My Impressions From Uncle Tom’s Cabin

The book that was once said to have been the cause of the civil war, has become one of the most important historical books in its time and for many reasons rightfully. It brought light to a very controversial topic at that point in time known as slavery. Throughout the book, one can see slavery portrayed as one of the worst things to ever come in touch in humanity.

It made people wonder how it was possible to treat other human beings as horribly as they were treated. The conditions that slaves had to live in day in and day out were unbearable, and no matter what they had to live with this, it was their destiny all because of a factor they could not change, the color of their skin. From the very beginning of the book, the reader can see examples of how slaves were treated poorly. The harsh treatment of slaves included, but was not limited to, being forcefully removed from their families, working for little or no pay, being worked to a point past exhaustion, and harsh punishments. In the book, scenarios, where slave owners are kind to their workers, are present but things do change, and one comes to the realization that having a caring owner was something scarce.

 When the book first begins, readers were introduced to the main characters, and they were given some background information. The book consists of one central family that has slaves on their land, but these slave owners are not like most, this family is uncommonly kind and treat their slaves with some dignity. Readers then find out about a major problem with Mr. Shelby and are heartbroken along with Mrs. Shelby when the master is forced to sell two of his salves. Mr. Shelby tried his hardest, and we can see this in page 10, to keep the slaves the trader wanted, and this is evident when he says, “I would rather not sell him the fact is sir, I’m a humane man, and I hate to take the boy from his mother sir.”  The master had some sympathy that other slaves owners might not have dared to show, for they saw their slaves as nothing but property, and on page 10 Haley says to Mr. Shelby  ” this kind o’ trade is hardening to the feelings; but I never found it so,”  but by showing the attachment that the master and his wife had to most of their slaves, the reader cannot help but be devastated when the deal is done and signed.

Although the family that owns the slaves that were already introduced in the first few chapters seemed like the ideal family to be bought into, things quickly take a turn for the worse. By writing about a scenario such as this one, Harriet Beecher Stowe made sure to let all the readers know that there is no way slavery could be right. No matter how good the slaves were being treated by their masters, there was nothing that could justify the laws of slavery. Harriet Beecher Stowe made this very clear when she used Mrs. Shelby to express this on page 51, “This is Gods curse on slavery! I was a fool to think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil. It is a sin to hold a slave under laws like ours” It was evident from as early as chapter five that Beecher Stowe did not believe that any part of slavery was right or could ever work out. She knew that something had to be done and whether she meant to or not she caused a revolution by shining such a bright light on an issue affecting the nation as a whole.

 As a reader, it is very shocking to see that such a young character such as Eva can make such an impact. By putting in the child and her point of view, the readers perspective is introduced to something not often heard about. Eva had been raised with servants her whole life practically, and her family was wealthy enough to buy some of the best slaves in the market, and she had also been brought up getting anything she wanted, and when she lost something, it was quickly replaced. Regardless of every privilege she had, Eva remained such a humble character, and it was easily seen when she was felt love for all of the servants in her home. “She felt, too, for those fond, faithful servantsthe things she had witnesses of the evils of the system under which they were living had fallen not the depths of her thoughtful, pondering heart. She had vague longings to do something for them, – to bless and save not only them, but all in their condition” (Beecher Stowe, pg. 407). In the same chapter, Miss Eva talks about the inhumane things she saw on the boat. Clearly, the things she saw were horrifying to her as a child that she was willing to die if she could put an end to the suffering the servants everywhere were dealing with. She knows that not every slave owner is as kind as her and treats their people with how her family treats her slaves. She sees that ” other poor creatures have nothing but pain and sorrow, all their lives; -it seems selfish” (Beecher Stowe, pg. 410). It troubles Eva not to know how to end the epidemic she had seen. She longs for a solution to the brutal treatment of the human beings of different skin color.

 Lastly, Tom is sold to one more slave owner who is not as kind as two of his previous masters. The new man in possession of Tom did not hesitate to discipline his slaves and saw them as nothing more than a piece of property. The sad reality though, was that most slave owners were not much different than Legree. The majority of slave masters would not hesitate for one second to end the life of a disobedient slave. Legree’s way of handling his people was very atrocious and cold-blooded. However, at that point in history, all of it was acceptable. “Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart. What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear And yet, oh my country! These things are done under the shadow of thy laws!” (Beecher Stowe, pg. 613).

 The casualties caused by slavery affected hundreds of families. Slavery created the separation of families, the abuse of women and children; men were overworked with little to no pay and severe punishments. Harriet Beecher Stowe did a fantastic job by creating such a touching storyline. The readers get attached to the characters in the story hoping that they get the freedom they long for. Stowe was able to display the unfortunate events that were part of slavery in such a vivid way, and I believe this was what inspired Americans nationwide to take a stand and defend what was right. People living in the north might have had no idea of the cruel life’s slaves were living but when this book was published the truths became revealed, and this caused outrage and for an excellent cause. After reading this book, a reader feels inspired to make a change for the sakes of the characters in this book which would have given anything to make the United States a free nation.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Anti-Slavery Novel

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is an anti-slavery novel that was written in 1850. Its purpose was to reveal and expose the brutality of slavery, which in turn, had a significant impact on many people. It laid the groundwork for the Civil War as it increased tension between abolitionists and slave owners, and affected the nation as a whole when abolitionists hardened their protests and slavery became less and less popular.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin received much criticism from many other novelists and critics. James Arthur Baldwin, an American novelist and critic wrote an essay titled “Everybody’s Protest Novel”  in which he negatively criticized Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He argued that it was “a very bad novel” because it was too sentimental and wasn’t centralized enough on the struggle of slaves. However, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is a great novel that relies on sentimentality to give an insight to the life and treatment of slaves, and to force readers to feel that slavery must be wrong rather than solely thinking it.

 Stowe’s incorporation of sentimentality in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, allows the reader to see clearly the brutality with which slaves were treated and how they reacted to this treatment. This cruelty is depicted when Lucy’s child is taken away from her: “… she sprung to the side of the boat, in hopes that,… she might see her husband… the woman returned to her old seat. The trader was sitting there, the child was gone!” (Stowe 146). Mr. Haley quickly took the sleeping child when Lucy wasn’t looking, so that the child wouldn’t make a fuss and Lucy wouldn’t try to stop Haley from selling her son. Words cannot describe the look of horror on Lucy’s face as she processed what had happened, it was almost as though she had been shot directly through the heart. This

 Moreover, Harriet Beecher Stowe convinces readers of Uncle Tom’s Cabin that slavery is wrong, by addressing them directly and playing to their emotions. When the slave Eliza runs away from her master and mistress in order to save her son from being sold, Stowe tries to put the reader in her shoes: “If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you… how fast could you walk?”

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Controversial Book

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was a very controversial book. People in the North and the South reacted differently to the book. North realized just how bad slave life was but Southerns just tried harder to justify the establishment.

