Uncle Tom’s Cabin
“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War!”- Abraham Lincoln
In 2013 The Library of Congress exhibited a showcase called “Books That Shaped America,” in which featured 88 books that defined American history from the time of the 1880s through the early 2000s. These books often defied society’s standard and unveiled the evil and corrupt ways of life. These books helped pave the way to the future and shape our nation into what it is now. One of the many books that helped define America’s history is “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book was written in attempt to show light to the cruelty of slavery and fight against new fugitive slave laws. However, the book found itself amongst banned books as it was denounced as abolitionist propaganda in the South. The book revealed the unjust cruelty in America and helped pave the way to one of the most significant events in history.
About the Author
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 14, 1811. Stowe’s mother died at a young age and her older sister Catherine became the most prominent influence in her life. “At age eight, she began her education at the Litchfield Female Academy. Later, in 1824, she attended Catherine Beecher’s Hartford Female Seminary, which exposed young women to many of the same courses available in men’s academies” (Michals).
In 1832, she moved with her father to Ohio after he decided to accept a position of seminary where “There, she met some of the great minds and reformers of the day, including noted abolitionists” (Michals). Once she adjusted to life in Ohio, she became enamored with her new environment, and she wrote her first book in which she praised the diverse cultures she encountered. A few years after publishing her first book, she would meet her husband, Calvin Stowe, and have seven children with him.
What led to the infamous book of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” being written is “The turning point in Stowe’s personal and literary life came in 1849, when her son died in a cholera epidemic that claimed nearly 3000 lives in her region. She later said that the loss of her child inspired great empathy for enslaved mothers who had their children sold away from them” (Michals).
About the Book
Uncle Tom’s Cabin tells the story of two enslaved people in Kentucky. The story follows two different families when one family takes the risk of running away for freedom after the circumstance of their family splitting up occurs. However, Tom chooses to protect his family by not running away. By doing this, “Tom and his wife, Chloe, accept their enslavement and, therefore, also accept their own dehumanization and minimization. Uncle Tom lacks the will to act in any sort of resisting way” (Chadwick). The family who took the risk eventually finds freedom in another place, and Tom ultimately finds freedom in his unfortunate death after being whipped. A theme that is presented in the book is the theme of motherhood. “Stowe saw motherhood as the” ethical and structural model for all of American life,” and believed that only women had the moral authority to save the United States from slavery” (World). A belief she holds to high value due to the experiences in her life. Another theme represented is the theme of faith. Stowe, a Christian herself, made Tom the character with the unfortunate ending, a devout Christian in which acknowledged the belief “…that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as slavery (World).
The legacy that “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” created to become so influential to our world today is that it helped expose the cruelty that Americans had toward slavery. “by emphasizing the contradiction, the daily hypocrisy, that supported slavery in this Christian, church-going society, she can (still) teach her white middle-class readers to look at their own lives . . .” (ADD). It showed how people had a blind eye towards the suffering of others and didn’t bother changing a system that suited them. With the unveiling of this, it helped lead to something even bigger, which was the civil war. Harriet Beecher Stowe didn’t start the war; however, it showed how much the North and South were different “…Many Northerners realized how unjust slavery was for the first time. With increasing opposition to slavery, southern slave holders worked even harder to defend the institution. The stage was set for the American Civil War…” (Uncle). Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped change the course of history.
Chadwick, Jocelyn A. “Huckleberry Finn vs. Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Antislavery Novels.” Critical Insights: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Dec. 2016, pp. 81–95. EBSCOhost,searcj.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&db=lkh&AN=1
Hallwas, John. “The Cultural Significance of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.” The McDonough County Voice, 11 June 2011, www.mcdonoughvoice.com/article/20110611/NEWS/306119988.
Michals, Debra. “Harriet Beecher Stowe.” National Women’s History Museum, 2017, www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/harriet-beecher-stowe.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin — Ohio History Central.” Ohio History Central, ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Uncle_Tom%27s_Cabin. Accessed 11 Nov. 2020.
World leading higher education information and services. “Banned Books Awareness: ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe.” World Leading Higher Education Information and Services, 6 Mar. 2011, world.edu/banned-book-awareness-uncle-toms-cabin-harriet-beecher-stowe.