Book Analysis: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
A.Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut, which surprises many of her readers. Stowe writes so passionately about slavery that it seems that she must have been raised in the South. Stowe was born into a strong Christian family, which explains why her novels have a strong Christian basis.
Stowe first learned of the horrors of slavery when she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Kentucky, a slave state, was right next to Cincinnati. She married and lived there for 18 years. All the while, she stored images and thoughts in her mind about slavery. Many times, she would talk to slaves and retain their memories and thoughts.
After her husband accepted a job in Maine, Stowe began writing a novel using the information and visions she had brought with her from Ohio. After some time, she submitted it to the National Era, which published the novel as a serial. When it was published, Uncle Tom’s Cabin reached immediate success. Many publishing companies from around the world published her novel in 20 different languages. Stowe found herself speaking around the world, especially in England. A play blossomed from the novel, which also was successful.
Stowe did not stop writing after Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but her other novels never had quite the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin . The novel Lady Byron Vindicated almost buried Stowe because many critics believed that Stowe’s purpose of this novel was to trash a good name. Poganuc People, a story about a Yankee Town, is another Stowe novel that still carries merit today.
B.Uncle Tom’s Cabin reveals the life and horrors of slaves in the 19th century. It opens with a scene where a “kind” slave owner and a slave trader are dealing. Shelby, the kind slave owner, has fallen into debt, and must sell his favorite slaves. Eliza, overhearing the conversation, run away with her child seeking shelter in Canada. Eliza, after almost dying while crossing a frozen river, is taken in by a Senators family. She is then transported to a Quaker community, where she is reunited with her husband. Tom’s fate is quite different. While on a ship, he befriends a girl name Eva St. Clare. Her father buys him after saving Eva’s life, and it seems as though Tom has it made. Eva, a friend to all the slaves, eventually dies. Her father, who intends to free Tom, also dies before he can free Tom. Eva’s crazy mother takes over the plantation, and sells Tom. Tom ends up in the hands of the villainous Simon Legree. He treats his slaves like maggots below the dirt. Tom, with his standing Christian morals, does nothing to retaliate. Legree is Tom’s final master because Legree will end Tom’s life. Tom dies a poignant death with his old master’s son, George Shelby, at his side.
D.One of the most important elements that Stowe used to get her point across was Characterization. The message of slavery could not have been accurately portrayed if there was not proper character development. To fully understand what slaves went through, one has to fully understand the mind and heart of a slave. Stowe executes this beautifully with Eliza and Tom. She gives two different detailed and strong viewpoints, which helps the reader understand even more. Stowe includes many stereotypes in her characters. Mr. Haley is the stereotypical slave trader. He is evil, sly, and only cares about making money. This is a character that the reader is supposed to dislike and usually does. Mr. Shelby is supposed to be the “kinder” slave owner, but Stowe makes it clear that all slavery is evil. The purpose of this character is to show that most men are basically good, but they have been brainwashed to believe that blacks are inferior and whites cannot perceive this any differently. Uncle Tom, the protagonist, is supposed to draw poignant emotions from the reader with his Christ-like attitude. His character is richly developed throughout the novel, and the reader becomes fully aware of his love for all people, good or bad. Eva St. Clare, Tom’s best friend, represents the angel that watches over the slaves. Eva continually pours out her love to her father’s slaves, and her early death deeply draws out the readers emotion. Simon Legree, an antagonist, today is a synonym for villain. Stowe uses this character to fire up the readers hatred for slave-owners and the entire idea of slavery. All of Stowe’s characters play an important role in getting the message of the evils of slavery across to the reader.
E.Uncle Tom’s Cabin was successful because she uses her characters to touch and draw every possible emotion from the reader. The emotions range from abhorrence to a deep love. The sequence of events also hooks the reader in, wanting to know what’s going to happen to who next. Stowe uses strong detail also. Uncle Tom is continuously described throughout the entire novel. When she describes a setting, the reader becomes aware of all the surroundings, and has an accurate map drawn in his head. Primarily, Stowe succeeded in showing the reader the life of a slave, and she succeeded in showing the reader that slavery, in no matter what form, is evil.
The only disappointment in the novel is Stowe’s use of dialect. I found it difficult to read because I had to sound out most of the words. This always created a disruption in the flow of the novel, and I often found myself frustrated with the story. Stowe could have gotten her message across without the constant attempts at dialect with misspellings and numerous grammatical errors.
F.“Slavery , which was created by the entire nation, is evil in any form.”
Slavery is an evil that haunts our past and still carries an affect in today’s world. A majority of people believe that the north was innocent of slavery. While most did not own slaves, most did not oppose it. They swept the issue under the carpet. Some Northerners took part in dealing slaves, so the North was not slave free. Also, a numerous amount of Northerners came down south to own slaves. Simon Legree is a perfect example in Stowe’s novel. Secondly, slavery existed in many forms. Some slave owners were kind to their slaves, others were outrageously cruel. Stowe clearly points out that to no matter what degree, it is evil. This is true. The slave owners, as kind as they could be and as Christian as they thought they were, still viewed the blacks as an inferior race. Stowe presented that point very well with Mr. Shelby. The South was programmed to view blacks in this way, and for years they did. The evil of slavery still haunts America today. By some, blacks are still viewed as inferior to whites. Stowe did an excellent job of presenting her theme. Slavery is a cruel institution, and America’s past reveals this through Stowe’s novel.