This book gave me more of an insight on the topic of slavery because throughout my schooling history we didn’t get too in depth on it. This book is extremely sad but it also has a lot of happiness for the slaves who make it out and survive. In this essay I am going to talk about how this book shaped my opinion on slavery, the feelings of the North, and the feelings of the South.

        Now that I’m in college I’m learning a lot more things more in depth. In high school and middle school there are a lot of things that they choose to not talk about.

Of course I knew about slavery, who doesn’t? I just didn’t realize it was such a big problem. Not going to lie, I used to think it was annoying that people brought up slavery still because everyone was enslaved at one point but this book made me so sad to read how these people were being treated. Also in class learning about how it was such a big issue to the South to let go of their slaves. They wanted to keep them and some slave owners had hundreds and hundreds. A lot of slave owners treated their slaves very horrible but I learned that some also treated them relatively well. They didn’t have many freedoms and they were being forced to work for literally nothing. Sure, they had a place to live and were given food but they didn’t actually get anything out of it and they were being held captive on these plantations. You couldn’t run away because there were slave catchers and sometimes they would actually be murdered for running away. This book made me extremely sad. Tom was such a nice and honest guy and he was murdered by his new owner for encouraging two girls to escape. Then, right after his old owners son comes to free him but it is too late because he has already died. He was so close to freedom without even knowing it and then he was murdered. I now understand why people say it was so bad because it was. I wish slavery never happened, it was so wrong.

        The North didn’t have slaves and they weren’t worried too much about them, most wouldn’t report them if they seen them in the North even though it was a possibility that they were runaways. most Northerners had never witnessed slavery firsthand. Most Northern whites had no idea of how brutal slavery could be. (Ohio History Central). Most whites in the North didn’t know just how bad slavery was but this book shined a light on how bad it actually was. “Slavery, anti-slavery in the North was a very unpopular topic. She brought it to the hearts of millions of northerners and at the same time, she made southerners come to the defense of slavery to a degree they never had before, so she sharpened the debate. She crystallized that debate that led to the Civil War ”  (Reynolds). This book helped more people want to outlaw slavery because this book showcased what some slaves were going through on a daily basis. The North became to sympathize more with slavery. Even if they were already anti-slavery most people in the North weren’t actually very open about it because it was still a controversial topic. Uncle Tom’s Cabin shaped the political scene by making the North, formerly largely hostile for the anti-slavery reform, far more open to it than it had been. The novel … directly paved the way for the public’s openness to an antislavery candidate like Lincoln. (Reynolds). Uncle Tom’s Cabin created a sort of revolution in the North of them supporting anti-slavery openly. This made it easier for a candidate like Lincoln to get in office because there was more people against than for slavery. The North was officially against slavery and it caused great problems between them and the South.

        The South did not want to give up their slaves. They wanted to keep them and did not think it was wrong to do so. The outrage caused by Stowe’s book in South was significant because it exemplified the schism between what southerners thought about northerners, what northerners thought about southerners, and the truth. (History Engine). The South tried to argue that the North had the same prejudices as them but this book and the reactions from the two different sides choose to prove otherwise. The South believed that Stowe was over exaggerating on just how bad slavery was in the South. Stowe claims to have did extensive research before writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A little Yankee woman wrote a book. The single act of that woman’s will caused the war, killed a million men, desolated and ruined the South, and changed the history of the world. (Dixon)

Emotions Afre Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin

I have read [Uncle Tom’s Cabin] with the deepest interest and sympathy, and admire, more than I can express to you, both the generous feeling which inspired it, and the admirable power with which it is executed (Dickens, 523),  where shall we find creations more complete, types more vivid, situations more touching, more original, than in Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ (Sand, 524), It is plain that no immediate literary success, tried by the ordinary standards, was ever greater than this (The Nation, 525).  These are just some of the few opinions of people who have read this amazing novel. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a fiction novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, an American abolitionist and author, which is centered on the antebellum era and the system of slavery in the 19th century. The novel talks about various slaves and the treatment they get by their masters during this period of time in the South.

One of the main characters is a slave named Uncle Tom; Uncle Tom is the biggest slave that the novel revolves around. Tom is a middle aged man who at the beginning of the story is a slave to his masters, Arthur and Emily Shelby, Uncle Tom’s masters treat him well but they later sell him to a slave trader, making Uncle Tom switch and switch masters until his death. Uncle Tom’s determination to not give up on his beliefs as a Christian man and his willingness to help others even when the circumstances he is in make it a danger for him, are a few of the reasons why he is such an important role in this novel. Another main character in this novel is Eliza; Eliza is a young slave woman who runs away with her son, Harry, after hearing her masters, Arthur and Emily Shelby, talk about how they are selling Harry to a salve trader. Throughout the book the reader follows both of Uncle Tom’s and Eliza’s journeys. What they go through and what they have to suffer in each of their masters hands during the system of slavery in the 19th century.

        The reader can first see the unfairness of the system of slavery in the first chapter of the book. In the first chapter of the book Arthur and Emily Shelby, Uncle Tom’s masters, are discussing about how they are going to give Uncle Tom to a slave trader along with Eliza’s son, Harry. The unfairness shown in this particular chapter is that slaves like Uncle Tom, Eliza, and Harry had no say in what their masters did with them. After Eliza talks to Mrs. Shelby asking her not to sell Harry, Mrs. Shelby promises not to, because she complains about how she does not like the idea of slavery at all. Kind-hearted Mr. and Mrs. Shelby have no other option, but to sell Uncle Tom in order to keep their property, while Eliza decides to run away with Harry because she does not want Harry separated from her. Mr. and Mrs. Shelby don’t do anything about Eliza’s escape because they think she did the right thing by fleeing instead of seeing her child be taken away from her.

        The unfairness of slavery in this novel is also portrayed in chapter seven. In chapter seven the reader sees how Eliza and Harry are doing on their escape. The book states Eliza’s thoughts by stating this, the danger of her child, all blended in her mind, with a confused and stunning sense of the risk she was running, in leaving the only home she had ever known, and cutting loose from the protection of a friend whom she loved and revered (Stowe, 57). Eliza is near the Ohio River, alone in the middle of nowhere and holding on to Harry so dearly that she is afraid to let go. While Uncle Tom is during his last meal, prepared by his wife Chloe, because the slave trader will come for him, Chloe is destroyed because she does not know if she will see her husband again. The unfairness is seen that not just Eliza and Uncle Tom as fictional characters had to suffer great trials, like for example Eliza who fled alone with her young son but also how Uncle Tom suffers by leaving his family and not really knowing whether he will be able to see anyone from his family again. Uncle Tom and Eliza as characters show symbolism that not just them but many other slaves during the antebellum era had to go through the same things. Slaves had to flee what they knew as home and had to endure wherever there masters told them to go, because they were not able to control whether or not they would be sold to another master one day, in other words no slave ever knew their future, and they lived day by day and sometimes each day making different decisions at a time.

