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Uncle Tom's Cabin  
Uncle Tom's Cabin, CLEVELAND, OHIO: JEWETT, PROCTOR & WORTHINGTON edition
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Boston edition
Author Harriet Beecher Stowe
Illustrator Hammatt Billings (1st edition)
Country  United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher National Era (as a serial) & John P. Jewett and Company (in two volumes)
Publication date March 20, 1853
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN NA
Followed by A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853)

Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel had a profound effect on attitudes toward African Americans and slavery in the United States, so much in the latter case that the novel intensified the sectional conflict leading to the American Civil War.[1]

Stowe, a Connecticut-born preacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, focused the novel on the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters—both fellow slaves and slave owners—revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement of fellow human beings.[2][3][4]

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century,[5] and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible.[6] It is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s.[7] In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States alone. The book's impact was so great that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln is often quoted as having declared, "So this is the little lady who made this big war."[8]

The book, and even more the plays it inspired, also helped create a number of stereotypes about black people,[9] many of which endure to this day. These include the affectionate, dark-skinned "mammy"; the "pickaninny" stereotype of black children; and the Uncle Tom, or dutiful, long-suffering servant faithful to his white master or mistress. In recent years, the negative associations with Uncle Tom's Cabin have, to an extent, overshadowed the historical impact of the book as a "vital antislavery tool."[10]

Contents

References for the novel

An engraving of Harriet Beecher Stowe from 1872, based on an oil painting by Alonzo Chappel.

Stowe, a Connecticut-born teacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, wrote the novel as a response to the 1850 passage of the second Fugitive Slave Act (which punished those who aided runaway slaves and diminished the rights of fugitives as well as freed Blacks). Much of the book was composed in Brunswick, Maine, where her husband, Calvin Ellis Stowe, taught at his alma mater Bowdoin College.[11]

Stowe was partly inspired to create Uncle Tom's Cabin by the autobiography of Josiah Henson, a black man who lived and worked on a 3,700 acre (15 km²) tobacco plantation in North Bethesda, Maryland owned by Isaac Riley.[12] Henson escaped slavery in 1830 by fleeing to the Province of Upper Canada (now Ontario), where he helped other fugitive slaves arrive and become self-sufficient, and where he wrote his memoirs. Stowe eventually acknowledged that Henson's writings inspired Uncle Tom's Cabin.[13] When Stowe's work became a best-seller, Henson republished his memoirs as The Memoirs of Uncle Tom, and traveled extensively in the United States and Europe.[12] Stowe's novel lent its name to Henson's home—Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site, near Dresden, Ontario—which since the 1940s has been a museum. The actual cabin Henson lived in while he was a slave, still exists in Montgomery County, Maryland.

American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, a volume co-authored by Theodore Dwight Weld and the Grimké sisters, is also a source of some of the novel's content.[14] Stowe also said she based the novel on a number of interviews with escaped slaves during the time when Stowe was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Kentucky, a slave state. In Cincinnati the Underground Railroad had local abolitionist sympathizers and was active in efforts to help runaway slaves on their escape route from the South.

Stowe mentioned a number of the inspirations and sources for her novel in A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853). This non-fiction book was intended to verify Stowe's claims about slavery.[15] However, later research indicated that Stowe did not actually read many of the book's cited works until after the publication of her novel.[15]

Publication

Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared as a 40-week serial in National Era, an abolitionist periodical, starting with the June 5, 1851 issue. Because of the story's popularity, the publisher John Jewett contacted Stowe about turning the serial into a book. While Stowe questioned if anyone would read Uncle Tom's Cabin in book form, she eventually consented to the request.

Fullpage illustration by Hammatt Billings for Uncle Tom's Cabin (First Edition: Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852). The engraving shows Eliza telling Uncle Tom that she has been sold and is running away to save her child.

Convinced the book would be popular, Jewett made the unusual decision (for that time) to have six fullpage illustrations by Hammatt Billings engraved for the first printing.[16] Published in book form on March 20, 1852, the novel soon sold out its complete print run. A number of other editions were soon printed (including a deluxe edition in 1853, featuring 117 illustrations by Billings).[17]

In the first year of publication, 300,000 copies of Uncle Tom's Cabin were sold. The book was translated into all major languages, and eventually became the second best-selling book after the Bible.[6] A number of the early editions carried an introduction by Rev James Sherman, a Congregational minister in London noted for his abolitionist views.

Uncle Tom's Cabin sold equally well in Britain, with the first London edition appearing in May 1852 and selling 200,000 copies.[18] In a few years over 1.5 million copies of the book were in circulation in Britain, although most of these were pirated copies (a similar situation occurred in the United States).[19]

Plot summary

Eliza escapes with her son, Tom sold "down the river"

The book opens with a Kentucky farmer named Arthur Shelby facing the loss of his farm because of debts. Even though he and his wife, Emily Shelby, believe that they have a benevolent relationship with their slaves, Shelby decides to raise the needed funds by selling two of them—Uncle Tom, a middle-aged man with a wife and children, and Harry, the son of Emily Shelby’s maid Eliza—to a slave trader. Emily Shelby hates the idea of doing this because she had promised her maid that her child would never be sold; Emily's son, George Shelby, hates to see Tom go because he sees the man as his friend and mentor.

Simon Legree assaulting Uncle Tom.

When Eliza overhears Mr. and Mrs. Shelby discussing plans to sell Tom and Harry, Eliza determines to run away with her son. The novel states that Eliza made this decision because she fears losing her only surviving child (she had already miscarried two children). Eliza departs that night, leaving a note of apology to her mistress.

While all of this is happening, Uncle Tom is sold and placed on a riverboat, which sets sail down the Mississippi River. While on board, Tom meets and befriends a young white girl named Eva. When Eva falls into the river, Tom saves her. In gratitude, Eva's father, Augustine St. Clare, buys Tom from the slave trader and takes him with the family to their home in New Orleans. During this time, Tom and Eva begin to relate to one another because of the deep Christian faith they both share.

Eliza's family hunted, Tom's life with St. Clare

During Eliza's escape, she meets up with her husband George Harris, who had run away previously. They decide to attempt to reach Canada. However, they are now being tracked by a slave hunter named Tom Loker. Eventually Loker and his men trap Eliza and her family, causing George to shoot Loker. Worried that Loker may die, Eliza convinces George to bring the slave hunter to a nearby Quaker settlement for medical treatment.

Back in New Orleans, St. Clare debates slavery with his Northern cousin Ophelia who, while opposing slavery, is prejudiced against black people. St. Clare, however, believes he is not biased, even though he is a slave owner. In an attempt to show Ophelia that her views on blacks are wrong, St. Clare purchases Topsy, a young black slave. St. Clare then asks Ophelia to educate her.

After Tom has lived with the St. Clares for two years, Eva grows very ill. Before she dies she experiences a vision of heaven, which she shares with the people around her. As a result of her death and vision, the other characters resolve to change their lives, with Ophelia promising to throw off her personal prejudices against blacks, Topsy saying she will better herself, and St. Clare pledging to free Uncle Tom.

Tom sold to Simon Legree

Fullpage illustration by Hammatt Billings for Uncle Tom's Cabin (First Edition: Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852). Cassy, another of Legree's slaves, is shown ministering to Uncle Tom after his whipping.

Before St. Clare can follow through on his pledge, however, he dies after being stabbed while entering a New Orleans tavern. His wife reneges on her late husband's vow and sells Tom at auction to a vicious plantation owner named Simon Legree. Legree (a transplanted northerner) takes Tom to rural Louisiana, where Tom meets Legree's other slaves, including Emmeline (whom Legree purchased at the same time). Legree begins to hate Tom when Tom refuses Legree's order to whip his fellow slave. Legree beats Tom viciously, and resolves to crush his new slave's faith in God. Despite Legree's cruelty, however, Tom refuses to stop reading his Bible and comforting the other slaves as best he can. While at the plantation, Tom meets Cassy, another of Legree's slaves. Cassy was previously separated from her son and daughter when they were sold; unable to endure the pain of seeing another child sold, she killed her third child.

At this point Tom Loker returns to the story. Loker has changed as the result of being healed by the Quakers. George, Eliza, and Harry have also obtained their freedom after crossing into Canada. In Louisiana, Uncle Tom almost succumbs to hopelessness, as his faith in God is tested by the hardships of the plantation. However, he has two visions, one of Jesus and one of Eva, which renew his resolve to remain a faithful Christian, even unto death. He encourages Cassy to escape, which she does, taking Emmeline with her. When Tom refuses to tell Legree where Cassy and Emmeline have gone, Legree orders his overseers to kill Tom. As Tom is dying, he forgives the overseers who savagely beat him. Humbled by the character of the man they have killed, both men become Christians. Very shortly before Tom's death, George Shelby (Arthur Shelby's son) arrives to buy Tom’s freedom, but finds he is too late.

Final section

On their boat ride to freedom, Cassy and Emmeline meet George Harris' sister and accompany her to Canada. Once there, Cassy discovers that Eliza is her long-lost daughter who was sold as a child. Now that their family is together again, they travel to France and eventually Liberia, the African nation created for former American slaves. There they meet Cassy's long-lost son. George Shelby returns to the Kentucky farm and frees all his slaves. George tells them to remember Tom's sacrifice and his belief in the true meaning of Christianity.

