Harriet Beecher Stowe was born June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. She was the daughter of a Calvinist minister and she and her family was all devout Christians, her father being a preacher and her siblings following. Her Christian attitude much reflected her attitude towards slavery. She was for abolishing it, because it was, to her, a very unchristian and cruel institution. Her novel, therefore, focused on the ghastly points of slavery, including the whippings, beatings, and forced sexual encounters brought upon slaves by their masters. She wrote the book to be a force against slavery, and was joining in with the feelings of many other women of her time, whom all became more outspoken and influential in reform movements, including temperance and women’s suffrage. The main point of Harriet Beecher Stowe in the writing of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was to bring to light slavery to people in the north. In this she hoped to eventually sway people against slavery. The novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin focuses on the lives of two slaves, who both start under the ownership of a Mr. Shelby, who is known as a man who treats his slaves well. Mr. Shelby, however, was indebted to a man of the name Haley, who is a slave-trader. In return for the debt owed to him, Haley wants two slaves one being the son of a beautiful mulatto woman named Eliza, and the other the devout Christian Tom, who is called Father Tom because of his sermons. Eliza is also a Christian, as are the rest of the slaves on Shelby’s farm. Eliza loves her son dearly and rather than lose him to the slave-trader she takes him and heads to Canada, where she can be free. Haley follows but can’t catch her before she goes from Kentucky, the state of the Shelby Farm, to Ohio. Haley then sends slave-catchers after her. He also goes back to the farm, and brings Tom on a steamboat to the South, a place where slaves are known to die, but Tom meets and makes a great impression on a little girl, Evangeline St. Clare, or Eva as she is called, and she persuades her father, Augustine St. Clare to purchase Tom.
Augustine is a man against slavery, but too intelligent and idle to openly oppose it, instead choosing to let his slaves run freely and do whatsoever they please, within reason. Tom is bought as a man who works at the stable, and is the private driver of Marie St. Clare. Marie was a conceited woman who is too busy worrying about herself to take proper care of Eva, which results in Augustine bringing his cousin, Ophelia, to take care of her and was the reason for his and Eva’s traveling on the steamboat where Tom meets them. Meanwhile, Eliza is taken to a Quaker settlement on the border of the slave states where she meets up with George, her husband, who is a highly intelligent slave. He escaped to the Quaker settlement by dressing as a white man, which he isn’t very far away from because of his mulatto descendance. He then uses another slave to act as his slave and makes it to the settlement after hearing Eliza, his wife, is there. They are soon told that men are after them, so they flee, have a confrontation in which one of the Quaker men pushes a slave-catcher into a ravine. The catcher is then taken to a Quaker home to be tended to where he heals and decides to no longer be a slave-catcher. They then, dressing as two men and their daughter, as opposed to husband, wife, and son, ride a ferry to Canada. Tom, on the other hand, is enjoying himself at St. Clare’s, where he is having an easy life, until Eva becomes sick, and dies. St. Clare is deeply affected by this, and begins to think about his own mortality, and the rights and wrongs of slavery. After much reflection he decides to initiate the freeing of Tom, whose wife, back in Kentucky, is trying to earn enough money to buy him back by being a confectioner. Tom is overjoyed when hearing the news of his freedom, but St. Clare dies before he can finish the proceedings, and Tom was sold at an auction before the Shelby’s can be reached, for they would have surely came and bought him back. Tom is sold to a man named Legree, the character of the average hard slaveholder, dirty, mean and ugly. Tom is then beaten to death before George Shelby could come and buy him back. Tom didn’t die scared because he was being beaten for not confessing the hiding place of two female slaves, and knew he was going to heaven. One of these females and another woman that the two meet on the way to Canada are relatives of George and Eliza and meet with them. They all eventually move to Liberia, a state created in Africa which was created for free blacks. Uncle Tom’s cabin comes to represent the beauty and humanity of slaves, and Tom’s legacy of Christian faith and obedience. Stowe did a great job with this book.
What is believed to be one of the influential books of all time, ranking with the works of Adam Smith and Machiavelli, Uncle Tom’s Cabin became an abolitionist’s bible. During its time it was revised, dramatized, and published often. The effect of her book on the north and everywhere in the US was unforeseen. The book was popular and caused abolitionism to run wild among northerners. The south hated the book because of its portrayal of its (The South’s) “peculiar institution”. It might have been influential enough to be considered one of the causes of the civil war, by creating a greater number of northerners against slavery. It displayed to the north all the evils of slavery, by creating human characters out of slaves, who were thought to be inhuman. Stowe’s ideas were that slavery is wrong, which is a correct assumption. A human should not be owned because we are not animals, plants, or minerals. Humans have souls and should and can not be owned by other r humans, because they are all created equal. Stowe’s style of staggering chapters about Tom with chapters about Eliza was effective by showing hope in two different situations. Eliza hoped for freedom while Tom hoped for eternity. Stowe plays these two motivations of her characters off each other to project the point of the book to the intelligent. She emphasizes her main points throughout the whole book, perhaps too much, but she was right in doing this, too make sure no one missed the point. She is biased against slaves, oddly enough. She portrays the whiter ones as more intelligent and clever, as is seen with George and Eliza, and the darker ones as more slow-witted, for example, Tom. Stowe also did what any intelligent reader from the beginning of the book expects of her. She creates a chapter at the end reinforcing the story in the book with historical facts, meaning that it’s based loosely on the real world. She seems to do her research well for the story, and her perspective was rather open, backing up slaveholders as well as abolitionists by expressing the slaveholders feelings of hopelessness towards going against society, seen in St. Clare. She made the slaves more human and the slaveholders appear to be morally wrong, but not by always using morally correct slaves and masters without morals. For example, Stowe creates a character, Adolf, the overseer of sorts for St. Clare. Adolf is a slave who is not morally correct he steals from St. Clare often, yet he appears more human for doing so. The slaves or human but not divine, as are the masters, creating a sense of equality, which Stowe wanted to put across. She wrote the book well, choosing where it was best to put which idea, and making many allusions to historical events around the time, which made her book more popular to the people of her time by involving other things they knew of into the story.
Overall, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was well written, organized, and historically accurate. Harriet Beecher Stowe used her knowledge of the past to write a clear argument for the abolition of slavery, by creating an interesting enough book to get her ideas to the common people. Her book was influential because it not only told her ideas, but because it states her ideas understandably, something not all writers are able to do.
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