        While Eliza and Harry are trying to live staying free, the story in the novel turns back to Uncle Tom. Uncle Tom and the slave trader, named Haley, are on their way South to sell Tom, but they must make a stop in order to get some rest and continue the next morning. Uncle Tom and Haley spend the night because Haley would buy more slaves the next day, in order to sell them to plantation farms along with Tom. Harriet Beecher Stowe shows once again the unfairness of slavery to the reader and demonstrates how slavery is portrayed in chapter twelve, Uncle Tom is chained by his feet in order for him to no be able to escape, like if he was an animal, in this scenario Haley leaves Uncle Tom’s hands free, but that was not the case in other circumstances of slaves and masters. The book states, However, the day wore on, and the evening saw Haley and Tom comfortably accommodated in Washington,  the one in a tavern, and the other in jail (Stowe, 136). The injustice shown in this chapter is that Tom is an honest Christian and an obedient hardworking man who follows instructions no matter what he is put to do, and even though he is all these great characteristics he is still chained as if he was a criminal and he is put in jail, putting to shame Uncle Tom’s dignity and self-respect. Haley is generous enough to not tie Tom’s hands and Tom’s character is even demonstrated greater because he does not complain about anything and following instructions about everything Haley says, he still thanks Haley for his generosity and compassion even though he is forced to spend the night sleeping in jail because the next morning both, Uncle Tom and Haley, would continue their journey to the South.

        Aside from Eliza’s and Uncle Tom’s sorrowful stories, the novel introduces a new slave called Prue. Prue is a woman who wears out her sorrows with alcohol, making her an alcoholic. Uncle Tom talks to her about Jesus Christ but as she listens she starts telling Uncle Tom her life story and why she has become an alcoholic. Prue states, Up in Kentuck. A man kept me to breed chill’en for market, and sold ’em as fast as they got big enough; last he sold me to a speculatorI had one child after I come here; and I thought then I’d have one to raise (Stowe, 250). Prue gets pregnant once she is sold again, but Prue’s master, who is ill, only wants Prue to take care of her and not the baby, the baby dies later of starvation. The author once again shows the reader how unfair it was for slaves in the time period, unfair that a master had to be the slave’s priority, some not wanting their slaves to have children. After Prue looses another baby she becomes and alcoholic and leaves Tom unhappy, but yet Uncle Tom still tries to save her and talk to her about Jesus Christ.

        Finally the ultimate act of unfairness during this period of time, is when the author shows, in the novel, the death of Uncle Tom. In chapters forty and forty one, Uncle Tom has got a new master called Legree. Legree unlike all other of Uncle Tom’s master, is cold-hearted and rude. One night some of Legree’s other slaves escape out of his plantation, the next morning Legree confronts Uncle Tom about what he knows in regards to the slaves escape. Uncle Tom refuses to speak, and is the beat up by his master. Legree later orders the plantation’s overseers to continue the beating of Tom until he says something. Uncle Tom is beat up all night, until he is finally put in a shed to rest. The novel states, Tom had been lying two days since the fatal night; not suffering, for every nerve of suffering was blunted and destroyed (Stowe, 479). Tom dies later in the book due to the horrible beating his master had given him. This is one of the final acts in the book that show the unfairness of slavery. Uncle Tom once again symbolizes many other slaves that were brutally beat by their master’s and how none of them could not do anything to defend themselves, they all had to endure whatever beating was given to them.

        In conclusion during the antebellum era, the system of slavery was a horrendous time for most of the African American people who lived in it. Harriet Beecher Stowe was an amazing novelist who in this book gave the reader a look at what many people had to suffer during this period of time, thanks to the amazing novel that is Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Thanks to this novel, written during the 1800s, many people had compassion and wanted to make a change, this is why Uncle Tom’s Cabin is said to have helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War.

Historical Context of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Fictional narrative can have the ability to change history. One of the greatest use of the power fictional narrative brings is Uncle Toms cabin, which made a great impact on americans beliefs in the ninteeth century. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Toms Cabin, was involved in many religious and feminist causes during the 1850’s.

Her book impacted the northern states in a remarkable way, by shedding light on the tension over slavery in the southern states. The fictional novel focused on slave life during the 1850’s and is thought to be one of the triggers that led to the civil war. The northern states were unaware of the effects of slavery in the south, therefore, Stowe wrote the book as a message that exposed the evils and horrific actions of slavery.


  • 1 General Historical Context
  • 2 Historical Issues by the Time of Writing
  • 3 Author Background and the Book Summary

General Historical Context

During the early years, most vulnerable nations and communities across the world were subjected to slavery and harsh working condition by their colonialists among other superior countries such as Roman and Greek empires. In America, Africans who were considered as the abled and healthiest human were imported from the Africa continent to help the nation building. The slaves were denied their rights to freedom of expression while exposing the rebellious slaves to extreme punishment. The slaves in the early 18th century were regarded as a source of cheap labor engaging in sizeable private plantations in the growing of lucrative crops such as cotton, rice, and tobacco. Often, the masters conceptualized and considered the slaves as property, equating them to a flock of livestock which subject to auctioning to other masters at will.[1] During the auction, men and women faced a grieving moment as they received cruel treatment; both men and women required striping for the physical examination infringing on their right to privacy.

The wealthy families with more than 50 acres of land had approximately 50 to 100 slaves working on the farms.[2] Only a small percentage of captives got involved in domestic or other artisans tasks. For the slaves working as domestic servants, their duties included cooking for the family, acting as nursemaids or coachmen. Similarly, a small group of skilled artisans served as blacksmith or building and maintenance personnel in the factories and mills. Due to the harsh working condition and poor diet, a significant number of the slaves lost their lives, many dies after succumbing to injuries and other due to long painful and untreated illness. The enslaved population infants who were not endorsed by their masters died due to poor diet and higher exposer to respiratory diseases, diarrhea, and dysentery among other common ailments. In most territories, a considerable number of Americans considered the act of slavery as a successful initiative since the slaves were a source of cheap labor and therefore guaranteeing a maximum return. However, some of the slaves often forged illness to be exempted from working which intern resulted in reduced production. After the American Revolution begun in the late 17th century, many slaves were able to escape bondage while half of the abled men choose to join the forces. [3] The states on the north which had a different notion regarding slavery abolished slave trade on based of being inhuman. The slave’s masters perceiving slavery as a cruel act also enacted on the move to free the slaves embracing the process labelled as manumission.

