Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
After Alfred St. Clare and Henrique's departure from the St. Clare mansion, young Eva's health begins to fail rapidly. One day she tells Tom she would gladly die if her "dying would end all this misery" (implying slavery). Talking seriously to her father, she tells him the lives of the slaves are filled with only "pain and sorrow." She makes him promise that if she should die, he will free all his slaves, especially Tom.
One Sunday afternoon after Miss Ophelia, Eva, and Tom return from a Methodist meeting, they find that Topsy has cut her bonnet trimming to pieces, instead of studying the hymns. Eva asks Topsy what makes her so bad and whether she loves anybody. Topsy says she has a wicked heart and no one to love. She is incredulous when Eva tells her that Miss Ophelia would love her if she would only allow it. Topsy replies: "Nobody love niggers." Eva then tells Topsy that she loves her and puts her arms around her. "A ray of heavenly love touches" Topsy and she weeps and sobs. Miss Ophelia herself realizes how she has always been prejudiced against blacks. She had never been able to bear to touch Topsy, but all along she has fooled herself into thinking Topsy hasn't noticed.
This chapter reveals Eva with Christ-like implications. Her constant purity already a given, in this chapter she even offers to die for the sake of her slaves. With maturity beyond her years, she pleads with her father to free the slaves if she dies. She is sensitive to the core; this is revealed when she compares the slaves' longing for their own children to her father's fondness for her.
Further, she transforms the lives of two people previously untouched by emotion or love: Miss Ophelia and Topsy. Because of Eva's actions, Miss Ophelia comes face to face with her own prejudices and moves closer to Christian love for the unruly black child she has been given to educate. And also because of Eva, Topsy's "wicked heart" is transformed by love. Even Miss Ophelia refers to Eva as a "Christ-like" being.
Whereas Eva accepts her imminent death stoically, her father St. Clare is intentionally blind to this unwelcome truth. Marie St. Clare is as selfish as ever; she does not even notice Eva's failing health because she is under the illusion that no one can be a greater sufferer than she can. When she does acknowledge Eva's illness, she reacts by making things more difficult for St. Clare and the servants. Her maternal instincts do not run very deep. She even complains to her husband that he cares more about Eva than her.