Major characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom

Illustration of Tom and Eva by Hammatt Billings for the 1853 deluxe edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Uncle Tom, the title character, was initially seen as a noble, long-suffering Christian slave. In more recent years, however, his name has become an epithet directed towards African-Americans who are accused of selling out to whites (for more on this, see the creation and popularization of stereotypes section). Stowe intended Tom to be a "noble hero"[20] and praiseworthy person. Throughout the book, far from allowing himself to be exploited, Tom stands up for his beliefs and is grudgingly admired even by his enemies.

Eliza

A slave (personal maid to Mrs. Shelby), she escapes to the North with her five-year old son Harry after he is sold to Mr. Haley. Her husband, George, eventually finds Eliza and Harry in Ohio, and emigrates with them to Canada, then France and finally Liberia.

The character Eliza was inspired by an account given at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati by John Rankin to Stowe's husband Calvin, a professor at the school. According to Rankin, in February, 1838 a young slave woman had escaped across the frozen Ohio River to the town of Ripley with her child in her arms and stayed at his house on her way further north.[21]

Eva

Eva, whose real name is Evangeline St. Clare, is the daughter of Augustine St. Clare. Eva enters the narrative when Uncle Tom is traveling via steamship to New Orleans to be sold, and he rescues the 5 or 6 year-old girl from drowning. Eva begs her father to buy Tom, and he becomes the head coachman at the St. Clare plantation. He spends most of his time with the angelic Eva, however.

Eva constantly talks about love and forgiveness, even convincing the dour slave girl Topsy that she deserves love. She even touches the heart of her sour aunt, Ophelia.

Eventually Eva falls terminally ill. Before dying, she gives a lock of her hair to each of the slaves, telling them that they must become Christians so that they may see each other in Heaven. On her deathbed, she convinces her father to free Tom, but because of circumstances the promise never materializes.

A similar character, also named Little Eva, later appeared in the children's novel Little Eva: The Flower of the South by Philip J. Cozans (although this ironically was an anti-Tom novel). To a certain degree, the Little Eva portrayed by Cozans could be the same Eva introduced by Stowe.

Simon Legree

A cruel slave owner—a Northerner by birth—whose name has become synonymous with greed. His goal is to demoralize Tom and break him of his religious faith; he eventually beats Tom to death out of frustration for his slave's unbreakable belief in God. The novel reveals that, as a young man, he had abandoned his sickly mother for a life at sea, and ignored her letter to see her one last time at her deathbed. He sexually exploits Cassie, who despises him, and later sets his designs on Emmeline.

Other characters

There are a number of secondary and minor characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Among the more notable are:

  • Arthur Shelby, Tom's master in Kentucky. Shelby is characterized as a "kind" slaveowner and a stereotypical Southern gentleman.
  • Emily Shelby, Arthur Shelby's wife. A deeply religious woman who strives to be a kind and moral influence upon her slaves. She is appalled when her husband sells his slaves with a slave trader. As a woman, she has no legal way to stop this, as all property belongs to her husband.
  • George Shelby, Arthur and Emily's son, who sees Tom as a "friend" and as the perfect Christian.
  • Augustine St. Clare, Tom's second owner and father of Eva. Of the slaveowners in the novel, the most sympathetic character. St. Clare is complex, often sarcastic, with a ready wit. After a rocky courtship he marries a woman he grows to hold in contempt, though he is too polite to let it show. St. Clare recognizes the evil in chattel slavery, but is not willing to relinquish the wealth it brings him. After his daughter's death he becomes more sincere in his religious thoughts, and starts to read the Bible to Tom. He plans on finally taking action against slavery by freeing his slaves, but his good intentions ultimately come to nothing.
  • Topsy, A "ragamuffin" young slave girl. When asked if she knows who made her, she professes ignorance of both God and a mother, saying "I s'pect I growed. Don't think nobody never made me." She is transformed by Little Eva's love. During the early-to-mid 1900s, several doll manufacturers created Topsy and Topsy-type dolls. The phrase "growed like Topsy" (later "grew like Topsy"; now somewhat archaic) passed into the English language, originally with the specific meaning of unplanned growth, later sometimes just meaning enormous growth.[22]
  • Miss Ophelia, is Augustine St. Clare's pious, hard-working, abolitionist cousin from Vermont. She displays the ambiguities towards African-Americans felt by many Northerners at the time. She argues against the institution of slavery yet, at least initially, feels repulsed by the slaves as individuals.

Major themes

"The fugitives are safe in a free land." Illustration by Hammatt Billings for Uncle Tom's Cabin, First Edition. The image shows George Harris, Eliza, Harry, and Mrs. Smyth after they escape to freedom.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is dominated by a single theme: the evil and immorality of slavery.[23] While Stowe weaves other subthemes throughout her text, such as the moral authority of motherhood and the redeeming possibilities offered by Christianity,[3] she emphasizes the connections between these and the horrors of slavery. Stowe pushed home her theme of the immorality of slavery on almost every page of the novel, sometimes even changing the story's voice so she could give a "homily" on the destructive nature of slavery[24] (such as when a white woman on the steamboat carrying Tom further south states, "The most dreadful part of slavery, to my mind, is its outrages of feelings and affections—the separating of families, for example.").[25] One way Stowe showed the evil of slavery[18] was how this "peculiar institution" forcibly separated families from each other.[26]

Because Stowe saw motherhood as the "ethical and structural model for all of American life,"[27] and also believed that only women had the moral authority to save[28] the United States from the demon of slavery, another major theme of Uncle Tom's Cabin is the moral power and sanctity of women. Through characters like Eliza, who escapes from slavery to save her young son (and eventually reunites her entire family), or Little Eva, who is seen as the "ideal Christian",[29] Stowe shows how she believed women could save those around them from even the worst injustices. While later critics have noted that Stowe's female characters are often domestic clichés instead of realistic women,[30] Stowe's novel "reaffirmed the importance of women's influence" and helped pave the way for the women's rights movement in the following decades.[31]

Stowe's puritanical religious beliefs show up in the novel's final, over-arching theme, which is the exploration of the nature of Christianity[3] and how she feels Christian theology is fundamentally incompatible with slavery.[32] This theme is most evident when Tom urges St. Clare to "look away to Jesus" after the death of St. Clare's beloved daughter Eva. After Tom dies, George Shelby eulogizes Tom by saying, "What a thing it is to be a Christian."[33] Because Christian themes play such a large role in Uncle Tom's Cabin—and because of Stowe's frequent use of direct authorial interjections on religion and faith—the novel often takes the "form of a sermon."[34]

Style

Eliza crossing the icy river, in an 1881 theater poster

Uncle Tom's Cabin is written in the sentimental[35] and melodramatic style common to 19th century sentimental novels[5] and domestic fiction (also called women's fiction). These genres were the most popular novels of Stowe's time and tended to feature female main characters and a writing style which evoked a reader's sympathy and emotion.[36] Even though Stowe's novel differs from other sentimental novels by focusing on a large theme like slavery and by having a man as the main character, she still set out to elicit certain strong feelings from her readers (such as making them cry at the death of Little Eva).[37] The power in this type of writing can be seen in the reaction of contemporary readers. Georgiana May, a friend of Stowe's, wrote a letter to the author stating that "I was up last night long after one o'clock, reading and finishing Uncle Tom's Cabin. I could not leave it any more than I could have left a dying child."[38] Another reader is described as obsessing on the book at all hours and having considered renaming her daughter Eva.[39] Evidently the death of Little Eva affected a lot of people at that time, because in 1852 alone 300 baby girls in Boston were given that name.[39]

Despite this positive reaction from readers, for decades literary critics dismissed the style found in Uncle Tom's Cabin and other sentimental novels because these books were written by women and so prominently featured "women's sloppy emotions."[40] One literary critic said that had the novel not been about slavery, "it would be just another sentimental novel,"[41] while another described the book as "primarily a derivative piece of hack work."[42] In The Literary History of the United States, George F. Whicher called Uncle Tom's Cabin "Sunday-school fiction", full of "broadly conceived melodrama, humor, and pathos."[43]

However, in 1985 Jane Tompkins changed this view of Uncle Tom's Cabin with her book In Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction.[40] Tompkins praised the style so many other critics had dismissed, writing that sentimental novels showed how women's emotions had the power to change the world for the better. She also said that the popular domestic novels of the 19th century, including Uncle Tom's Cabin, were remarkable for their "intellectual complexity, ambition, and resourcefulness"; and that Uncle Tom's Cabin offers a "critique of American society far more devastating than any delivered by better-known critics such as Hawthorne and Melville."[43]

Reactions to the novel

Uncle Tom's Cabin has exerted an influence equaled by few other novels in history.[44] Upon publication, Uncle Tom's Cabin ignited a firestorm of protest from defenders of slavery (who created a number of books in response to the novel) while the book elicited praise from abolitionists. As a best-seller, the novel heavily influenced later protest literature.

Contemporary and world reaction

Immediately upon publication, Uncle Tom's Cabin outraged people in the American South.[18] The novel was also roundly criticized by slavery supporters.