Historical Issues by the Time of Writing

During the time the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written, the slave trade was on the rise. More and more vulnerable individuals and groups ended up being plantation slave working under punitive environment. The grief for the parent who lost their families persisted causing intense agony to their lives. In the 1850s, the fugitives who were at liberty to engage in the religious gathering were no longer allowed to worship in the churches together with the white, and consequently, the disbandment of the Negro churches followed. The dismissal of the places of worship indicated that the slaves have no right to worship leading to initiation of a plan to free from the country. The southern region was the most affected with a good number of slaves running to Canada in early 1850s after the introduction of the Fugitive Slave Law which lead to the reduction of the congregation. [4] There as the initiation of several overwhelming debates by the intellectual congress member regarding the never-ending slavery and the notion of putting the act to an end. Delegates from the southern region meet in Nashville with an agenda to address the issue of secession. After the meeting, moderate voices could speak about the idea openly with the recession seemingly becoming a definite possibility. Similarly, during the time of writing, several omnibus bills and laws highlighting on a notion to detach from slavery resulted to division among the Mexican-American territories and led to war after the introduction of regulation by David Wilmot who speculated slavery as illegal and will not permit in the region. [5] In 1849, The California territory which had made tremendous growth during the gold rush petitioned to join the union as a free state but the plea failed as the admission of California would weaken slavery in the southern states but increase the coercive capabilities of the northern region. [6] Also, during the time Harriet Beecher was writing the book, the slaves who chose to move to the north and begin a new life suffered as the law of the day was not in their favor. In many occasions, the slaves who opted to move to the neighboring countries via the Underground Railroad steered by Harriet Tubman had a chance to escape to freedom with the once unlucky being recaptured and reverted to slavery where they were no right to plead whatsoever.

Author Background and the Book Summary

Harriet Beecher Stowe, an American author, well known for the Uncle Tom’s Cabin a book covering the aspect of slavery during the early 1850s. Harriet family constituted of educators, ministers, and novelists who influenced her authorship during her early age. Harriet writing talent began in her twenties through her contribution in articles and publication writing. The husband Calvin was also a core contributor to Harriet success by providing both emotional and financial support to the family. In her early life, Harriet becomes angered by the state of slavery in the nation which as a result led to the demise of Lovejoy an articles publisher and a friend after publishing a paper against the intemperance while she was still living in Illinois. Later on, a family member vividly remembers and states Harriet utterances on how she chooses to write a something that would treble the nation and make slave masters guilty of their action of which she did in 1852. [7]

The Uncle Tom’s Cabin features an African-American slave Uncle Tom, Harry, Eliza, George, Shelby among others. The Novel begins when the Shelby family decides to sell two of their slave due to the economic difficulties, one being Harry and also Uncle Tom. Uncle Tom a hard-working slave together with Harry and Eliza a slave at Shelby house decides to runs to Canada taking the Underground Railroad to freedom. Mr. Haley discovers Eliza ran and decided to follow her to the river where Eliza jumps from slabs of ice to another until she and Harry reach the other side of the river and receives a warm welcome in a Quaker family. All this time Mr. Shelby and the wife who slept late at night after a lengthy discussion woke up and went toward Eliza’s door and after knocking severally the Shelby says I wonder what keeps Eliza, not knowing Eliza had left together with the Tom and Harry. [8] Uncle Tom displays his noble character after being sold to a New Orleans where he becomes friends with Eva, a good-hearted girl who decides to call Uncle Tom, I mean to call you Uncle Tom because I like you, said Eva after he introduced himself as Tom. [9] A girl Tom later saves after falling into the river. As assign of gratitude, Eva’s father decides to buy Uncle Tom where he ends up on a plantation and lives a considerably pleasant and comfortable life. Before Eva death, she ensures that her father promises to guarantee the release of all the slaves Uncle Tom being among them. Later after the release of Tom, Shelby finds him before his demise in the hands of George where after severally emphasizing that Degree requires facing the law for killing slaves, George realizes slavery is evil and goes back home to release all the slaves. Harry and Eliza live a good life after their release with Harry enrolling in a school while Cassy, Eliza’s’ Mother moves to Liberia to join her family. Harriet in his final argument elucidates there rise a need for the Christians from the south and the north to stand firm and condemn the spirit of slavery in America.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a Romantic Racialist Novel

