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Harriet Beecher: Major Themes in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” Essay

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Updated: Mar 17th, 2022

The book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe has a strong thematic concern of antislavery with regards to compassion, inhumanity, and cruelty. The story puts its focus on a black slave who suffers for quite a long time due to his ethnic background. Uncle Tom faces life’s reality in a harsh environment where slaves are seen as mere losers. He is an intelligent man and his honesty cannot be overlooked.

Tom is bought as a slave by Mr. Shelby in Kentucky who is kind-hearted and treats him well. He is entrusted with many responsibilities such as finances and house dealings by Mr. Shelby, his master which he does not misuse or violate as Mr. Shelby states “…Tom is an uncommon fellow; he is certainly worth that sum anywhere-steady, honest, capable, manages my whole farm like a clock” (Stowe 3).

Uncle Tom’s Christian morals are evident which gains him favor from the master including freedom to be with his family in his cabin.

Tragically, Mr. Shelby owes the slave trader Haley, a debt which he has to clear. The only solution left is to render Uncle Tom as a ransom to clear his debt. Harley insists that he also has to take Eliza’s (Shelby’s maid) son Harry, with him. Irrespective of Mr. Shelby being an affluent person as he owns estates and many horses, he chooses to sell Uncle Tom to settle debt.

The issue of giving out Harry and Uncle Tom triggers a controversy. Eliza opposes his son’s departure and runs away with harry where she hooks up with George, who is her husband owned by a separate master.

George had escaped hard work he was being subjected to. Harley puts effort to gain hold of Eliza it is fruitless as other slaves of Mr. Shelby sabotage and confuse him the direction to follow in order not to get hold of Eliza. Meanwhile, she has managed to evade Harley by disappearing on the other side of the river and to Canada with the help of strangers.

This is in the pursuit of freedom which is the right of every individual irrespective of his or her ethnicity. Harley re-strategize by sending slave catchers to look for Eliza and his son as he goes back to Mr. Shelby to take uncle Tom who follows submissively due to his Christian morals and since he is aware that the other slaves might also be sold if the debt is not settled.

Harley has plans to sell him at the far south away from his family which suffer due to his departure because they are aware that he will end up dying of being overworked.

All the same, he might be bought by a good master who would appreciate his intelligence and award him for it. Together, they navigate the Mississippi river to New Orleans where they along the way, they witness a mother who commits suicide by jumping overboard due to his son’s departure with slave traders.

It is through the journey that Eva, a daughter of a rich man (Augustine St. Clare) is saved by Uncle Tom when she drops overboard where he gains a favor and is acquired to become a horse-driver. Augustine St. Clare dislikes slavery although he cannot openly oppose it alone not even with the help of his wife who despises slaves.

He has a wife whom they don’t get along well as he got her after facing denial from the family of the one he loved. Following Augustine St. Clare and his daughter’s death, Tom is sold to a cruel, master fiendish Simon Legree the owner of a cotton plantation where he is brutally beaten and eventually dies (Stowe 411).

In conclusion, the book portrays the immoral attributes that arise as a result of slavery, Christianity as a source of consolation and the relevance of the right to motherhood.

The slaves are treated as having no feelings but the book points out that they are capable of having those feelings when they suffer and should therefore not be mistreated just as Christianity points out. The author emphasizes the relevance of personal freedom which is denied to the slaves and therefore discusses slavery from an abolitionist perspective.

Works Cited

Stowe, Harriet. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. 2003. Print.

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