Acclaimed Southern novelist William Gilmore Simms declared the work utterly false,[45] while others called the novel criminal and slanderous.[46] Reactions ranged from a bookseller in Mobile, Alabama who was forced to leave town for selling the novel[18] to threatening letters sent to Stowe herself (including a package containing a slave's severed ear).[18] Many Southern writers, like Simms, soon wrote their own books in opposition to Stowe's novel (see the Anti-Tom section below).[47]

Some critics highlighted Stowe's paucity of life-experience relating to Southern life, saying that it led her to create inaccurate descriptions of the region. For instance, she had never set foot on a Southern plantation. However, Stowe always said she based the characters of her book on stories she was told by runaway slaves in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Stowe lived. It is reported that, "She observed firsthand several incidents which galvanized her to write [the] famous anti-slavery novel. Scenes she observed on the Ohio River, including seeing a husband and wife being sold apart, as well as newspaper and magazine accounts and interviews, contributed material to the emerging plot."[48]

In response to these criticisms, in 1853 Stowe published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, an attempt to document the veracity of the novel's depiction of slavery. In the book, Stowe discusses each of the major characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin and cites "real life equivalents" to them while also mounting a more "aggressive attack on slavery in the South than the novel itself had."[15] Like the novel, A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin was also a best-seller. It should be noted, though, that while Stowe claimed A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin documented her previously consulted sources, she actually read many of the cited works only after the publication of her novel.[15]

Despite these criticisms, the novel still captured the imagination of many Americans. According to Stowe's son, when Abraham Lincoln met her in 1862 Lincoln commented, "So this is the little lady who started this great war."[8] Historians are undecided if Lincoln actually said this line, and in a letter that Stowe wrote to her husband a few hours after meeting with Lincoln no mention of this comment was made.[49] Since then, many writers have credited this novel with focusing Northern anger at the injustices of slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law[49] and helping to fuel the abolitionist movement.[7] Union general and politician James Baird Weaver said that the book convinced him to become active in the abolitionist movement.[50]

Uncle Tom's Cabin also created great interest in England. The first London edition appeared in May 1852, and sold 200,000 copies.[18] Some of this interest was because of British antipathy to America. As one prominent writer explained, "The evil passions which 'Uncle Tom' gratified in England were not hatred or vengeance [of slavery], but national jealousy and national vanity. We have long been smarting under the conceit of America — we are tired of hearing her boast that she is the freest and the most enlightened country that the world has ever seen. Our clergy hate her voluntary system — our Tories hate her democrats — our Whigs hate her parvenus — our Radicals hate her litigiousness, her insolence, and her ambition. All parties hailed Mrs. Stowe as a revolter from the enemy."[51] Charles Francis Adams, the American minister to Britain during the war, argued later that, "Uncle Tom's Cabin; or Life among the Lowly, published in 1852, exercised, largely from fortuitous circumstances, a more immediate, considerable and dramatic world-influence than any other book ever printed."[52]

The book has been translated into almost every language, including Chinese (with translator Lin Shu creating the first Chinese translation of an American novel) and Amharic (with the 1930 translation created in support of Ethiopian efforts to end the suffering of blacks in that nation).[53] The book was so widely read that Sigmund Freud reported a number of patients with sado-masochistic tendencies who he believed had been influenced by reading about the whipping of slaves in Uncle Tom's Cabin.[54]

Literary significance and criticism

As the first widely read political novel in the United States,[55] Uncle Tom's Cabin greatly influenced development of not only American literature but also protest literature in general. Later books which owe a large debt to Uncle Tom's Cabin include The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.[56]

Despite this undisputed significance, the popular perception of Uncle Tom's Cabin is as "a blend of children's fable and propaganda."[57] The novel has also been dismissed by a number of literary critics as "merely a sentimental novel,"[41] while critic George Whicher stated in his Literary History of the United States that "Nothing attributable to Mrs. Stowe or her handiwork can account for the novel's enormous vogue; its author's resources as a purveyor of Sunday-school fiction were not remarkable. She had at most a ready command of broadly conceived melodrama, humor, and pathos, and of these popular cements she compounded her book."[43]

Other critics, though, have praised the novel. Edmund Wilson stated that "To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom's Cabin may … prove a startling experience."[57] Jane Tompkins states that the novel is one of the classics of American literature and wonders if many literary critics aren't dismissing the book because it was simply too popular during its day.[43]

Over the years scholars have postulated a number of theories about what Stowe was trying to say with the novel (aside from the obvious themes, such as condemning slavery). For example, as an ardent Christian and active abolitionist, Stowe placed many of her religion's beliefs into the novel.[58] Some scholars have stated that Stowe saw her novel as offering a solution to the moral and political dilemma that troubled many slavery opponents: whether engaging in prohibited behavior was justified in opposing evil. Was the use of violence to oppose the violence of slavery and the breaking of proslavery laws morally defensible? Which of Stowe's characters should be emulated, the passive Uncle Tom or the defiant George Harris?[59] Stowe's solution was similar to Ralph Waldo Emerson's: God's will would be followed if each person sincerely examined his principles and acted on them.[59]

Scholars have also seen the novel as expressing the values and ideas of the Free Will Movement.[60] In this view, the character of George Harris embodies the principles of free labor, while the complex character of Ophelia represents those Northerners who condoned compromise with slavery. In contrast to Ophelia is Dinah, who operates on passion. During the course of the novel Ophelia is transformed, just as the Republican Party (three years later) proclaimed that the North must transform itself and stand up for its antislavery principles.[60]

Feminist theory can also be seen at play in Stowe's book, with the novel as a critique of the patriarchal nature of slavery.[61] For Stowe, blood relations rather than paternalistic relations between masters and slaves formed the basis of families. Moreover, Stowe viewed national solidarity as an extension of a person's family, thus feelings of nationality stemmed from possessing a shared race. Consequently she advocated African colonization for freed slaves and not amalgamation into American society.

The book has also been seen as an attempt to redefine masculinity as a necessary step toward the abolition of slavery.[62] In this view, abolitionists had begun to resist the vision of aggressive and dominant men that the conquest and colonization of the early 19th century had fostered. In order to change the notion of manhood so that men could oppose slavery without jeopardizing their self-image or their standing in society, some abolitionists drew on principles of women's suffrage and Christianity as well as passivism, and praised men for cooperation, compassion, and civic spirit. Others within the abolitionist movement argued for conventional, aggressive masculine action. All the men in Stowe's novel are representations of either one kind of man or the other.[62]

Creation and popularization of stereotypes

Illustration of Sam from the 1888 "New Edition" of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The character of Sam helped create the stereotype of the lazy, carefree "happy darky."

In recent decades, scholars and readers have criticized the book for what are seen as condescending racist descriptions of the book's black characters, especially with regard to the characters' appearances, speech, and behavior, as well as the passive nature of Uncle Tom in accepting his fate.[63] The novel's creation and use of common stereotypes about African Americans[9] is important because Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel in the world during the 19th century.[6] As a result, the book (along with images illustrating the book[64] and associated stage productions) had a major role in permanently ingraining these stereotypes into the American psyche.[63]

Among the stereotypes of blacks in Uncle Tom's Cabin are:[10]

  • The "happy darky" (in the lazy, carefree character of Sam);
  • The light-skinned tragic mulatto as a sex object (in the characters of Eliza, Cassy, and Emmeline);
  • The affectionate, dark-skinned female mammy (through several characters, including Mammy, a cook at the St. Clare plantation).
  • The Pickaninny stereotype of black children (in the character of Topsy);
  • The Uncle Tom, or African American who is too eager to please white people (in the character of Uncle Tom). Stowe intended Tom to be a "noble hero." The stereotype of him as a "subservient fool who bows down to the white man" evidently resulted from staged "Tom Shows," over which Stowe had no control.[20]

In the last few decades these negative associations have to a large degree overshadowed the historical impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin as a "vital antislavery tool."[10] The beginning of this change in the novel's perception had its roots in an essay by James Baldwin titled "Everybody’s Protest Novel." In the essay, Baldwin called Uncle Tom’s Cabin a "very bad novel" which was also racially obtuse and aesthetically crude.[65]

In the 1960s and '70s, the Black Power and Black Arts Movements attacked the novel, saying that the character of Uncle Tom engaged in "race betrayal," saying that Tom made slaves out to be worse than slave owners.[65] Criticisms of the other stereotypes in the book also increased during this time.

In recent years, however, scholars such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. have begun to reexamine Uncle Tom's Cabin, stating that the book is a "central document in American race relations and a significant moral and political exploration of the character of those relations."[65]

Anti-Tom literature

Title page for Aunt Phillis's Cabin by Mary Eastman, one of many examples of Anti-Tom literature.

In response to Uncle Tom's Cabin, writers in the Southern United States produced a number of books to rebut Stowe's novel. This so-called Anti-Tom literature generally took a pro-slavery viewpoint, arguing that the issues of slavery as depicted in Stowe's book were overblown and incorrect. The novels in this genre tended to feature a benign white patriarchal master and a pure wife, both of whom presided over child-like slaves in a benevolent extended-family-style plantation. The novels either implied or directly stated that African Americans were a child-like people[66] unable to live their lives without being directly overseen by white people.[67] Although written much later, and well after the conclusion of the Civil War, Margaret Mitchell's novel, Gone With The Wind displays a similar attitude toward the institution of slavery. See the analysis of the political views expressed in Gone With The Wind.

Among the most famous anti-Tom books are The Sword and the Distaff by William Gilmore Simms, Aunt Phillis's Cabin by Mary Henderson Eastman, and The Planter's Northern Bride by Caroline Lee Hentz,[68] with the last author having been a close personal friend of Stowe's when the two lived in Cincinnati. Simms' book was published a few months after Stowe's novel and it contains a number of sections and discussions disputing Stowe's book and her view of slavery. Hentz's 1854 novel, widely-read at the time, but now largely forgotten, offers a defense of slavery as seen through the eyes of a northern woman—the daughter of an abolitionist, no less—who marries a southern slave owner.

