Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of the most popular books that were written in the eighteenth century. The book was authored by Harriet Beecher Stowe and it addresses the issue of slavery. It has been speculated that Stowe’s book was responsible for provoking the American Civil War. This claim is fuelled by fact that Lincoln himself met Stowe and supposedly credited her with triggering the Civil War.
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The author of the book was a known abolitionist herself. The book’s main character is Uncle Tom and the actions of all other characters revolve around him. This book was authored in the period before the Civil War and the consequent abolishment of slave trade. The book details various issues pertaining to Christianity, slavery, and human rights. This paper will address the main arguments brought forth by the author through this book.
One of the most apparent issues in this book is the author’s wish to portray slaves as human beings. During the slavery period, the slave owners considered African American slaves as part of their possessions. In the slave owners’ view, there was no difference between owning an ox and a slave.
Stowe presents the argument that the slaves have feelings just like those of their masters. The author seems to take issue with the practice of separating members of one family and selling them differently. Most sellers do this under the assumption that these African Americans are not like regular white people.
Uncle Tom has been in the Shelby’s household for so long such that he feels like part of the family. However, when his time to be sold comes, his feelings of attachment are utterly disregarded. In addition, throughout the story several women are separated from their kin. Those responsible for these separations overlook the fact that by doing this, they put these women through difficult emotional turmoil.
The other argument that can be deduced from this book is that Christianity is a strong tool for overcoming the shackles of slavery. The main character in the book is a staunch Christian. The role of Christianity against slavery is also explored through the portrayal of slave owners. Moreover, Stowe suggests that those slaves who are Christians have an easier time than those who are not.
Those slaves who have not embraced the faith like Topsy are seen to struggle more than the faithful ones. It is clear that the author considers Christianity a major tool in the fight against slavery. Her portrayal of Simon Legree the non-Christian slave master sheds more light into this view. Legree is portrayed as a heartless slave owner who brutalises slaves and proclaims war against their Christian faith. Stowe seems to hint that the enemies of freedom are also enemies of Christianity.
Uncle Tom is able to meet and connect with several people of all races courtesy of his unwavering faith. His faith is so steadfast such that it is instrumental in converting two of Legree’s most notorious stalwarts, Sambo and Quimbo. It can be argued that Stowe is of the opinion that the fight against slavery cannot be won without the direct influence of Christianity. That is why whenever a character in the book converts to Christianity; it somehow translates into a victory against slavery.
As a known activist for the abolishment of slavery, Stowe does not waste the chance to outline the evils of slavery. The book was written just after the government had passed a law that prohibited citizens from assisting run-away slaves. Therefore, Stowe’s goal was to get through to her audience and ensure that the citizens disregarded this new law. To achieve this goal, the author employs a sentimental style of writing that she uses to outline the evils of slavery.
In addition, the author chose to use illustrations to add on this sentimental value. All the slaves in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” suffer in one way or another. This includes those working in households with “kind masters”. For instance, Mr Shelby is intent on separating Eliza and her son just to settle a debt (Stowe 37). By portraying slavery in such different settings, the author makes it clear that there is no justification for slavery. Therefore, the only solution is freedom for all slaves.
The author of this book highlights the role played by women in this struggle. Even though the book predates the rise of feminism, the women in this book are portrayed as more courageous, morally upright, and committed than men. Among the slave owners, the women seem more ready to abandon slavery than their men counterparts do.
As another group that faces oppression, the author suggests that the womenfolk support abolishment first and then fight for their own cause later. For instance, Legree’s mother is not supportive of his son’s actions, but as a woman, she has no say on the matter (Stowe 78). The author also portrays the enslaved women in a very positive light.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was undoubtedly one of the most significant tools against slavery during its time. The author explores slavery from all angles and manages to highlight its evil nature. She achieves this by putting forward various arguments pertaining to slavery. Some of these are exhibited in a very sentimental nature that is characteristic of this book. The book was a true revelation and it remains an informative tool when it comes to the nature of life in the eighteenth century.
Stowe, Harriet. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Boston: John P Jewitt, 1852. Print.