’s Deconstruction Of The Theory Of White Supremacy Essay, Research Paper

Stowe?s Deconstruction of the Theory of White Supremacy

In the novel, Uncle Tom?s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe unmasks the unjust and unfair treatment of blacks by whites during the time in which she lived. Stowe goes on to criticize American slave owners for their irrational justifications of slavery. They use racial superiority and sub-human categorization of blacks as means of justifying slavery. She deconstructs the theory of white supremacy in her emotional and thought provoking novel. Stowe demonstrates in her depiction of the beating of the slaves how they are inhumanely treated as animals. She also uses many slave and master relationships in order to demonstrate society?s belief of racial superiority.

Under the institution of slavery, not all men are created equal. There is the dominant force, the master, and there is the submissive one, the slave. Most slave owners believed that the submissive and dominant characteristic were innate according to race. Stowe refutes this belief by portraying a slave, George Harris, which is smarter than his master is. This illustration undermines the concept of racial superiority in the fact that whites believed that they were innately superior to blacks. Stowe states that George is ?in the eye of the law not a man, but a thing, all of these superior qualifications were subject to the control of a vulgar narrow-minded, tyrannical master?(11). George invented a machine at work that his boss thought was a way to get out of work and a ?labor-saving machine?(12). George is taken out of the factory and put to work. Later, he asks the unspoken question of the ?who made him my master??(15). Stowe uses a black man to criticize the entire concept of slavery. She speaks through George?s character in order to pose the question to society. By using him, Stowe is able to startle her readers early on in the novel to the dreadful relationship between master and slave. A relationship in which a slave is not allowed human rights. George goes on to criticize his master by saying that ?I?m a better man than he is ? and I?ve learned it all myself, and no thanks to him, –I?ve learned it in spite of him; and now what right has he to make a dray-horse of me? ?(Stowe 15). Stowe uses George to reveal that blacks were able to have human emotions and human worth.

The ideology of the time clearly demonstrates the belief in racial superiority in which intelligence prevails in whites. Whites therefore feel that it is their duty to help those not as fortunate as they. The paternalistic relationship that was established between whites and blacks can be described in that ?the supposedly more intelligent whites would take care of the supposedly less intelligent blacks. In return, the blacks offered their labor and their unswerving loyalty?(Gosset 349). This relationship is depicted in the same way in which children are protected by and loyal to their parents. The paternalistic view supports Stowe?s argument that slave owners believed that they were superior to their slaves. Despite the ?poetic legend of a patriarchal institution? it is ?impossible to make anything beautiful or desirable in the best-regulated administration of slavery?(Stowe 8). Stowe states that ?there is, actually nothing to protect the slave?s life, but the character of the master?(438). In the unjust system of slavery, the only one that can protect the slave is the one that harms him the most, his master.

The idea of racial superiority is also seen in the way that the slaves are compared to animals. Stowe demonstrates how slaves are thought to be sub-human and pet-like by comparing them to dogs. Early in the first chapter of the novel, the author introduces us to the racial ideology of Mr. Haley. He is talking about taking a child away from his or her mother when he says ?these critters an?t like white folks, you know; they gets over things, only manage right?(Stowe 5). Haley does not believe that a black woman can care as much about her child as a white woman. Stowe interjects her criticism of this racial prejudice and goes on to point out that Haley and Mr. Shelby consider themselves humanitarians. In actuality, both could be nothing further than the truth. Stowe illustrates that some owners thought that there was a ?humane? way of slavery. The reader is shown that it is irrational to think that enslavement of another human being is not justifiable at all. After he compares slaves to critters, he then compares them to pups. In the novel, he goes on to say that ?they is raised as easy as any kind of critters there is going; they an?t a bit more trouble than pups?(Stowe 125). The fact that they are compared to critters and pups illustrates the shallow and prejudice mentality of slave owners. It is cruel and inhumane that they can remotely consider black human beings to be animals.

Mr. Haley is not the only one in the novel that treats the slaves as animals. Simon Legree refers to Uncle Tom as a dog, and he tells two other slaves to ?give this dog such a-breakin? in as he won?t get over this month?(Stowe 356). The beatings reinforce to Legree the idea that he is superior to Tom, and he maintains control over his slaves. Simon?s mistreatment of Tom illustrates the cruelty of slavery and the way it is a merciless institution in which power and ownership over others is the ultimate goal. Slaves are stripped of their human characteristics and are referred to as objects. According to some, slaves are no more men than a dog and neither one deserve humane treatment. Legree takes the beating of his slaves to the extreme. He treats his slaves worse than any others portrayed in the novel. His cruel treatment surpasses that of any animals. Legree goes so far as to kill Tom because of his lack of obedience. Stowe takes this opportunity to depict slavery at its worst. She says ?what man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear?(411). Stowe?s takes this opportunity to show slave owners the brute reality of this institution that they are preserving.

Despite the fact that slavery does allow for the inequality between men and for the creation of roles as master and slave, Tom proves that there is one thing that slavery cannot allow ownership of: his soul. He makes a heart-wrenching speech when he is being beaten by his master, Simon Legree. Legree ask Tom ?an?t I yer master? Didn?t I pay down twelve hundred dollars cash?? An?t yer mine, now, body and soul??(Stowe 355). This illustrates how materialistic the institution of slavery is to think that one can buy someone?s soul. If all men are equal, then there can never be a price set for someone?s soul or body. Tom refutes Legree by saying ?no! no! no! My soul an?t yours, Mas?r! You haven?t bought it, -ye can?t buy it! ? no matter, you can?t harm me?(356). Tom proves that Legree really has no power over him because he does not own his soul; God owns his soul. Simon can no longer control Tom physically, and his spirit, mind, and body are now free through death.

Tom triumphs over the evils of slavery by realizing that he is equal to his master, if not better. Through Tom Stowe is able to show society that blacks are equal and that they should be treated with the same rights that all other humans are treated. The attitudes of racial inequality permeated from society directly into the novel reemphasizing Stowe?s critique of white supremacy. Slave owners justify this cruel institution by categorizing blacks as sub-human and believing that they are racially superior. Stowe urges Southerners to look with in themselves and see if what they are doing is right. She asks them ?have you not, in your own secret souls ? felt that there were woes and evils in this accursed system??(440). This novel is intended to inform the readers about the tragedies of slavery and the inhumanity of the institution of slavery. Stowe deconstructs the theory of white supremacy by analyzing the sub-human categorization of blacks and the belief of racial superiority. She writes an emotional and accurate depiction of ?God?s curse on slavery!-a bitter, bitter, most accursed thing! -a curse to the master and a curse to the slave!?(33). Nothing good can come out of such a ?deadly evil? in which one asserts power over the other in order to maintain racial superiority.


Donovan, Josephine. Uncle Tom?s Cabin: Evil, Affliction, and Redemptive

Love. Boston: Twayne Publishers, .

Gossett, Thomas F. Uncle Tom?s Cabin and American Culture. Southern

Methodist University Press, 1985

?Racial Essentialism,? American Quarterly, v.46, #4, December 1994.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom?s Cabin. New York: Bantam Books,



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