In the decade between the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the start of the American Civil War, between twenty and thirty anti-Tom books were published. Among these novels are two books titled Uncle Tom's Cabin As It Is (one by W.L. Smith and the other by C.H. Wiley) and a book by John Pendleton Kennedy. More than half of these Anti-Tom books were written by white women, with Simms commenting at one point about the "Seemingly poetic justice of having the Northern woman (Stowe) answered by a Southern woman."[69]

Dramatic adaptations

Tom shows

1886 poster for "Stetson's Uncle Tom's Cabin"

Even though Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, far more Americans of that time saw the story as a stage play or musical than read the book.[70] Eric Lott, in his book Uncle Tomitudes: Racial Melodrama and Modes of Production, estimates that at least three million people saw these plays, ten times the book's first-year sales.

Copyright issues

Given the lax copyright laws of the time, stage plays based on Uncle Tom's Cabin—"Tom shows"—began to appear while the story itself was still being serialized. Stowe refused to authorize dramatization of her work because of her puritanical distrust of drama (although she did eventually go to see George Aiken's version, and, according to Francis Underwood, was "delighted" by Caroline Howard's portrayal of Topsy).[71] Stowe's refusal left the field clear for any number of adaptations, some launched for (various) political reasons and others as simply commercial theatrical ventures.

There were then no international copyright laws. The book and plays were translated into several languages; Ms. Stowe saw no money, as much as "three fourths of her just and legitimate wages."[72]

On the plays

All Tom shows appear to have incorporated elements of melodrama and blackface minstrelsy.[73] These plays varied tremendously in their politics—some faithfully reflected Stowe's sentimentalized antislavery politics, while others were more moderate, or even pro-slavery.[71] Many of the productions featured demeaning racial caricatures of Black people,[73] while a number of productions also featured songs by Stephen Foster (including "My Old Kentucky Home," "Old Folks at Home," and "Massa's in the Cold Ground").[70] The best-known Tom Shows were those of George Aiken and H.J. Conway.[71]

The many stage variants of Uncle Tom's Cabin "dominated northern popular culture… for several years" during the 19th century[71] and the plays were still being performed in the early 20th century.

One of the unique and controversial variants of the Tom Shows was Walt Disney's 1933 Mickey's Mellerdrammer. Mickey's Mellerdrammer is a United Artists film released in 1933. The title is a corruption of "melodrama", thought to harken back to the earliest minstrel shows, as a film short based on a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin by the Disney characters. In that film, Mickey Mouse and friends stage their own production of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Mickey Mouse was already black-colored, but the advertising poster for the film shows Mickey dressed in blackface with exaggerated, orange lips; bushy, white sidewhiskers made out of cotton; and his now trademark white gloves.

Film adaptations

Uncle Tom's Cabin has been made into a number of film versions. Most of these movies were created during the silent film era (with Uncle Tom's Cabin being the most-filmed story of that time period).[74] This was due to the continuing popularity of both the book and Tom shows, meaning audiences were already familiar with the characters and the plot, making it easier for the film to be understood without spoken words.[74]

The first film version of Uncle Tom's Cabin was one of the earliest full-length movies (although full-length at that time meant between 10 and 14 minutes).[75] This 1903 film, directed by Edwin S. Porter, used white actors in blackface in the major roles and black performers only as extras. This version was evidently similar to many of the Tom Shows of earlier decades and featured a large number of black stereotypes (such as having the slaves dance in almost any context, including at a slave auction).[75]

Still from Edwin S. Porter's 1903 version of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which was one of the first full length movies. The still shows Eliza telling Uncle Tom that she has been sold and that she is running away to save her child.

In 1910, a 3-Reel Vitagraph Company of America production was directed by J. Stuart Blackton and adapted by Eugene Mullin. According to The Dramatic Mirror, this film was "a decided innovation" in motion pictures and "the first time an American company" released a dramatic film in 3 reels. Until then, full-length movies of the time were 15 minutes long and contained only one reel of film. The movie starred Florence Turner, Mary Fuller, Edwin R. Phillips, Flora Finch, Genevieve Tobin and Carlyle Blackwell, Sr.[76]

At least four more movie adaptations were created in the next two decades. The last silent film version came in 1927. Directed by Harry A. Pollard (who'd played Uncle Tom in a 1913 release of Uncle Tom's Cabin), this two-hour movie spent more than a year in production and was the third most expensive picture of the silent era (at a cost of $1.8 million). Black actor Charles Gilpin was originally cast in the title role, but was fired after the studio decided his "portrayal was too aggressive."[77] James B. Lowe then took over the character of Tom. One difference in this film from the novel is that after Tom dies, he returns as a vengeful spirit and confronts Simon Legree before leading the slave owner to his death. Black media outlets of the time praised the film, but the studio—fearful of a backlash from Southern and white film audiences—ended up cutting out controversial scenes, including the film's opening sequence at a slave auction (where a mother is torn away from her baby).[78] The story was adapted by Pollard, Harvey F. Thew and A. P. Younger, with titles by Walter Anthony. It starred James B. Lowe, Virginia Grey, George Siegmann, Margarita Fischer, Mona Ray and Madame Sul-Te-Wan.[77]

For several decades after the end of the silent film era, the subject matter of Stowe's novel was judged too sensitive for further film interpretation. In 1946, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer considered filming the story, but ceased production after protests led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.[79]

A movie poster from Kroger Babb's 1965 production of Uncle Tom's Cabin

A German language version, Onkel Toms Hütte, directed by Géza von Radványi, appeared in 1965 and was presented in the United States by exploitation film presenter Kroger Babb. The most recent film version was a television broadcast in 1987 directed by Stan Lathan and adapted by John Gay. It starred Avery Brooks, Phylicia Rashad, Edward Woodward, Jenny Lewis, Samuel L. Jackson and Endyia Kinney.

In addition to film adaptations, versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin have featured in a number of animated cartoons, including Walt Disney's Mickey's Mellerdrammer (1933), which features the classic Disney character performing the play in blackface with exaggerated, orange lips; the Bugs Bunny cartoon Southern Fried Rabbit (1953), where Bugs disguises himself as Uncle Tom and sings My Old Kentucky Home in order to cross the Mason-Dixon line; Uncle Tom's Bungalow (1937), a Warner Brothers cartoon supervised by Tex Avery; Eliza on Ice (1944), one of the earliest Mighty Mouse cartoons produced by Paul Terry; and Uncle Tom's Cabaña (1947), an eight-minute cartoon directed by Tex Avery.[79]

Uncle Tom's Cabin has also influenced a large number of movies, including Birth of a Nation. This controversial 1915 film deliberately used a cabin similar to Uncle Tom's home in the film's dramatic climax, where several white Southerners unite with their former enemy (Yankee soldiers) to defend what the film's caption says is their "Aryan birthright." According to scholars, this reuse of such a familiar cabin would have resonated with, and been understood by, audiences of the time.[80]

Among the other movies influenced by or making use of Uncle Tom's Cabin include Dimples (a 1936 Shirley Temple film),[79] "Uncle Tom's Uncle," (a 1926 Our Gang (The Little Rascals) episode),[79] the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I (in which a ballet called "Small House of Uncle Thomas" is performed in traditional Siamese style), and Gangs of New York (in which Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis's characters attend an imagined wartime adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin).