The cultural repercussions of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, are undeniable. Uncle Tom’s Cabin became one of the most widely read and profoundly penetrating books of the nineteenth century. Richard Yarborough remarked that, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the epicenter of a massive cultural phenomenon, the tremors of which still affect the relationship of blacks and whites in the United States” (Levine, 524). As a novel that impacted the American perceptions of racial identity and character so greatly, one would hope that the truth was presented. Instead, Stowe’s strikingly influential novel was a romantic racialist text, which mirrored nineteenth century white racial ideology. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was successful in arousing sympathy for the enslaved and may have strengthened the abolitionist cause. But, ultimately Stowe’s portrayal of the enslaved paralleled the romantic racialist ideas common to her time.The doctrine of romantic racialism, as presented by George M. Fredrickson in his essay, Romantic Racialism in the North, proposes that racial differences exist without inherent hierarchy (Fredrickson, 430). In his essay, Fredrickson outlined various beliefs about the differences between blacks and whites. Caucasians on the other hand were portrayed, in romantic racialist thought, to be aggressive, domineering, and yearning to conquer (Fredrickson, 431). The submissive black was the portrayal of the typical enslaved person. The enslaved were thought to be docile, meek, faithful, and childlike. Fredrickson goes on to describe Alexander Kinmont’s views of attributes of blacks,consisting of “lightheartedness, a natural talent for music, and above all a willingness to serve” (Fredrickson, 435). This “willingness to serve”, docility, and servility were all virtues of true Christians. A Unitarian clergyman, James Freeman Clarke, stated that blacks had “a strong religious tendency, and that strength of attachment which is capable of any kind of self-denial and self-sacrifice” (Fredrickson, 436). Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in an era and location that was steeped in romantic racialist thought. Kinmont expounded the doctrine of romantic racialism in Cincinnati, Ohio while Stowe was residing in the city. Kinmont’s influence on Stowe’s racial perceptions, reflected in her writing, is undeniable.If there is any question as to whether or not the novel is a romantic racialist text, one only has to look as far as Tom, the main character. Stowe depicted Tom, the docile and pious slave, as an admirable and sympathetic character, willing to sacrifice everything for the common good, his faith, and his master. His traits resemble those in romantic racialist thought. Stowe’s depiction of Tom as a strong, kind man who also possessed a “humble simplicity” (18) falls into the classic romantic racialist characterization of blacks as simple and childlike. Tom refuses to run away upon hearing the news he had been sold by Mr. Shelby into the cruel hands of Haley, an incorrigible slave trader. He chooses not to run for the sake of the rest of the slave’s on the Shelby plantation and out of faithfulness to his master. Tom’s willingness to serve and Christian virtue are depicted throughout the novel. To reassure his wife Chloe that all will be all right, Tom says, “There’ll be the same God there, Chloe, that there is here” (Stowe, 81). Tom’s faith in God and docility does not falter even when he is betrayed by his master and torn from his family. Tom’s passivity is due to his deep religious values, which compels him to love everyone and selflessly endure great pain throughout his life. Stowe depicts the protagonist of her novel, to be a prototypical enslaved person, according to the precepts of romantic racialism. Tom is humble, docile, faithful to his masters, a perfect Christian, and submissive. His “willingness to serve” is displayed by the description of him “standing wistfully examining the multitude of faces thronging around him, for one he would wish to call master” (Stowe, 289). The novel is focused around Tom’s behavior and morals. His virtues align with romantic racialist beliefs. It is unavoidable that it is a romantic racialist text.Stowe remarks that “…of all the races on the earth, none have received the gospel with such eager docility as the African. The principle reliance and unquestioning faith…is more native in this race than any other… whose abundance has shamed that of higher and more skillful culture” (Stowe, 343). This statement epitomizes romantic racialist thinking. It provides a glimpse into the supposed internal persuasions of the enslaved — it displays a difference between whites and blacks while not belittling personal qualities of either race.Caucasian characters within the novel also reflect romantic racialist thought. Both Haley and Simon Legree posses the stereotypical characteristics attributed to white men. Haley, the slave trader that purchases Tom from Mr. Shelby, is a harsh and merciless man. He pulls the families apart with no display of emotion or sympathy and speaks of the deaths of slaves as part of business, “Wal, yes, tol’able fast, ther dying is; what with the ‘climating and one thing and another, they dies so as to keep the market up pretty brisk” (Stowe, 86). This characterization of the white slave trader parallels with the romantic racialist depiction of white males as being aggressive, dominant, and materialistic (Fredrickson, 431). Simon Legree epitomizes the typical Caucasian male, in regards to romantic racialism. Legree is driven to assert his dominance over Tom. In one of the many confrontations between the Legree and Tom, Legree angrily says, “I’ll chase you down, yet, and bring you under…” (Stowe, 339). Legree yearned to dominate Tom, but Tom’s unconquerable faith and goodwill prevented the master from doing so. In order to assert his supremacy, Legree had to kill Tom — by having him beaten to death.Female characters, within Uncle Tom’s Cabin, are also held to romantic racialist stereotypes. Aunt Chloe, Tom’s wife, is depicted as a jovial cook who loves to serve. When the readers meet this character she is described as the typical “mammy”. Stowe portrays Aunt Chloe as fat, pitch black, and that when company came to the house it “awoke all the energies in her soul” (Stowe, 17). Another “mammy” characteristic that Aunt Chloe possessed was that she was the controller in her household, as displayed when reprimanding Mose and Pete, “Stop dat ar, now, will ye? Better mind yourselves, or I’ll take ye down a button-hole lower, when Mas’r George is gone!” (Stowe, 22). The “mammy” stereotype is not the only aspect of racialism attributed to Aunt Chloe. She also is assigned the trait of being “home-loving and affectionate” (Stowe, 82). In reference to Aunt Chloe’s distraught reaction to her husbands fate, Stowe remarks, “In order to appreciate the sufferings of the negroes sold south, it must be remembered that all the instinctive affections of that race are peculiarly strong” (Stowe, 82). This is an incredibly romantic racist comment. Stowe is saying that the “instinctive affections” are unique to that race. It touches back to the romantic racialist sentiment of racial differences without inherent hierarchy (Fredrickson, 430).It is also worth noting that the only slaves who rebelled against their masters were all of mixed race descent. George and Eliza Harris, as well as Legree’s servant Cassy, all escaped to the North and rid themselves of their white oppressors. This trend of the character’s actions can be attributed to the romantic racialist stereotypes of both blacks and whites. When these two races mixed and produced mulatto offspring, these people possessed the supposed attributes of both races. Eliza had a great “willingness to serve” her mistress and was devoutly religious, as displayed when she said to her husband, “…but, after all, he is your master…I always thought that I must obey my master and mistress, or I couldn’t be a good Christian” (Eliza 14)”(Stowe, 13-14). Conversely, all three mulatto characters had the aggressive and crafty characteristics (as defined by romantic racialist doctrines) of Caucasians. The mix of these supposed traits, produced characters that Stowe depicted as rebellious and victorious.Eva, the St. Claire’s virtuous daughter is depicted as a model of acceptance and goodness. The young girl is a perfect Christian who has one of the highest moral standings among all the characters of the novel. She deplores the institution of slavery and believes in equality. After befriending Tom, Eva becomes one of the most important figures in his life. In death, Eva becomes one of the text’s central Christ figures. Eva represents all that is good and perfect. She is a true abolitionist. She is also Caucasian. The perfect character, in a novel about slavery, is white. While most of the black characters possessed characteristics of weak, docile creatures. This undermines Stowe’s aspiration for her novel to be a bold abolitionist text.Even when faced with death, “Tom stood perfectly submissive…that submissive and silent man, whom taunts, nor threats, nor stripes, nor cruelties could disturb…Tom’s whole soul overflowed with compassion and sympathy for the poor wretches by whom he was surrounded” (342). At his demise, Tom was not allowed by Stowe to shed the romantic racialist characteristics put upon himself, and his whole race. The racial stereotypes that pervaded Stowe’s novel kept it from being a bold abolitionist work. The author may have succeeded in awakening sympathy within her Northern readership, but through the portrayal of her characters she greatly misrepresented the enslaved.

