Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Nearly every young author dreams of writing a book that will literally change the world. A few have succeeded, and Harriet Beecher Stowe is such a marvel. Although the American anti-slavery movement had existed at least as long as the nation itself, Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) galvanized public opinion as nothing had before. The book sold 10,000 copies in its first week and 300,000 in its first year. Its vivid dramatization of slavery’s cruelties so aroused readers that it is said Abraham Lincoln told Stowe her work had been a catalyst for the Civil War.
Today the novel is often labeled condescending, but its characters—Tom, Topsy, Little Eva, Eliza, and the evil Simon Legree—still have the power to move our hearts. Though “Uncle Tom” has become a synonym for a fawning black yes-man, Stowe’s Tom is actually American literature’s first black hero, a man who suffers for refusing to obey his white oppressors. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a living, relevant story, passionate in its vivid depiction of the cruelest forms of injustice and inhumanity—and the courage it takes to fight against them.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin highlights the disgusting, evil, and immoral times of slavery in American history. This sentimental novel is fictional, but shares truth in what life was like for slaves and how they were treated during these dark times. It’s been said that this book helped lay the groundwork for the American Civil War.
This was a recommended read for my daughter’s American History curriculum but not a required one. I’ve always wanted to read it, and now I can say it’s one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read—both in the way it’s written and also the content. The sentence structure and word use made it hard to follow at times. Not only that, the story flips around between characters which I didn’t particularly care for. We found a narrator (Buck Schirner) that does an excellent job with the different voices which really pulls you into the novel, making the dialect easier to read.
The story follows Tom, a devout Christian slave whose owner (Mr. Shelby) has fallen into financial difficulties, having no choice but to sell Tom and other valuable slaves. Living with the Shelbys, Tom’s had many luxuries including a decent wardrobe, books, and a wife and children. He’s been treated decently and appreciates everything he has. He mourns having to leave them, and the family mourns the loss of him and the others as well. As time goes on and Tom is transferred from place to place, he meets new people, some kind and some callous.
This book isn’t just Tom’s story; there are other characters including some of the slaves who were living with Tom at the Shelby plantation who have now gone separate ways. Their stories sort of revolve around Toms. I felt for the characters and found myself on the edge of my seat at times—especially with Eliza on her journey with her young son, Harry.
There are other themes aside from slavery here including religion, righteousness, social roles of women, family, and freedom. The Christian theme is very strong which wasn’t expected. I was completely unaware that the author would connect Christianity with views on slavery.
As to how the book made me feel: it made me sick at times. The discussions between slave owners with their talk of ‘property’ and their complete disregard for humanity is hard to digest. Blacks weren’t expected to have feelings; in fact, they were expected to be tolerant throughout, come what may. These belief systems are insane. Perhaps what hit me the hardest was the nightmare of families being torn apart—for the mothers and children especially. As a mother myself, I can’t even fathom how some of the men and women during this time could stand back, so reserved, and truly believe that a person’s skin color made them less than human—not able to learn, love, or have any feelings or rights for that matter—and then to watch these women’s children ripped away from them. The constant degradation of Blacks and the racial slurs were upsetting. For a melancholic person such as myself, I can say with certainty that this book stressed me out and made me angry. With that said, I was also uplifted and inspired by Tom’s unwavering strength and faith. It’s very thought-provoking how divided people were then, much the same as we are today. This book most definitely encourages discussion.
I’ll likely never want to read this book again, but I feel this is such an important read, and I’ll even go so far as to say that it should be required reading for upper grades regardless of the religious ideology.
- Publisher : Independently published (January 8, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 273 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1679604007
- ISBN-13 : 978-1679604003
Thanks for reading my review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Have you read this book? Feel free to leave your comments below.