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The Civil War in American Culture by Will Kaufman, Edinburgh University Press, 2006, page 18.
  2. ^ Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Spark Publishers, 2002, page 19, where it states the novel is about the "destructive power of slavery and the ability of Christian love to overcome it…"
  3. ^ a b c The Complete Idiot's Guide to American Literature by Laurie E. Rozakis, Alpha Books, 1999, page 125, where it states that one of the book's main messages is that "The slavery crisis can only be resolved by Christian love."
  4. ^ Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830–1865 by Deborah C. de Rosa, SUNY Press, 2003, page 121, where the book quotes Jane Tompkins on how Stowe's strategy with the novel was to destroy slavery through the "saving power of Christian love." This quote is from "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History" by Jane Tompkins, from In Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860. New York: Oxford UP, 1985. Pp. 122–146. In that essay, Tompkins also states "Stowe conceived her book as an instrument for bringing about the day when the world would be ruled not by force, but by Christian love."
  5. ^ a b "The Sentimental Novel: The Example of Harriet Beecher Stowe" by Gail K. Smith, The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing by Dale M. Bauer and Philip Gould, Cambridge University Press, 2001, page 221.
  6. ^ a b c Introduction to Uncle Tom's Cabin Study Guide, BookRags.com. Retrieved May 16, 2006.
  7. ^ a b Goldner, Ellen J. "Arguing with Pictures: Race, Class and the Formation of Popular Abolitionism Through Uncle Tom's Cabin." Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 2001 24(1–2): 71–84. Issn: 1537-4726 Fulltext: online at Ebsco.
  8. ^ a b Charles Edward Stowe, Harriet Beecher Stowe: The Story of Her Life (1911) p. 203.
  9. ^ a b Hulser, Kathleen. "Reading Uncle Tom's Image: From Anti-slavery Hero to Racial Insult." New-York Journal of American History 2003 65(1): 75–79. Issn: 1551-5486.
  10. ^ a b c Africana: arts and letters: an A-to-Z reference of writers, musicians, and artists of the African American Experience by Henry Louis Gates, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Running Press, 2005, page 544.
  11. ^ Harriett Beecher Stowe's Life & Times. Harriet Beecher Stowe House and Library. Accessed February 17, 2007.
  12. ^ a b Susan Logue, "Historic Uncle Tom's Cabin Saved", VOA News, January 12, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2006.
  13. ^ Harriet Beecher Stowe, A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin 1853, page 42, in which Stowe states "A last instance parallel with that of Uncle Tom is to be found in the published memoirs of the venerable Josiah Henson…" An excerpt of this information and acknowledgement is also in A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin by Debra J. Rosenthal, Routledge, 2003, pages 25–26.
  14. ^ Weld, Theodore Dwight. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001–2005. Retrieved May 15, 2007.
  15. ^ a b c d A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 20, 2007.
  16. ^ First Edition Illustrations, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  17. ^ Illustrations for the "Splendid Edition", Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Slave narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin, Africans in America, PBS, accessed February 16, 2007.
  19. ^ "publishing, history of." (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 18, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  20. ^ a b A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin by Debra J. Rosenthal, Routledge, 2003, page 31.
  21. ^ Hagedorn, Ann. Beyond The River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad. Simon & Schuster, 2002, pp. 135–139.
  22. ^ The Word Detective, issue of May 20, 2003, accessed February 16, 2007.
  23. ^ Homelessness in American Literature: Romanticism, Realism, and Testimony by John Allen, Routledge, 2004, page 24, where it states in regards to Uncle Tom's Cabin that "Stowe held specific beliefs about the 'evils' of slavery and the role of Americans in resisting it." The book then quotes Ann Douglas describing how Stowe saw slavery as a sin.
  24. ^ Drawn With the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War by James Munro McPherson, Oxford University Press, 1997, page 30.
  25. ^ Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Vintage Books, Modern Library Edition, 1991, page 150.
  26. ^ Drawn With the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War by James Munro McPherson, Oxford University Press, 1997, page 29.
  27. ^ "Stowe's Dream of the Mother-Savior: Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Women Writers Before the 1920s" by Elizabeth Ammons, New Essays on Uncle Tom's Cabin, Eric J. Sundquist, editor, Cambridge University Press, 1986, page 159.
  28. ^ Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe by Joy Jordan-Lake, Vanderbilt University Press, 2005, page 61.
  29. ^ Somatic Fictions: imagining illness in Victorian culture by Athena Vrettos, Stanford University Press, 1995, page 101.
  30. ^ The Stowe Debate: Rhetorical Strategies in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Mason I. (jr.) Lowance, Ellen E. Westbrook, C. De Prospo, R., Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1994, page 132.
  31. ^ Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States by Linda Eisenmann, Greenwood Press, 1998, page 3.
  32. ^ The Company of the Creative: A Christian Reader's Guide to Great Literature and Its Themes by David L. Larsen, Kregel Publications, 2000, pages 386–387.
  33. ^ The Company of the Creative: A Christian Reader's Guide to Great Literature and Its Themes by David L. Larsen, Kregel Publications, 2000, page 387.
  34. ^ The Cambridge History of American Literature by Sacvan Bercovitch and Cyrus R. K. Patell, Cambridge University Press, 1994, page 119.
  35. ^ Marianne Noble, "The Ecstasies of Sentimental Wounding In Uncle Tom's Cabin," from A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin Edited by Debra J. Rosenthal, Routledge, 2003, page 58.
  36. ^ "Domestic or Sentimental Fiction, 1820–1865" American Literature Sites, Washington State University. Retrieved April 26, 2007.
  37. ^ "Uncle Tom's Cabin," The Kansas Territorial Experience. Retrieved April 26, 2007.
  38. ^ Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present by Janet Badia and Jennifer Phegley, University of Toronto Press, 2005, page 67.
  39. ^ a b Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present by Janet Badia and Jennifer Phegley, University of Toronto Press, 2005, page 66.
  40. ^ a b A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin by Debra J. Rosenthal, Routledge, 2003, page 42.
  41. ^ a b "Review of The Building of Uncle Tom's Cabin by E. Bruce Kirkham" by Thomas F. Gossett, American Literature, Vol. 50, No. 1 (March, 1978), pp. 123–124.
  42. ^ "The Origins of Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Charles Nichols, The Phylon Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 3 (3rd Qtr., 1958), page 328.
  43. ^ a b c d "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History" by Jane Tompkins, from In Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860. New York: Oxford UP, 1985. Pp. 122–146.
  44. ^ Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Matter of Influence" Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
  45. ^ "Simms's Review of Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Charles S. Watson, American Literature, Vol. 48, No. 3 (November, 1976), pp. 365–368
  46. ^ "Over and above … There Broods a Portentous Shadow,—The Shadow of Law: Harriet Beecher Stowe's Critique of Slave Law in Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Alfred L. Brophy, Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1995–1996), pp. 457–506.
  47. ^ "Woodcraft: Simms's First Answer to Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Joseph V. Ridgely, American Literature, Vol. 31, No. 4 (January, 1960), pp. 421–433.
  48. ^ The Classic Text: Harriett Beecher Stowe. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Library. Special collection page on traditions and interpretations of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Retrieved May 15, 2007.
  49. ^ a b Uncle Tom's Cabin, introduction by Amanda Claybaugh, Barnes and Noble Classics, New York, 2003, page xvii.
  50. ^ "Review of James Baird Weaver by Fred Emory Haynes" by A. M. Arnett, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 1 (March, 1920), pp. 154–157; and profile of James Baird Weaver, accessed February 17, 2007.
  51. ^ Nassau Senior, quoted in Ephraim Douglass Adams, Great Britain and the American Civil War (1958) p: 33.
  52. ^ Charles Francis Adams, Trans-Atlantic Historical Solidarity: Lectures Delivered before the University of Oxford in Easter and Trinity Terms, 1913. 1913. p. 79
  53. ^ Richard Pankhurst, Economic History of Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Haile Selassie I University Press, 1968), p. 122.
  54. ^ Ian Gibson, The English Vice: Beating, Sex and Shame in Victorian England and After (1978)
  55. ^ Tompkins, Jane. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. See chapter five, "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History."
  56. ^ The Cambridge Companion to Harriet Beecher Stowe by Cindy Weinstein, Cambridge University Press, 2004, page 13.
  57. ^ a b "Uncle Tom's Shadow" by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, The Nation, December 25, 2006.
  58. ^ Smylie, James H. "Uncle Tom's Cabin Revisited: the Bible, the Romantic Imagination, and the Sympathies of Christ." American Presbyterians 1995 73(3): 165–175. Issn: 0886-5159.
  59. ^ a b Bellin, Joshua D. "Up to Heaven's Gate, down in Earth's Dust: the Politics of Judgment in Uncle Tom's Cabin" American Literature 1993 65(2): 275–295. Issn: 0002-9831 Fulltext online at Jstor and Ebsco.
  60. ^ a b Grant, David. "Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Triumph of Republican Rhetoric." New England Quarterly 1998 71(3): 429–448. Issn: 0028-4866 Fulltext online at Jstor.
  61. ^ Riss, Arthur. "Racial Essentialism and Family Values in Uncle Tom's Cabin." American Quarterly 1994 46(4): 513–544. Issn: 0003-0678 Fulltext in JSTOR.
  62. ^ a b Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. "Masculinity in Uncle Tom's Cabin," American Quarterly 1995 47(4): 595–618. ISSN: 0003-0678. Fulltext online at JSTOR.
  63. ^ a b Smith; Jessie Carney; Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources Greenwood Press. 1988.
  64. ^ Illustrations, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  65. ^ a b c "Digging Through the Literary Anthropology of Stowe’s Uncle Tom", by Edward Rothstein, from the New York Times, October 23, 2006.
  66. ^ Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson by Linda Williams, Princeton Univ. Press, 2001, page 113.
  67. ^ Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin: nineteenth-century women novelists respond to Stowe by Joy Jordan-Lake, Vanderbilt University Press, 2005.
  68. ^ "Caroline Lee Hentz's Long Journey" by Philip D. Beidler. Alabama Heritage Number 75, Winter 2005.
  69. ^ Figures in Black: words, signs, and the "racial" self by Henry Louis Gates, Oxford University Press, 1987, page 134.
  70. ^ a b "People & Events: Uncle Tom's Cabin Takes the Nation by Storm" Stephen Foster, The American Experience, PBS. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  71. ^ a b c d Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-19-507832-2. The information on "Tom shows" comes from chapter 8: "Uncle Tomitudes: Racial Melodrama and Modes of Production" (p. 211–233)
  72. ^ Parton, James (October 1867). "International Copyright". The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/186710/international-copyright. Retrieved 2009-01-06.  
  73. ^ a b Africana: arts and letters: an A-to-Z reference of writers, musicians, and artists of the African American Experience by Henry Louis Gates, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Running Press, 2005, page 44.
  74. ^ a b Uncle Tom's Cabin on Film, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  75. ^ a b The First Uncle Tom's Cabin Film: Edison-Porter's Slavery Days (1903), Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  76. ^ The 3-Reel Vitagraph Production (1910), Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  77. ^ a b hp.html Universal Super Jewel Production (1927), Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  78. ^ Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900–1942 by Thomas Cripps, Oxford University Press, 1993, page 48.
  79. ^ a b c d Uncle Tom's Cabin in Hollywood: 1929–1956, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  80. ^ Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson by Linda Williams, Princeton Univ. Press, 2001, page 115. Also H. B. Stowe's Cabin in D. W. Griffith's Movie, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 19, 2007.