Denial of Womanhood in Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written during the period of boiling tumult that was to erupt into the Civil War, has struck it’s readers in more ways than one. Wildly popular, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was made into theatrical pieces and children’s books. Advertisers, using Uncle Tom sentiment for their own devises, employed Stowe’s unforgettable characters to sell their products. The nation was inundated with Uncle Tom. Although widely criticized by the southern press for a so-called lack of facts and over-reliance on sentiment, Stowe’s novel succeeded not only in moving people to sympathy for the enslaved but also fostered political action. The influence of her novel is great because it draws forth powerful sentiments and convinces the reader that these sentiments transcend racial differences. Stowe deftly draws from many sources of growing sentiment to do this. However, her portrayal of motherhood and her direct addresses to female readers on this topic was very powerful to 19th century mothers. Motherhood in Stowe’s time, with it’s newly evolved emotions and duties is presented by Stowe as something that can and does transcend race. No doubt envisioning her mother readers, Stowe appeals to the sentiments evoked by motherhood to present slavery as, among other things, a violation of a woman’s “divine and inherent duty” to herself, her children and her nation. This violation, as Stowe shows, in accordance with popular views of motherhood, can only lead to a population that is brutal, selfish, disobedient and unsympathetic.Mrs. Lydia Sigourney is the author of “Letters to Mothers,” an encompassing view of 19th century motherhood. Sigourney’s views were both popular and respected at the time of Stowe’s novel. At a time when children were beginning to live longer and childhood experiences and learning became more important, the duties and privileges of motherhood expanded. Letter I of Mrs. Sigourney’s publication outlines these privileges and duties. Sigourney encourages women to mold the “unformed character of their infants” (1). Only through a mother’s good influence, was it believed, could a child be able to develop into an intelligent and conscientious person.Stowe’s characters, showing from much to no maternal upbringing, are evidence of Sigourney’s conclusion. Chapter Twenty of Stowe’s novel is devoted to Topsy, a young girl of nine or ten bought by St. Clare. Topsy has known no maternal love and has suffered no pangs of sympathy for the plight of others. Her “wickedness” is great, and it is stated that she is an accomplished thief. Topsy has never cared for anyone because no one has cared for her. Like many slave children, maternal love was denied her, having been raised by a speculator on what amounted to a child-farm. Topsy wasn’t raised, but rather just “growed-up”. Slavery has created this tragic girl. Having been taken from her mother, whom Sigourney, with 19th century society, would say should have been her moral educator, Topsy is described as “so heathenish, as to inspire a good lady to utter dismay” (352). One may imagine the 19th century mother’s shock and scorn at the system which could allow this to happen.Mothers of the time were lead to believe that their duties were so great, and even divine, that denial of them was both inherently wrong and detrimental to the child and society. Topsy’s mother, having been denied the right to raise her and even to feel her child’s love, is most pitiful. Motherhood was popularized as both a duty and a privilege thought to emanate from a “Divine Source.” Sigourney goes back to ancient times to suggest that motherhood is the most natural occurrence and even holds to the terribly mistaken notion that being a mother is the most a woman can hope to be. She sites the dignity involved and compares it to “trifling amusements and selfish pleasures” which she feels only motherhood can lead away from. Although one can see the mistaken nature of these notions, one can imagine women a century ago accepting this rhetoric and living in accordance with it. Motherhood was not only one of the few things socially acceptable for a woman to be employed at, but was also dignified and extremely important. Teaching by example and influence was seen as a woman’s duty and it was repaid by the “transforming love” her children gave her. Stowe’s mothers could therefore feel for Topsy and her mother. Stowe has done an excellent job of proving to her readers that slaves have the same human sympathies and readers are called to feel for this novel’s poor women who have been denied their children, duty and privilege. Mothers who have lost young children are especially akin to the pain of slave mothers. Knowing a mother’s pain in losing a child, Stowe shows the pain wrought from a child being sold as equal, if not worse, than their death.Mothers and non-mothers alike are called to feel for Topsy and the society of people she represents. Everyone can see her “wickedness” and deduce what it is attributable to. Unlike other children, both white and black, raised with caring mothers, Topsy is disobedient and thievish. This distinction is important. Topsy is introduced to us only after we have seen the distinguished behaviors of Harry and the child-typical playful disobedience of Aunt Cloe’s children. This distinction allows readers to see that Topsy’s behavior is not racial but rather situational. Stowe shows that above all things denied Topsy as a slave, lack of a mother figure has had the greatest impact on her. Denial of a mother meant denial of mutual love. The children of Mrs. Bird obey her, not because she whips them but because they don’t want her to feel bad. Stowe shows that children obey out of mutual love and respect for their mothers. Topsy, having been denied the love of a mother is selfish and thievish and we are told that there are many others like her. Not only is this meant to be sad as it draws us into sympathy for slave mothers and children, but it also is meant to lead us to think of the slave problem in society. Instead of motherly love, many slaves were educated in “barbarism and brutality” (391). This problem is important to the North and South. Without refined sympathies in his slaves, a slaveholder can not hope to control them. The thought of this would have alerted northerners also. Even abolitionists wouldn’t have been happy with the thought of brute slaves killing their owners and escaping North. Sigourney writes of insubordination becoming a “prominent feature” in many cities and imparts upon her readers the need for “obedience – to be inculcated with increased energy, by those who have the earliest access to the mind.”Unfortunately slavery many times does not permit this to be the case. The injustice Stowe shows here is a violation of motherhood as understood by her first readers. What motherhood does and should entail according to 19th century writers like Sigourney often times was not permitted by the institution of slavery. Stowe’s success is due in a large part to her ability to draw in maternal sympathies. Called into sympathy and anger, I’m sure that many a view was changed by reading of the flagrant disregard for an institution believed to be so sacred, natural and important. The discount of which has led to a small version of society’s fear – a person educated by brutality and devoid of sympathy and morals – Stowe’s character Topsy.

A Theology of the Heart: Methodism in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin

