The novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in 1852 in the United States. The work was popular among general population of the country as it criticized slavery and the treatment of people as property, stating that limiting people’s freedom contradicts to Christian moral beliefs. Later, this novel would become one of the main works of anti-slavery movement due to its depiction of injustices of slavery. Stowe’s story attempts to expose the horrors of slavery, depicting brutalities that people who had not encountered them could never have conceived, terrors that those who were there sought to ignore. Stowe attracted millions to the reformist, or anti-slavery, struggle in the United States with her narrative of misery, savagery, hope, and redemption. This paper provides the discussion of the course’s objectives through the work of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
The narrative begins on a Kentucky farm, where the kind and renowned Uncle Tom lives beside the inferior Eliza and her child. The plot revolves on two main characters, Tom and Eliza. The property’s directors owe money to a slave vendor and are forced to offer Tom and Eliza’s child. George, the offspring of the farm’s leaders, is terrified by Tom’s gift (Stowe). Eliza learns the previous night that the dealer is coming, and she flees the farm with her child, hoping to gain sanctuary in Canada and maybe rejoin her companion. Tom accepts this potentially disastrous unplanned progress overwhelmingly, but without dissent.
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her novel at the beginning of the 19th century and later the book became one of the best-selling and popular works of the century. The book provided means for the American Civil War as it increased awareness over slavery and about the inhumane treatment of the African American people during that time. At the time the novel was published, slavery was flourishing in the United States and almost every family had slaves. The society was inhabited in rural areas and had farms. The 19th century was a period of shift from rural to industrial economy for the country which eventually had changed people’s attitude toward slavery (Jamieson). The piece depicts how masters treated slaves with cruelty and did not consider them as human beings. It had elements of humor that was pointing out to the tragedy of the problem of slavery.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a novel that effectively used literary devices to make readers acknowledge the issue. For example, the use of irony and stereotypical perceptions on women helped Harriet Beecher Stowe to show the issue of gender in her novel. Aside from the problem of slavery, one noted theme in Uncle Tom’s Cabin is female excellence, with its depiction of ladies in cliché homegrown jobs and with less-traditional characters (Zhou). A few of the story’s female characters show the principles of ethics and moral pride, including Emily Shelby, the spouse of a master who has moral impact over her better half’s subjugated individuals. Mrs. Shelby’s housekeeper, a young lady named Eliza, is a striking person, whose activities are persuaded by dread and maternal love (Stowe). Eliza effectively gets away from subjugation with her child, escaping toward the North and at last advancing toward Liberia with her child and spouse.
There is symbolism in the most notable scene of Uncle Tom’s Cabin which is Eliza’s dive across the half-frozen Ohio River. In one emotional second, the jump from the waterway’s southern to northern side addresses the most common way of leaving bondage for opportunity. Specifically, Eliza’s jump starting from one bank then onto the next points out a genuine jump from slave-holding states to non-slavery ones because the Ohio River worked as the legitimately perceived hindrance among South and North (Stowe). The dangers Eliza defies in her leap, as the need might arise to do it effectively, represent more widespread cases of risk and bravery in any slave’s way to freedom.
There are several other literary devices used in the novel. Throughout the plot of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, imagery, symbolism, and strategic anecdotes were applied successfully. The title alone is exhibiting imagery as it emphasised “cabin”, making it important to the story. Seeing Uncle Tom’s lodge on George Shelby’s land serves as a constant reminder to him of Tom’s struggles as a slave. The lodge also represents Uncle Tom’s determination to be thrashed and, surprise, murdered rather than harm or deceive his fellow slaves (Stowe). Symbolism is also present, such as when Eva was on her dying bed, and she had Miss Ophelia trim off her locks of wavy light hair with the goal that she can convey them to her family and the family’s slaves.
Stowe depicted things exactly as they seemed to give the listener a sense of what it was truly like. There were also many themes displayed in Uncle Tom’s cabin. Slavery, religion, racism, love, suffering, brutality, and women’s femininity were among the subjects explored. The work depicts not just the agony and anguish of the slaves, but also how enslavement as a whole hurts everyone involved. It depicts religion since there was continual discussion about faith in religion and desiring to surrender on him. Harriet Beecher Stowe was a devout Christian who felt that religious beliefs will play a significant role in the eradication of slavery.
While reading the piece I felt terrible because of the worst aspects of slavery and people who treated others with violence. No one does not deserve to be treated as property and this book made me think about how institutions that were established by some groups of people can turn people into terrible creatures. I felt different emotions throughout the story ranging from sadness to anger. The feeling of justice for people was strong and I felt sorry for slaves. Yet, I was sorry for Arthur Shelby, slave-owner who was kind and tried to understand slaves. However, when he sacrificed his slaves to obtain better financial situation (Stowe). I was angry for him. He was a part of the institution of slavery and contributed to the system to flourish. As such, during the scene of Shelby selling his slaves, I was shocked and acknowledge that people are selfish and would do anything for their own good.