Bibliography

  • Gates, Henry Louis; and Appiah, Kwame Anthony. Africana: Arts and Letters: an A-to-Z reference of writers, musicians, and artists of the African American Experience, Running Press, 2005.
  • Gates, Henry Louis; and Hollis Robbins. "The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin" WW. Norton. ISBN 0393059464
  • Jordan-Lake, Joy. Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe, Vanderbilt University Press, 2005.
  • Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Lowance, Mason I. (jr.); Westbrook, Ellen E.; De Prospo, R., The Stowe Debate: Rhetorical Strategies in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1994.
  • Rosenthal, Debra J. Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin Routledge, 2003.
  • Sundquist, Eric J., editor New Essays on Uncle Tom's Cabin, Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  • Tompkins, Jane. In Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.
  • Weinstein, Cindy. The Cambridge Companion to Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Williams, Linda. Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson, Princeton Univ. Press, 2001.

Online resources

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly, is American author Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel about the evils of slavery. Published in 1852, the novel had a profound effect on the world's view of African-Americans and slavery, so much so in the latter case that people have said the book laid the groundwork for the American Civil War.
Excerpted from Uncle Tom's Cabin on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
UTC-1852 edition.jpg
  1. In Which the Reader Is Introduced to a Man of Humanity
  2. The Mother
  3. The Husband and Father
  4. An Evening in Uncle Tom's Cabin
  5. Showing the Feelings of Living Property on Changing Owners
  6. Discovery
  7. The Mother's Struggle
  8. Eliza's Escape
  9. In Which It Appears That a Senator Is But a Man
  10. The Property Is Carried Off
  11. In Which Property Gets into an Improper State of Mind
  12. Select Incident of Lawful Trade
  13. The Quaker Settlement
  14. Evangeline
  15. Of Tom's New Master, and Various Other Matters
  16. Tom's Mistress and Her Opinions
  17. The Freeman's Defence
  18. Miss Ophelia's Experiences and Opinions
  19. Miss Ophelia's Experiences and Opinions Continued
  20. Topsy
  21. Kentuck
  22. "The Grass Withereth—the Flower Fadeth"
  23. Henrique
  24. Foreshadowings
  25. The Little Evangelist
  26. Death
  27. "This Is the Last of Earth"
  28. Reunion
  29. The Unprotected
  30. The Slave Warehouse
  31. The Middle Passage
  32. Dark Places
  33. Cassy
  34. The Quadroon's Story
  35. The Tokens
  36. Emmeline and Cassy
  37. Liberty
  38. The Victory
  39. The Stratagem
  40. The Martyr
  41. The Young Master
  42. An Authentic Ghost Story
  43. Results
  44. The Liberator
  45. Concluding Remarks
PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Simple English

Uncle Tom's Cabin  
[[File:|200px|Uncle Tom's Cabin, CLEVELAND, OHIO: JEWETT, PROCTOR & WORTHINGTON edition]]
Author Harriet Beecher Stowe
Illustrator Hammatt Billings (1st edition)
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Make date March 20, 1852
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
ISBN NA
Prequel to A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853)

Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It greatly influenced many people's thoughts about African Americans and slavery in the United States. It also strengthened the conflict between the Northern and Southern United States. This led to the American Civil War. The book's effect was so powerful that Lincoln said when he met Stowe at the beginning of the Civil War, "So this is the little lady who made this big war."[1][2]

The main character of the novel is Uncle Tom. He is a patient black slave. The sentimental novel showed the effects of slavery. It also said that Christian love is stronger than slavery.[3][4]

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century,[5] and the second best-selling book of the century (the first one was the Bible).[6] It helped abolitionism spread in the 1850s.[7]

In these days, it has been praised as a very important help to anti-slavery. However, it has also been criticized for making stereotypes about black people.[8][9][10]

Contents

Inspiration and references

[[File:|thumb|left|150px|A picture of Harriet Beecher Stowe.]] Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Connecticut. She was an abolitionist. Stowe wrote her novel because of the 1850 passage of the second Fugitive Slave Act. This law punished people who helped slaves run away. It also forced the North to stop and return the South's black runaways. Mrs. Edward Beecher wrote to Harriet ("Hattie"), "If I could use a pen as you can, I would write something that will make this whole nation feel what an accursed thing slavery is."[11] At that time, Stowe was a wife with six children who sometimes wrote for magazines.[11] Her son, Charles Stowe, said that his mother read this letter out loud to her children.[11] When she finished the letter, she rose, and with "an expression on her face that stamped itself on the mind of her child",[11] she said, "I will write something...I will if I live."[2][11] And so Uncle Tom's Cabin began.

According to Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly began to be made in her mind as she was in a church in February 1851.[2] She had a vision of a Christian black man being beaten and praying for the people who were beating him as he died.[2] She was also partly inspired to write her novel by the autobiography of Josiah Henson. Henson was a black man who had run away and helped many black slaves.[12] She was also helped by looking at the book American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses by Theodore Dwight Weld and the Grimké sisters.[13] Stowe also said that she got lots of ideas for Uncle Tom's Cabin by talking to runaway slaves when she was living in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Stowe wrote where she heard stories and inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin in her A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853).[14] However, later research showed that Stowe did not actually read many of the works inside the book until after her novel was published.[14]

Publication

Uncle Tom's Cabin began in a series in Dr. Gamaliel Baileys Washington anti-slavery newspaper, The National Era. The National Era had also printed other works Stowe had written. Because everybody liked the story so much, John P. Jewett of Boston asked Stowe to turn the serial into a book. Stowe was not sure if people would like to read the story as a book. However, she finally agreed. John Jewett, sure that the book would be popular, asked Hammatt Billings to engrave six pictures for the book.[15] In March 20, 1852, the finished book came out.[2] By June it was selling ten thousand copies a week. By October American sales alone were 150 thousand copies.[2] In the first year it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold, and it was translated into many important languages.

Summary

Eliza's escape, Tom is sold

A Kentucky farmer named Arthur Shelby is afraid of losing his farm because of debts. Even though he and his wife, Emily Shelby, are kind to their slaves, he decides to sell two of them: Uncle Tom, a middle-aged man with a wife and children, and Harry, the son of his wife's maid Eliza. Emily Shelby is shocked and unhappy because she promised Eliza that she would not sell her son. George Shelby, her son, is unhappy because he admires Uncle Tom as his friend and Christian.

When Eliza hears about Mr. Shelby's plans to sell her son, she decides to run away with her only son. She writes a letter saying sorry to Mrs. Shelby and runs away that night.

Meanwhile, Uncle Tom is sold and put into a boat, which sails down the Mississippi River. There, he makes friends with a girl called Evangeline ("Eva"). When Eva falls into the water and he saves her, Eva's father, Augustine St. Clare, buys Tom. Eva and Tom become good friends because they both love Jesus very deeply.

Eliza's family hunted, Tom's life with St. Clare

During Eliza's escape, she meets her husband, George Harris, who had run away before her. They decide to try to run away to Canada. However, they are hunted by a slave hunter named Tom Loker. Tom Loker finally traps Eliza and her family, so that George shoots Loker. Eliza is worried that Loker might die and go to hell. Because of this, she persuades her husband to take him to a Quaker town to get better. The gentle Quakers change Tom Loker greatly.

In St. Clare's house, St. Clare argues with his sister, Miss Ophelia. She thinks that slavery is wrong, but is prejudiced against blacks. St. Clare buys Topsy, a black child, and challenges Miss Ophelia to educate her. Miss Ophelia tries, but fails.

After Tom has lived with St. Clare for about two years, Eva becomes very sick. She has a vision of heaven before she dies. Because of her death, many people change. Miss Ophelia loses her prejudice of black people, Tospy decides to become "good", and St. Clare decides to free Tom.

Tom's life with Simon Legree

[[File:|right|170px|alt=Simon Legree beating Uncle Tom.]] St. Clare, however, is stabbed by a knife at a tavern and dies. Because of this, he cannot keep his promise to free Tom. His wife sells Tom to a plantation owner named Simon Legree. Legree takes Tom to Louisiana. There, he meets other slaves, including Emmeline (who Legree bought at the same time that he bought Tom). Legree begins to hate Tom when Tom disobeys his order to whip the other slaves. Legree beats him, and decides to destroy Tom's faith in God. However, Tom secretly continues to read the Bible and help the other slaves. At the plantation, Tom meets Cassy, another black slave. Her two children had sold, and she had killed her third child because she was afraid that her child would be sold, too.