While lying on her death bed, in Chapter 26 of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, little Eva says to the servants in her house who have gathered around her, “You must remember that each one of you can become angels” (418). In this chapter and the one before it, Eva has actively worked to make the people surrounding her into “angels,” taken here to mean one who is saved by God. In chapters 33 and 34 of Stowe’s book, Tom similarly works, though more quietly, to turn the other slaves at Simon Legree’s plantation into “angels.” Both of these scenes, and particularly the evangelical characters within them, reveal Stowe’s Methodist theology, a theology that rejects the predestination of earlier American Christianity. In Stowe’s theology “each one” of the people can be saved; God’s love is universal. Original sin still exists, but now an individual is given control to escape this sin by embracing God’s love. At the heart of the theology and the resultant morality that Tom and Eva evince, is a warm, knowable God, who is knowable through love, and the heart. Eva is the most explicit in explaining the dynamic between God and his people. She explains this by asking Topsy, “don’t you know that Jesus loves all alike? He is just as willing to love you, as me” (412). Earlier in the book Tom had asked a similar question to a downtrodden woman on the boat with him: “Han’t nobody never telled ye how the Lord Jesus loved ye, and died for you?” (324). God offers everyone this love, but it can only be claimed by loving God in return. Eva pleads with the people around her that they should, “pray every day,” (419) so that they can find God as she has. The way that Tom and Eva bring others to see this caring God is by acting in the same fashion as God‹by loving the people around them in the same way that Jesus did. When Eva draws all of the house servants together, in an effort to convince them all to become “angels,” the first thing that she says is, “I sent for you all, my dear friends, because I love you. I love you all” (418). Like Jesus, Eva goes beyond just telling them of love, she acts upon this love by giving each servant a lock of her hair. In this act she symbolically gives of herself (her hair). While Tom is less explicit in his vocalization of love, he is somewhat more apparent than Eva in his acting out of this love. When Tom and the other slaves are in Legree’s fields, Tom, “at the risk of all that he might suffer, [came] forward again, and put all the cotton in his sack into the woman’s” (503). By giving up his own cotton Tom shows a willingness to suffer at the end of the day, when the cotton is weighed, so that the woman, Emmeline, does not have to. Tom’s thoughtless willingness to suffer so that others do not have to, makes clear the similarity between the love that Tom and Eva give, and the love that God, through Jesus, gives.When Tom and Eva give in this way, they inspire the people around them to also give. For the first few months in the St. Clare household Topsy does little other than turn everything into her own‹she takes. Miss Ophelia tells of how Topsy stole her “bonnet-trimming, and cut it all to pieces to make dolls’ jackets!” (407). But then Eva tells Topsy something that Topsy has never heard before, “O, Topsy, poor child, I love you” (409). Topsy begins to cry, and in the next few days, she immediately shows a desire to give back to Eva. A few days later Topsy brings flowers for Eva from the garden, and Eva tells her mother, “You see, mamma, I knew poor Topsy wanted to do something for me” (414). It seems that once one sees that the world can be a loving place, people like Topsy can identify a loving force behind that world. Even by watching Eva deal with Topsy, Miss Ophelia tells Topsy that, “I’ve learnt something of the love of Christ from her” (432). This loving force is thus transformative. Eva tells Topsy that if Topsy is able to love God, “He will help you to be good” (410). Before Eva causes this change in Topsy, Topsy, when asked why she behaves so badly, says, “Spects it’s my wicked heart” (408). When her behavior begins to improve after Eva reveals love to her, it is certain that her heart has been changed too. As in Calvinist theology, God’s grace transforms individuals from the inside out, but in Methodist theology, the individual can seek out God by learning how to love. These acts of love become the central element of the Methodist theology. Many of the means that dominated earlier theology are shown to be far less important than these acts of the heart. Miss Opelia attempts to convert Topsy by teaching her from the Bible; she says, “I’ve taught and taught; I’ve talked till I’m tired” (407). But as St. Clare says a few moments later, “your Gospel is not strong enough to save one heathen child” (408). The Bible is certainly not rejected as a source of truth‹Tom takes great assurance from the Bible‹but Gospel, and training in the Gospel is not truly helpful in saving people. The clergy is not even mentioned in these chapters of conversion. It is people like Eva and Tom, who are schooled in the way of the heart, who are able to help people reach God. Eva, the one who is able to show others such love, first learned about love in her own family. While her mother is not the nurturing mother that could be hoped for, her father fills the caring role. St. Clare loves Eva so much that he is sent into lifeless despondency when Eva dies. Cassy, similarly, tells Tom how she learned of love in her own childhood with a mother an father who nurtured her and allowed her to “play hide-and-go-seek, under the orange-trees, with my brothers and sisters” (516). In these days, Cassy remembers that she “used to love God and prayer” (522). The love of the family is the essential source of love in Stowe’s theology. When St. Clare finally gains his peace with God, it is accompanied by an image of his caring mother before him (456).But just as convincing as these examples of a family giving someone access to love, are those examples where a lack of family deprives someone of an understanding of love. Topsy’s inability to love stems from her belief that, “can’t nobody love niggers.” Moments later, Eva implies that this belief makes sense given that Topsy never had “any father, or mother, or friends” (409). While Cassy had understood love at a time in the past, she lost it when she lost her family. It is the moment when her children are sold that she first, “cursed God and man” (519). She loses her love of God and humanity because she is stripped of the very source of this love. Cassy’s situation brings to light the important point that just as an individual can gain grace in God’s eyes, so can he or she lose it. But the situation emphasizes the larger point that Cassy’s source of love was her family. Much of Stowe’s novel is seen as a fierce strike at slavery, but Stowe is strongest in condemning slavery because of its force in breaking up families. Cassy’s story of the breakup of her family is one of the most vividly told. She tells of how her master would taunt her every day by saying, “‘if you don’t behave reasonably, I’ll sell both the children, where you shall never see them again'” (518). We see Stowe narrating these meta-narratives so as to evoke sympathy in the reader for the characters who have been cruelly pulled away from both their families, and their source of religious faith. Stowe’s book was written soon after the death of her own child, and this traumatic experience was certainly one of the motivations behind the writing of the book. Through the death of her own child, it is probable that Stowe saw the pernicious effects of the breakup of a family, and gained sympathy for the plights of innumerable slaves. In her novel Stowe works to engender that same sense of sympathy in the reader.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Groundbreaking American Social Protest Novel

Even today, with literature constantly crossing more lines and becoming more shocking, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin remains one of the most scandalous, controversial, and powerful literary works ever spilled onto a set of blank pages. Not only does this novel examine the attitudes of white nineteenth-century society toward slavery, but it introduces us to the hearts, minds and souls of several remarkable and unprecedented characters.In a time when it was quite common for a black woman to see almost all of her children die, Harriet Beecher Stowe created Eliza; a strong and powerful woman fleeing slavery and risking everything to protect her son. In Chapter Seven, we see through Eliza’s eyes, just how painful and heart wrenching her personal sacrifices are to her.”It is impossible to conceive of a human creature more wholly desolate and forlorn than Eliza, when she turned her footsteps from Uncle Tom’s cabin. Her husband’s suffering and dangers, and the danger of her child, all blended in her mind, with a confused and stunning sense of the risk she was running, in leaving the only home she had ever known, and cutting loose from the protection of a friend whom she loved and revered. “Statements like this were not simply crafted to enhance character development; they were created in an attempt to make whites see slaves as mothers, fathers, Christians, and most of all…people. The character of Tom is described as “a man of humanity” ­ certainly not a description commonly linked to black people at that time. Tom was truly the first black hero in American fiction. However, Stowe based many of her assessments on her own reality. And while it is obvious that she very much advocated the abolition of slavery, she did not completely rise above her own racism. After all, this work was written during a time in which racial equality was incomprehensible to most whites. Therefore Stowe’s ingrained prejudices were bound to seep out occasionally, despite her positive convictions.There is a section in Chapter 30 which reads as follows:”Ah, ha! that’s right. Go it, boys, — go it!” said Mr. Skeggs, the keeper. “My people are always so merry! Sambo, I see!” he said, speaking approvingly to a burly negro who was performing tricks of low buffoonery, which occasioned the shouts which Tom had heard.”This is not only how Stowe perceived blacks to be, but how she believed they perceived themselves to be. In writing the book, Stowe drew up on her personal experiences: she was familiar with slavery, the antislavery movement, and the underground railroad because Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnatti, Ohio, where Stowe had lived, was a slave state. Her settings were often described with great accuracy and detail. She reflected an awareness of the complexity of the culture she lived in, and an ability to communicate that culture to others. However, in her commitment to realism, and her use of local dialect, Stowe intimates a sense of prejudice simply by being honest and true to her surroundings.Stowe lived during a time when many whites claimed slavery had “good effects” on blacks. Uncle Tom’s Cabin depicts three plantations, each worse than the next, where even the most strong and honorable souls can be left completely broken. There is direct evidence of this degradation in Chapter 35:”I was a fool, it’s a fact, to let any such brangle come up,” said Legree; “but, when the boy set up his will, he had to be broke in.” “I reckon you won’t break him in!””Won’t I?” said Legree, rising, passionately. “I’d like to know if I won’t? He’ll be the first nigger that ever came it round me! I’ll break every bone in his body, but he shall give up!”Uncle Tom ultimately endures a martyr’s death under the whips of Simon Legree’s overseers. This dramatic tragedy is just one of the factors that makes Uncle Tom’s Cabin one of the most influential American social protest novels ever written. Tom was a very religious man who always told people to believe in the Lord if they had problems. He was an honest and upstanding man who deserved a fate much more kind than the one bestowed upon him. By setting up scenes that depicted Tom’s true character, Stowe made his demise seem even more tragic than any death intrinsically is. For example, when Mr. Shelby, the plantation owner, instructs Tom to go across the state to deliver a large sum of money, the reader is aware that Tom could easily take the money and cross the border to Canada where he would be free. Instead, Tom delivers the money as instructed and returns to the plantation. This part of the story is far more influential in the believability of Tom’s piousness than simply stating it is a characteristic. Another excellent example of this is Simon Legree constant insistance that Tom whip another slave. Tom’s refusal resulted in his own physical suffering yet he refused to give in to Legree’s demands. When the book was written, most slave holders and owners thought that all slaves would lie and steal unless they were beaten and kept under strict supervision. Stowe attempts to disclaim this assertion throughout the novel. By twentieth-century standards, her propaganda practically verges on melodrama. However, in a time when most people sat back and accepted slavery as a way of life, Harriet Beecher Stowe portrayed it as a long, slow death. Because she dared to be different, her fame will eternally endure. She was a strong , determined and outspoken woman causing controversy in a time when women were supposed to be “seen and not heard”. She was scorned and ridiculed in the South because of her protestations of slavery, yet she held her head high and remained true to her beliefs. She was an author who expressed her hatred for slavery in powerfully descriptive words and themes. Yet she was also a woman, a wife and a mother who was forced to try to balance her home life with her careerŠa problem not at all uncommon in today’s society. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was revolutionary in 1852 for its passionate documentation the tragic breakup of black Kentucky families “sold down the river.” Its political impact was immense, and its emotional influence immeasurable. Yet, it has been labeled racist and condescending by some contemporary critics. Perhaps the question, “Is man ever a creature to be trusted with wholly irresponsible power?” applies to literary critics as well.

