Slavery as Observed in the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe was published in 1851 almost 15 years before the end of slavery. In this novel, Stowe present radical views on slavery, interpreting these values into the characters of her novel.  It is Stowe’s attempt to let her readers -the white middle class- to change their views and outlook towards the institution.  She wittingly does this in many different aspects.  She shows examples and acts of great kindness of slaves and slave owners.  Stowe also presents slavery in a negative view through the eyes of evil slave owners and typical plantation life.  Doing this, the attempts to bring out the humanity of African Americans as well as slave masters that can be observed from different perspectives. Throughout the story she emphasizes the evilness of the institution.  It shows how slavery brings out a negative side of white Americans, all the while expressing its relationship and value to the market economy.  She displays this through the characters and situations she puts them in. In this way Stowe, presents her personal values regarding the subject. The reader is able to see how these views coincide with those of the North and abolitionists, as well as adding other connotations and opinions. This includes where it’s going and what should happen once it’s abolished.  Through the analysis of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one will understand her persistence in showing southern whites the negative impact this has and the humanity of  African Americans involved in the slave trade.

            Something that Stowe most commonly brought up throughout the story is her belief that Blacks and White are equal through the eyes of God.  There are two characters who emphasize this matter the most, Uncle Tom and Miss Eva.  Both of these people have strong “Christian values” and a belief in God as well as a good friendship between each other. Throughout the book Uncle Tom and Miss Eva are very outspoken about these matters, constantly portraying their feelings about the issue of slavery.  An emotional scene in the novel was the death of young Eva.  During this time, she begins to voice her opinion most often and attempts to have others view things through her perspective; emphasizing God’s love of all people and the humanity of others. In the chapter entitled, “Death”, little Eva attempts to encourage this when she says, “you believe don’t you, that [they] can become an angel, as well as any of us, if [they] were a Christian?…isn’t God [their] father, as much as ours?  Isn’t Jesus [their] Savior?”(Stowe, 284). In these lines Stowe is presenting these religious questions to the reader, comparing Gods love for both Whites and Blacks.  By bringing up these points, she is attempting to guide the reader encouraging them to view Blacks and Whites as equals through God. If others were to see things in this way, they may be able to observe the immorality of slavery.  Stowe slickly begins to unravel her feelings of slavery through her characters, breaking down stereotypes and injustice of the economic system. 

            Another way she attempts to show the equality of Blacks and Whites is by displaying the humanity of observed in enslaved Africans.  This is seen in the many different circumstances Stowe brings out, such as Blacks being courteous and generous to their White persecutors.  These acts of love, kindness, and humanity displayed in Black characters are an attempt to express their similarities to White counterparts.  Uncle Tom is the main character who expresses the most humanity. Stowe even titles the chapter dedicated to Uncle Tom as, “Which the Reader is Introduced to a Man of Humanity”. Here, Stowe makes a clear distinction that Uncle Tom is a special and extraordinary man. So when Uncle Tom is first introduced, he is immediately known for his trust, love, and willingness to help others. We see this when he is sold to a new plantation, stating “it is better for me alone to go, than to break up the place and sell all.  Mas’r ain’t to blame…I’s s’pose I can b’ar it as well as any on ‘em” (Stowe, 32).  Tom keeps his word until is death, when he dies in the hands of his evil plantation master Simon Legree.  The love and humanity displayed through the Uncle Tom is breath taking.  Uncle Tom is displayed as the perfect slave: hard working and  trust worthy.  Because he is a perfect slave, with a loving spirit and a friend to everyone, a southern slave owner can fall in love with his character. Readers can sympathize with Uncle Tom as he is sold away from his family and home just to die from the cruelty of a master. The reader would thus feel some injustice towards slavery, if not have more humanity for slaves viewing them as an oppressed people with feelings and emotions. This is a cleaver method of Stowe, changing the beliefs of readers, to see that slavery is a tragic and devastating reality for those enslaved.

            Uncle Tom is not the only slave in this book recognized as a person who is humble and of good character. Other characters also display these qualities.  Important acts of humility are observed in the subplot of Eliza and George.  As they travel across country to live free lives in Canada, they are chased by an evil slave trader Tom Locker.  When the family is just miles away from their destination, they risk their own lives as well as their freedom to save Tom. “Lets take him up and carry him on”, as they do not want to leave him to die (Stowe, 198).  With Stowe displaying the kindred hearts of “these poor critters” she has captured the attention of her readers. This helps readers understand the close bond between African Americans as well as their sincerity and willingness to help others.  

            Stowe took a large step for literature as well as history by writing this book, especially considering the time and era. In the 1850’s slavery was at its height. Africans were born into slavery, forced into labor and often stripped from their family. With no rights to independence or freedom, there were provided no education, opportunity, or equality. Many slave owners whipped or hung slaves for minor offences, such as the ability to read or write.  Stowe presented her ideology and views on racism and slavery.  Weather it is someone reading this book today or 1850, readers are able to familiarize themselves with the events of the time. She emphasized the concept natural rights for all people, an idea popular during the Revolutionary War. Using this she shaped the view of her audience, pushing them to believe in equality not only through religion but through the empathy of her characters.  Her story contained every character and aspect of slavery. This includes plantation life and the hardships that came with it. One observes slavery in Kentucky as well as the various types of slaves and their usage for labor and profit.  Through the lives of her characters one is able to view the corruption and southern dependence on the slave system.  Through her characters Stowe recognizes the need for education to uplift the community and become equal to Whites.  As a result Stowe’s novel provides a great example on how to lead and encourage others through the art of  literature. 

Advertisements

About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
This entry was posted in Literature and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s