Loker has been changed because of the Quakers. George, Eliza, and Harry have finally reached Canada and become free. Meanwhile, Uncle Tom feels so unhappy that he almost gives up, but he has two visions of Jesus and Eva. He decides to continue to be a Christian, even if he has to die. Cassy and Emmeline, with Tom’s encouragement, run away. They cleverly use Legree’s superstitious side to help them. When Tom does not tell Legree where they are, Legree tells his men to beat him to death. Tom forgives the two men who beat him as he dies, and they feel sorry and become Christians. George Shelby comes just as Tom is dying to free him. He is very angry and sad. However, Tom, saying smilingly, “Who,—who,—who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” dies.[16]

Important characters

Uncle Tom

[[File:|thumb|left|270px|alt=Cassy is helping Uncle Tom after he is beaten.|Fullpage illustration by Hammatt Billings for Uncle Tom's Cabin (First Edition: Boston: John P. Jewett and Company, 1852). Cassy helps Tom after he is beaten by Simon Legree.]] Uncle Tom, the title character of the story, is a patient, noble, unselfish black slave. Stowe wanted him to be a “noble hero”: in the book, he stands up for what he believes in and is admired, though unwillingly, by even his enemies.[17]

However, these days his name has also been used negatively. People often think of "Uncle Tom" as an old black man trying to make his masters happy, as people have criticized his quiet acceptance of slavery.[18] However, others argue that this is not true: first of all, Uncle Tom is not really old - he is eight years older than Mr. Shelby, which shows that he is probably around fifty.[9][18] Also, Tom is not happy with slavery.[18] His acceptance is not because of stupidity or happiness. It is because of his religious faith, which tells him to love everyone. Wherever Uncle Tom goes, he loves and spreads comfort and kindness. He helps slaves escape, such as Eliza at the beginning, and Emmeline and Cassy at the end. He also refuses to beat other slaves. Because of this, he is beaten himself. Stowe was not trying to make Tom an example for blacks but for white and black people.[18] She says that if white people were to be loving and unselfish like Uncle Tom, slavery would be impossible.[18]

Eliza Harris

Eliza Harris is Mrs. Shelby's favorite maid, George Harris' wife, and Harry's mother. Eliza is a brave, intelligent, and very beautiful young slave. Eliza loves her son, Harry, passionately. It is possible her love for him was even greater because she lost two of her first infant children. Her motherly love and strength of spirit is shown when she bravely escapes with her son. Perhaps the most well-known part of Uncle Tom's Cabin is the part where Eliza escapes on the Ohio River with Harry.

This escape of crossing on ice is said to have been inspired by a story heard in the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati by John Rankin to Stowe's husband Calvin, a professor at the school. In Rankin's story, in February, 1838, a young slave woman had escaped across the frozen Ohio River to the town of Ripley, Ohio with her child in her arms and stayed at his house before she had gone further towards the north.[19]

Eva

[[File:|thumb|right|220px|Picture of Tom and Eva by Hammatt Billings for the 1853 edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin.]] Eva "Evangeline" St. Clare is St. Clare and Marie's angelic daughter. She enters the story when Tom rescues her from drowning when he was going to be sold. Eva asks her father to buy Tom. She says, "I want to make him happy".[16] Through her, Tom becomes St. Clare's leading coachman and Eva's "especial attendant (helper)...Tom had...orders to let everything else go, and attend to Miss Eva whenever she wanted him,—orders which our readers may fancy (imagine) were far from disagreeable to him."[16] She is very beautiful: "Her form was the perfection of childish beauty...Her face was remarkable less for its perfect beauty of features than for a singular (strange) and dreamy earnestness of expression...all marked her out from the other children, and made every one turn and look after her".[16]

To Tom, she "...seemed something almost divine; and whenever her golden head and deep blue eyes peered (looked) out upon him...he half believed that he saw one of the angels stepped out of his New Testament."[16] He says that "She's got the Lord's mark in her forehead."[16] Eva is an almost perfect, Christ-like child. She is very sad about slavery. She does not see the difference between blacks and whites. She talks very much about love and forgiveness. Even Topsy is touched by her love. Eva becomes one of the most important people in Tom's life.

Ophelia St. Clare

"The higher circle in the family...agreed that she was no lady...they were surprised that she should be any relation of the St. Clares...She sewed and stitched away, from daylight till dark, with the energy of one who is pressed on by some immediate urgency; and then, when the light faded (went away)...out came the ever-ready knitting-work, and there she was again, going on as briskly as ever. It really was a labor to see her."[16]

-Uncle Tom's Cabin

Ophelia St. Clare is perhaps the most complicated female character in the novel. St. Clare calls her, "...desperately, distressingly good; it tires me to death to think of it." She does not like slavery. However, she does not like to be touched or come close to any black person as a human being. When she first saw Eva "...shaking hands and kissing" with the blacks, she declared that it had "...fairly turned her stomach (made her ill)."[16] She adds, "I want to be kind to everybody, and I wouldn't have anything hurt; but as to kissing...How can she?"[16]

She has a "clear, strong, active mind",[16] and is very practical. However, she has a warm side, which she shows in her love for St. Clare and Eva. Ophelia hates slavery, but has a deep prejudice against blacks. St. Clare, as a challenge to her, buys Topsy. He tells her to try educating her. At first she tries to teach and help Topsy simply because of duty. However, Stowe says that duty is not enough: there must be love. Eva's death changes Ophelia's thoughts and heart. When Topsy cries, "She said she loved me...there an't nobody left now...!"[16] Ophelia gently says, as "honest tears" fell down her face, "Topsy, you poor child...I can love you, though I am not like that dear little child. I hope I've learnt something of the love of Christ from her. I can love you...and I'll try to help you to grow up a good Christian girl."[16] Stowe thought that there were many people like Miss Ophelia St. Clare, who did not like slavery but could not think of blacks as people. She hoped that she could write about such problems through Miss Ophelia.

Other characters

  • Arthur Shelby, the owner of Uncle Tom in Kentucky, Shelby sells Tom to Mr. Haley to pay his debts. Arthur Shelby is a clever, kind, and basically good-hearted man. However, he still does slavery and is not as morally strong as his wife. Stowe used him to show that slavery makes everyone who does it become wicked - not just the cruel masters.
  • Emily Shelby is Arthur Shelby's loving, gentle, and Christian wife. She thinks slavery is wrong. She tries to persuade her husband to help the Shelby slaves and is one of the many virtuous and kind female characters in the story.
  • George Shelby is the young son of Mr. and Mrs. Shelby. Good-hearted, passionate, and loving, he is Uncle Tom's friend. Because of this, he is very angry when Uncle Tom is sold. After Tom dies, he decides to free all the slaves on the Shelby's farm, saying, "Witness (see), eternal God! oh, witness, that, from this hour, I will do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!"[16] He is morally stronger than his father. He does what he promises and thinks.
  • George Harris Eliza's husband. A very clever and curious mulatto man, he loves his family very much and fights for his freedom bravely and proudly.
  • Augustine St. Clare Eva's father. Augustine St. Clare is a romantic and playful man. He does not believe in God, and plays and drinks every night. He loves Eva very deeply and feels sorry for his slaves. However, like Mr. Shelby, he does not do anything about slavery.
  • Marie The wife of St. Clare. She is "...a yellow faded, sickly woman, whose time was divided among a variety of fanciful diseases, and who considered (thought) herself...the most ill-used and suffering person [that lived]..."[16] Silly, complaining, and selfish, she is the opposite of people like Mrs. Shelby and Mrs. Bird. She thinks slavery is good and says, "If I had my way, now, I'd send...[them] out, and have her thoroughly whipped; I'd have her whipped till she couldn't stand!"[16] After her husband dies, she selfishly sells all the slaves.
  • Topsy the "heathenish" black slave girl who Miss Ophelia tries to change. At first, Miss Ophelia "...[approaches] her new subject very much as a person might be supposed to approach a black spider, supposing them to have benevolent (kind) designs toward it".[16] Topsy feels this difference from duty and love. When Eva says, "Miss Ophelia would love you, if you were good," she laughs shortly and says, "No; she can't bar (bear) me, 'cause I'm a nigger (black)! she'd 's soon have a toad touch her! There can't nobody love niggers, and niggers can't do nothin' (nothing)! I don't care."[16] However, in time, she grows to love and respect people through Eva's love. She later becomes a missionary to Africa.
When she first enters the story, she says that she does not know who made her: "I s'pect I growed. Don't think nobody never made me."[16] In the early-to-mid 1900s, some doll companies made Topsy and Topsy-like dolls. The expression "growed like Topsy" (later "grew like Topsy") began to be used in the English language. At first it meant to describe growing without planning it. Later, it simply meant growing a lot.[20]

Important themes

Slavery

Uncle Tom's Cabin's most important theme is the evil of slavery.[21] Every part in Uncle Tom's Cabin develops the characters and the story. But most importantly, it always tries to show the reader that slavery is evil, un-Christian, and should not be allowed.[22] One way Stowe showed the evil of slavery was how it forced families from each other.[23]

Motherhood

Stowe thought mothers were the "model for all of American life".[24] She also believed that only women could save[25] the United States from slavery. Because of this, another very important theme of Uncle Tom's Cabin is the moral power and sanctity of women. White women like Mrs. Bird, St. Clare’s mother, Legree’s mother, and Mrs. Shelby try to make their husbands help their slaves. Eva, who is the "ideal Christian",[26] says that blacks and whites are the same. Black women like Eliza are brave and pious. She escapes from slavery to save her son, and by the end of the novel, has made her whole family come together again. Some critics said that Stowe's female characters are often unrealistic women.[27] However, Stowe's novel "reaffirmed the importance of women's influence" and helped the women's rights movement later.[28]

Christianity

Stowe's puritanical religious beliefs are also one of the biggest themes in the novel. She explores what Christianity is like. She believed that the most important thing in Christianity was love for everyone. She also believed that Christian theology shows that slavery is wrong.[29] This theme can be seen when Tom urges St. Clare to "look away to Jesus" after St. Clare's daughter Eva dies. After Tom dies, George Shelby says, "What a thing it is to be a Christian."[30] Because Christian themes are so important, and because Stowe often directly spoke in the novel about religion and faith, the novel is written in the "form of a sermon."[31]