Stowe Starts a War

“Is this the little lady who started the great war?” said Abraham Lincoln during his first meeting with Harriet Beecher Stowe. The reaction of one of America’s most celebrated president is a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe is an effective author, proven by her addressing the reader directly and her uses of allegorical stories to bring forth a clear and convincing argument and prove the unjust doings slaves were subjected to. Lincoln’s reaction was partly because of Stowe shattering the semblance of reality by directly addressing the reader, also known as breaking verisimilitude. The first reason this makes Stow and effective author is because she is able to force her audience to put themselves in the shoes of the characters. There are several times in the story Stowe does this.

One of the many time’s Stowe breaks verisimilitude is when she questions the readers maternal instincts. As Eliza is running desperately to protect Harry, her son, from the claws of malicious slave traders, Stowe asks the readers what extent they would go if it were one of their kids, “If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, to-morrow morning…how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom,—the little sleepyhead on your shoulder,—the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?” (Stowe 80). Here, Stowe blatantly breaks verisimilitude. She uses this literary tactic in order to force the reader to empathize with Eliza and Henry. In this example specifically, she is reaching towards mothers and those with maternal instincts. By putting a quote such as this in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe gives readers no choice but to put themselves in Eliza’s shoes and feel with her, despite racial differences. As readers understand the unjust treatment of slaves, they will in turn understand what needs to be done to undo the wrongs.

In the final concluding remarks of Stowe’s novel, she forces readers to question their morals by again disturbing verisimilitude. She asks her readers a series of questions regarding what they truly know and believe to be morally right. “Does not every American Christian owe to the African race some effort at reparation for the wrongs that the American Nation has brought upon them?” (Stowe 507) In Stowe’s last chapter, she directly addresses her audiences, calling them to action. After having given insight to the lives of slaves, Stowe is forcing people to question themselves and whether or not they truly believe their doings are right and just. Many members of her audience would answer no to those questions.

Perhaps it was Stowe’s breaches in verisimilitude which caused her to elicit the reaction she did from Abraham Lincoln when they first met. “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war” (Abraham Lincoln). Although speculations are about as to whether or not Mr. Lincoln himself said this exact thing, it is a quote which the public has accepted, and it demonstrates the great impact Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on American Society. The Civil war had a irreversible impact on American Culture. If a book can lead to such a war, is it even possible for one to argue the author of said book wasn’t effective?

By breaking verisimilitude, Stowe is able to reach out to the audience and give the readers no choice but it empathize with the characters. When the audience is able to feel what the slaves do, they are also able to better understand how desperately something needs to change. The irreversible effect of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on society is obvious as one of America’s greatest presidents, effortlessly points out.

The next way Stowe reaches out to her readers is by using allegorical stories. These are symbolic stories which readers are more familiar with. Stowe knew and understood that her audience was made up of mainly Christians, so her allegories are also mainly biblical references. She is able to clarify themes and ideas within the allegories.

One of the first allegories Stowe uses is the crossing of the Ohio/Jordan river. As Eliza enters a village with her dear Harry, she sets her sights on a symbolic river. “An hour before sunset, she entered the village of T——, by the Ohio river, weary and footsore, but still strong in heart. Her first glance was at the river, which lay, like Jordan, between her and the Canaan of liberty on the other side” (Stowe 83). The Ohio river in this situation represents the biblical Jordan River. In Christian beliefs, Joshua led his people across the river to freedom. This particular scene where Eliza leaps and bounds over the Ohio river is an allegory for the Jordan river crossing. By comparing Eliza to Joshua, and the Jordan River to the Ohio river, it is, for well versed Christians (most of Stowe’s audience at the time), bringing out a theme of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Just as Joshua’s love for his people as unbreakable, so was Eliza’s for Henry. She was willing to risk her life to save her child and the strong motherly love present in all races alike. By comparing her to a holy figure, Stowe is demonstrating the nobility of Eliza’s river crossing.

Another way Stowe uses allegory, is through the angelic Eva. Eva is sitting in her bed inches from death, when decides to give a part of her to her slaves, “I’m going to give all of you a curl of my hair; and, when you look at it, think that I loved you and am gone to heaven, and that I want to see you all there” (Stowe 408 ). Eva cutting her hair distributing it among the slaves is an allegory of the Breaking of the Bread at The Last Supper. Eva is symbolic of an Jesus or an angel, while the slaves are representative of the disciples of Jesus. Again, by comparing characters to holy figures, Stowe is bringing out theme and demonstrating the nobility of the characters. Evangeline St. Clare loves everybody and believes all to be equal, and because of this trait, she is symbolic of an angel. By having such holy figure against slavery, slavery must be wholly wrong.

Tom is another good example of Stowe using allegory. As Tom sits on his deathbed, Sambo and Quimbo come to a revelation, “‘Why didn’t I ever believe in this Jesus before?” said Sambo, ‘But I do believe – I can’t help it; Lord Jesus have mercy on us!’” (Stowe 471). This final allegory is representative of the story of Jesus converting the two sinners while on the cross. Just as Tom was about to be crucified (die from Legree’s beatings) he converts two sinners into a life a Christianity. By including this allegory in the story, Stow is demonstrating that slaves aren’t bad through and through. The allegory shows how anyone can be converted to good just be being shown love.

Abraham Lincoln, arguably the nation’s greatest and wisest president, attributed Stowe to the start of the Civil War. Harriet Beecher Stowe is an effective author because she breaks verisimilitude and uses allegorical stories to elicit the strong reaction she did from her readers, as well as starting a nation wide war.