Essay, Research Paper
Bibliographical Data: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Written by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
446 pages. Published by Bantam Books
First published in 1851-52. It has never gone out of
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote this novel during the time of the debates that lead to the Civil War and near the time of the Compromise of 1850. The book provides a defiant protest against the social and political conditions of that era. The division between the northern industrial states and the southern agrarian states was very prominent and apparent. There was fierce competition between them. This lead to differing viewpoints about slavery. The competition helped the South justify it and gave the North reason to denounce it. Information like this is not provided by the author because her target audience at the time she wrote the story was living through these conflicts. To make up for this, I would suggest that before reading this work you have at least a minimal knowledge of the aspects of slavery and its geographical distribution in early America. Also, it is important to have basic understanding of the Christian faith and its two major kinds of believers at the time. There were those who believed that all were equal and that all had souls that were to be treated with compassion, and those who argued that God had created them superior to all blacks. Keep in mind that Mrs. Stowe was living through all of what is in her story. So while providing social, political, and religious commentary, she also spatters her work with racism and subtle bigotry that would not be found in most modern writing.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a novel about how trust in God can conquer great obstacles, including the pain of slavery. The main character shows this to us through the story of his life. He is a gentle, pious slave who has been promised freedom but is sold by his kind master to a hardened and unfeeling trader. Separated from those who he loves, he is forced to be submitted to a cruelty that only his trust in the Lord can carry him through. Despite his own suffering he brings hope to others, always trusting and believing in his own eternal life granted to him by Jesus Christ. Suffused throughout is brilliant commentary on the world Stowe is depicting.
The author creates vivid, complete images of all the characters’ opinions, appearances, and backgrounds. Because of this, we quickly feel either compassion or hate for all the players in this story. In addition, Stowe creates brilliant dialogue that draws us into the interactions between characters. While some might find the speech of certain characters hard to read, the author does an excellent job of showing us exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling through their speech. “‘I think so, Mas’r ‘ said Tom; ‘the poor crittur’s sick and feeble; ‘twould be downright cruel, and it’s what I never will do, raising my hand agin any one here, I never shall,- I’ll die first!’” (pg. 355)
Along with this, the book is written with a style that is uncommon now. The story is told in third person but the author often speaks to both the reader and the characters in a very personal manner. Sometimes she addresses you as one would a dear friend. “In such a case you write your wife, and send messages to your children ” (pg. 142) This creates a feeling of involvement in the story that one does not often find when reading. These are some of the positive aspects of the book that make it a spiritual, intellectual and entertaining experience.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin explores the many facets of mankind’s relations to other humans. With her penetrating writing, the author drives us to ask many questions of ourselves: What side would we be on in the issue of slavery? How would we feel growing up in a home that owned slaves? How would we interact and treat members of the black race? Along with these provocative ideas, Stowe constantly laces her writing with political, social, and religious commentary. This commentary is remarkable for her time. Slaves were finally given human qualities and emotions. First printed in 1851, the novel forced many people of this time to stop and really think about the issues surrounding slavery, as we must also do today in regard to racism and hate toward any race or minority. Today, Stowe’s words are just as applicable as when they were first composed.