of the slimy, spongy ground, hung with long wreaths of funereal black moss, while ever and anon the loathsome form of the moccasin snake might be seen sliding among broken stumps and shattered branches that lay here and there rotting in the water.

It is disconsolate enough, this riding, to the stranger, who, with well-filled pocket and well-appointed horse, threads the lonely way on some errand of business; but wilder, drearier, to the man enthralled, whom every weary step bears further from all that man loves and prays for.

So one should have thought, that witnessed the sunken and dejected expression on those dark faces—the wistful, patient weariness with which those sad eyes rested on object after object that passed them in their sad journey.

Simon rode on, however, apparently well pleased, occasionally pulling away at a flask of spirit which he kept in his pocket.

“I say, you!” he said, as he turned back and caught a glance at the dispirited faces behind him! “Strike up a song, boys—come!”

The men looked at each other, and the “come” was repeated with a smart crack of the whip, which the driver carried in his hands. Tom began a Methodist hymn—

“Jerusalem, my happy home,
Name ever dear to me;
When shall my sorrows have an end,
Thy joys when shall”——

“Shut up, you black cuss,” roared Legree, “did ye think I wanted any o’ yer infernal old Methodism? I say, tune up, now, something real rowdy—quick!”

One of the other men struck up one of those unmeaning songs common among the slaves.

Massa see’d me cotch a coon,
High boys high!
He laughed to split, d’ye see the moon,
Ho! ho! ho! boys, ho!
Ho! yo! hi—e! oh!

The singer appeared to make up the song to his own pleasure, generally hitting on rhyme, without much attempt at reason, and all the party took up the chorus at intervals,

Ho! ho! ho! boys, ho!
High—e—oh! high—e—o!

It was sung very boisterously, and with a forced attempt at merriment; but no wail of despair, no words of impassioned prayer, could have had such a depth of woe in them as the wild notes of the chorus. As if the poor dumb heart, threatened—prisoned—took refuge in that inarticulate sanctuary of music, and found there a language in which to breathe its prayer to God. There was a prayer in it, which Simon could not hear. He only heard the boys singing noisily, and was well pleased; he was making them “keep up their spirits.”

“Well, my little dear,” said he, turning to Emmeline, and laying his hand on her shoulder, “we’re almost home!”

[Continue reading the full text of chapter 31, Part 1, here.]

Commentary by Les Harrison

 Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University

With Tom’s arrival at the Legree plantation in chapter 31, “Dark Places,” the action of the novel moves to the third and final setting in Stowe’s symbolic geography of the United States under slavery. As Jane Tompkins once noted: “Ultimately, there are only three places to be this story: heaven, hell, or Kentucky”(1). Thus far we’ve already seen Kentucky on the Shelby plantation, and, while New Orleans under slavery is a dark place in its own right, particularly for slaves such as Old Prue, the presence of Little Eva made the St. Clare household a heaven-like respite on Tom’s journey to his cavalry at the Legree plantation.

There are two important elements to the “darkness” which envelopes the Legree plantation. On the one hand, there is the palpable air of malign neglect with which Stowe characterizes the plantation. Keeping with Stowe’s theme of the threat Slavery poses to domestic happinesses of all types, her initial description of the Legree’s grouns emphasizes its former status as a beautiful and well-ordered home, with a “smooth-shaven lawn,” “ornamental shrubs,” and “what had once been a conservatory.”

Here, and in her subsequent description of the the house’s “desolate and uncomfortable” appearance, its boarded-up windows, and, finally, at the close of this installment, the revelation of a “dark wild face” at the window (later revealed to be Cassy), Stowe begins her deployment of the gothic setting and other gothic elements which will characterize events in the final chapters of the novel. Writing specifically about Stowe, as well as other authors, Teresa Goddu situates the American gothic tradition “within specific sites of historical haunting, most notably slavery,” noting that, “American gothic literature criticizes America’s national myth of new-world innocence by voicing the cultural contradictions that undermine the nation’s claim to purity and equality” (2). Stowe’s use of this gothic machinery will reach its culmination in chapter 42, “An Authentic Ghost Story,” in which Cassy and Emmeline, dressed as ghosts, haunt the Legree plantation en route to their escape to the north, contributing in no small measure to Legree’s untimely demise in the process.

Notes

1Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790 – 1860 (New York: Oxford, 1986), 138.
2. Teresa Goddu, Gothic America: Narrative, History, and Nation, (New York: Columbia UP, 1997), 10.  For an overivew of gothic elements in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, see Karen Halttunen, “Gothic Imagination and Social Reform: The Haunted Houses of Lyman Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe,” in New Essays on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, ed. Eric Sundquist (New York: Cambridge UP, 1986), 107 – 134.

[Continue reading the full text of  Les Harrison’s commentary here.]

How did Stowe connect this chapter to real-life stories? Find out here!

Check out the top news stories, this week in 1852, here!


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