I liked how women were depicted and described in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. They were strong and capable of doing many things including making crucial decisions. Female characters were beautiful as they had personality that could oppose men. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, women frequently play an active moral role. They become leading moral idols when they are glorified as practically heavenly mothers, wives, and advisors. For instance, there are Mrs. Shelby, Mrs. Bird, St. Clare’s mother, and Legree’s mother. In contrast, Harriet Beecher Stowe frequently depicts male characters as harsh, avaricious, and morally weaker or incapable of understanding virtue as opposed to their female counterparts (Zhou). The one exception to this rule is Uncle Tom. Tom, like most of the female characters, acts as a moral guidance. This resemblance may be explained if the same situation of disempowerment shared from both white women and African slaves is considered (Zhou). Stowe never openly connects the oppression of women to the subjugation of blacks, but she does infer it via her parallelism and contrast framework.
In addition to the depiction of female characters, I enjoyed the use of symbolism in the novel. There were many symbols like a river, cabin and Shelby’s dialect. Specifically, The Mississippi River and the cabin are the most prominent symbols of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Tom is sold down the river, where he meets a Christ-like end at the hands of the evil Simon Legree; Eliza flees up river, eventually meeting her mother Cassy (Jamieson). Tom’s cabin is also a spiritual refuge: many characters who have suffered at the hands of their overlords find solace in Tom’s prayer gatherings, and Eliza organizes her escape within the cabin’s walls. The river represents change and the vagaries of fate, while the cabin represents renewal.
Moreover, the theme of Christianity was dominant in the novel by Stowe. It has several allusions to the Bible, particularly the New Testament. It seems evident since the prevalent religious affiliation in the United States is Christian. She tried to show that slavery is completely incompatible with the religion and its core beliefs. Uncle Tom possesses just one book, the Bible, which he frequently reads carefully and with great religious fervor. He uses the Bible to teach Eva, Cassy, and others, as well as to find the fortitude to face his own challenges. The Quakers who assist George, Eliza, and Harry in escaping—and who accept Tom Loker despite his hostility against them—justify their actions not as acts of compassion to black people, but as a responsibility to God and man imposed by the Bible.
In the story, Uncle Tom is a Christ figure that had religious motifs. Tom dies protecting Cassy and Emmeline and refuses to punish other slaves instead he suffers for the sake of others (Stowe). Eva exemplifies saintliness in that she acts in exact compliance with Jesus’ teachings, and her death serves as an example to her father, allowing him to restore his faith (however briefly before he is killed) (Jamieson). Through the novel, Beecher Stowe ultimately contends that a more fully Christian values in the United States will abolish slavery entirely, rendering Uncle Tom’s and Eva’s sacrifices superfluous.
The novel had a major influence on the American society and provoked an anti-slavery movement that led to the American Civil War. Today Uncle Tom’s Cabin is now considered as the top among a significant collection of anti-slavery literature. Stowe drew on the works of slaves such as Josiah Henson, Lewis Clarke, and Solomon Northup. Stowe, as a white lady, was perceived as less dangerous to white readers than Black abolitionists, allowing her work to attract a wider audience (Zhou). Some people perceived the book’s popularity as a useful tool, while others claimed Stowe plagiarized her stories and even exaggerated some scenes.
The book of Stowe became extremely popular during the 19th century. As such, it was sharply adapted into a play, with sequences taken directly from Stowe’s novel. People rushed to see the performance and competing New York City players attracted people with their performances. Small and large theater entities travelled around the country and worldwide, adopting their own versions, sans abolitionist bondage messages, and adding scene to entice crowds (Jamieson). Stowe was not satisfied standing up in front of an audience productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin since her strict Congregationalist upbringing prevented her from going to the play (Jamieson). During the time of Stowe, intellectual property laws in 1852 did not protect imaginary works from being adapted into plays without the author’s permission (Jamieson). These products, plays, and side ventures were created without Stowe’s permission and mirrored the racial attitudes of the day their time from 1852 through the Civil War, Jim Crow Era, and as late as the 1950’s.
To conclude, Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852, nine years before the American Civil War began in 1861. The work appeared in the United States of America when there was teetering on common distress due to the power of the constraining viewpoints between the North and the South. It was a brilliant and wide analysis for the representation of African Americans and slaves. The rapid growth and development of the United States throughout the nineteenth century resulted in an increase in labor demands, and slavery was both appropriate and necessary for the monetary prospering of the southern states.
Jamieson, Erin. “Systemic racism as a living text: Implications of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a fictionalized narrative of present and past black bodies.” Journal of African American Studies 22.4 (2018): 329-344.
Stowe, B. H. (2020). Uncle Tom’s Cabin. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Zhou, Cidre Z. “Power of the Weaker: Feminism in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The Criterion 2019.1 (2019): 10.