Style

Uncle Tom's Cabin is written in a sentimental[32] and melodramatic style. This style was often used in the 19th century sentimental novel and domestic fiction (also called women's fiction). These genres were the most popular novels of Stowe's time. It usually had female characters and a style that made readers feel sympathy and emotion for them.[33] Stowe's novel is different from other sentimental novels because she writes about a large theme like slavery. It is also different because she has a man (Uncle Tom) as the main character. However, she still tried to awake strong feelings from her readers, like making them cry when Eva died.[34] This kind of writing made readers react powerfully. For instance, Georgiana May, a friend of Stowe's, wrote a letter to the writer. In the letter, she said that "I was up (awake) last night long after one o'clock, reading and finishing Uncle Tom's Cabin. I could not leave it any more than I could have left a dying child."[35] Another reader said that she thought about the book all the time and even thought about renaming her daughter Eva.[36] The death of Eva affected lots of people. In 1852, 300 baby girls in Boston were named Eva.[36]

Even though many readers were very affected, literary critics did not like the style in Uncle Tom's Cabin and other sentimental novels. They said these books were written by women and had "women's sloppy emotions."[37] One literary critic said that if the novel not been about slavery, "it would be just another sentimental novel".[38] Another said the book was "primarily (mostly) a derivative piece of hack (messy) work."[39] In The Literary History of the United States, George F. Whicher called Uncle Tom's Cabin "Sunday-school fiction".[40]

However, in 1985 Jane Tompkins wrote differently about Uncle Tom's Cabin in her book In Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction.[37] Tompkins praised Uncle Tom's Cabin's style. She said that sentimental novels showed how women's emotions changed the world in a good way. She also said that the popular domestic novels written in the 19th century, like Uncle Tom's Cabin, had "intellectual complexity, ambition, and resourcefulness". She also said that Uncle Tom's Cabin shows a "critique of American society far more devastating than any delivered (gvien) by better-known critics such as Hawthorne and Melville."[40]

Reactions to the novel

Uncle Tom's Cabin has had a very great influence. There are not many novels in history that changed society so powerfully.[41] When it was published, Uncle Tom's Cabin, people who defended slavery were very angry and protested against it. Some people even wrote books against it. Abolitionists praised it very much. As a best-seller, the novel greatly influenced later protest literature.

Contemporary and world reaction

As soon as it was published, Uncle Tom's Cabin made people in the American South very angry.[42] The novel was also greatly criticized by people who supported slavery.

A famous novelist from the South, William Gilmore Simms, said that the book was not at all true.[43] Others called the novel criminal and slanderous.[44] A person who sold books in Mobile, Alabama had to leave town for selling the novel.[42] Stowe received threatening letters herself. She even received a package with a slave's cut ear.[42] Many Southern writers, like Simms, soon wrote their own books about slavery.[45]

Some critics said that Stowe had never actually went to a Southern plantation and she did not know much about Southern life. They said that because of this, she made wrong descriptions about the South. However, Stowe always said she made the characters of her book by stories she was told by slaves that ran away to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lived. It is reported: "She observed firsthand (herself) several incidents (happenings) which galvanized her to write [the] famous anti-slavery novel. Scenes she observed (saw) on the Ohio River, including seeing a husband and wife being sold apart, as well as newspaper and magazine accounts and interviews, contributed material to the emerging plot."[46]

In 1853, Stowe published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. This was to show the people who had criticized the novel's description of slavery that it was true. In the book, Stowe writes about the important characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin and about people in real life who were like them. Through this book, she writes a more "aggressive attack on slavery in the South than the novel itself had."[14] Like the novel, A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin was also a best-seller. However, many of the works in A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin was read by Stowe after she published her novel.[14]

Even though there were such criticisms, the novel was still very popular. Stowe's son says that when Abraham Lincoln met her in 1862 Lincoln said, "So this is the little lady who started this great war."[1] Historians are not sure if Lincoln really said this or not. In a letter that Stowe wrote to her husband a few hours after meeting with Lincoln, she does not say anything about this sentence.[47] After this, many writers have said that this novel helped make the North angry at slavery and at the Fugitive Slave Law.[47] It greatly helped the abolitionist movement.[7] Union general and politician James Baird Weaver said that the book made him help in the abolitionist movement.[48]

Uncle Tom's Cabin also interested many people in England. The first London edition came out in May 1852.[42] It sold 200,000 copies.[42] Some of this interest was because at that time the British people did not like America. A writer said, "The evil passions which 'Uncle Tom' gratified in England were not hatred or vengeance [of slavery], but national jealousy and national vanity. We have long been smarting (hurting) under the conceit of America — we are tired of hearing her boast that she is the freest and the most enlightened country that the world has ever seen. Our clergy hate her voluntary system — our Tories hate her democrats — our Whigs hate her parvenus — our Radicals hate her...insolence, and her ambition. All parties hailed Mrs. Stowe as a revolter from the enemy."[49] Charles Francis Adams, the American minister to Britain during the war, said later that, "Uncle Tom's Cabin; or Life among the Lowly, published in 1852, exercised, largely (mostly) from fortuitous circumstances, a more immediate, considerable and dramatic world-influence than any other book ever printed."[50]

The book has been translated into almost every language. For example, it was translated into Chinese. Its translator Lin Shu made this the first Chinese translation of an American novel. It was also translated into Amharic. Its 1930 translation was made to help Ethiopia end the suffering of blacks in that nation.[51] The book was read by so many people that Sigmund Freud reported some patients who he believed had been influenced by reading about the whipping of slaves in Uncle Tom's Cabin.[52]

Literary significance and criticism

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the first widely read political novel in the United States.[53] It greatly influenced American literature and protest literature. Some later books that were greatly influenced by Uncle Tom's Cabin are The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.[54]

However, even though Uncle Tom's Cabin was very important, people popularly saw the book as "a blend (mix) of children's fable and propaganda."[55] The novel has also been thought unimportant by many critics who called the book "merely a sentimental novel".[38] Critic George Whicher wrote in his Literary History of the United States that "Nothing attributable to Mrs. Stowe or her handiwork can account for the novel's enormous (great) vogue; its author's (writer's) resources as a purveyor of Sunday-school fiction were not remarkable. She had at most a ready command of broadly conceived melodrama, humor, and pathos, and of these … she compounded her book."[40]

Other critics, though, have praised the novel. Edmund Wilson said that "To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom's Cabin may … prove a startling (surprising) experience."[55] Jane Tompkins said that the novel is one of the classics of American literature. She suggests that literary critics think badly of the book because it was simply too popular when it came out.[40]

Through the years, people have wondered what Stowe was trying to say with the novel. Some of her themes can be seen easily, like the evil of slavery. However, some are harder to see. For example, Stowe was a Christian and active abolitionist, and put lots of her religious beliefs in her book.[56] Some have said that Stowe wrote in her novel what she thought was a solution to the problem that worried many people who did not like slavery. This problem was: was doing things that were not allowed justified if they did it to fight evil? Was it right to use violence to stop the violence of slavery? Was breaking laws that helped slavery right? Which of Stowe's characters should be followed: the patient Uncle Tom or the defiant George Harris?[57] Stowe thought that God's will would be followed if each (every) person sincerely (truly) examined his principles and acted on (followed) them.[57]

People have also thought Uncle Tom's Cabin expressed the ideas of the Free Will Movement.[58] In this idea, the character of George Harris symbolizes the free labor. The complex character of Ophelia shows the Northerners who allowed slavery, even though they did not like it. Dinah is very different from Ophelia. She acts by passion. In the book, Ophelia changes. Like Ophelia, the Republican Party (three years later) declared that the North must change itself. It said that the North must stop slavery actively.[58]

Feminist theory can also be seen in Stowe's book. The novel can be seen as criticizing slavery's patriarchal nature.[59] For Stowe, blood relations made families, not paternalistic relations between masters and slaves. Also, Stowe saw the nation as a bigger "family". So, the feelings of nationality came from sharing the same race. Because of this, she supported African colonization for freed slaves.

The book has also been seen as trying to show that masculinity was important in stopping slavery.[60] In this view, abolitionists began to disagree with the thought of violent men that the early 19th century had made. They wanted to change the thoughts of manhood so that men could help stop slavery without hurting their self-image or their position in society. Because of this, some abolitionists followed some of the principles of women's suffrage, passivism, and Christianity. They praised men for helping, working together, having mercy, and for their civic spirit. Other abolitionists wanted men to act traditionally and forcefully. All the men in Stowe's book show either patient men or traditional men.[60]

Creation and popularization of stereotypes

In recent decades, a number of people have begun criticizing the book for what are seen as racist descriptions of the book's black characters. The characters' looks, speech, behavior, as well as the passive nature of Uncle Tom.[61] The book's use of common stereotypes about African Americans[8] is important because Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel in the world in the 19th century.[6] Because of this, the book (together with images in the book[62] and related stage productions) helped make a great number of people accept such stereotypes.[61]

Among the African-American stereotypes in Uncle Tom's Cabin are:[10]

  • The "happy darky" (in the lazy, carefree character of Sam);
  • The light-skinned tragic mulatto (in the characters of Eliza, Cassy, and Emmeline);
  • The loving, dark-skinned female mammy (through several characters, including Mammy, a cook at the St. Clare plantation).
  • The Pickaninny stereotype of black children (in the character of Topsy);
  • The Uncle Tom, or African American who wants to please white people too much (in the character of Uncle Tom). Stowe wanted Tom to be a "noble hero". The stereotype of him was because of "Tom Shows," which Stowe could not stop.[17]

In the last few decades, these stereotypes made many people think much more lightly of the historical importance of Uncle Tom's Cabin as a "vital antislavery tool."[10] This change in the way people looked at Uncle Tom's Cabin began in an essay by James Baldwin. This essay was titled "Everybody’s Protest Novel." In the essay, Baldwin called Uncle Tom’s Cabin a "very bad novel".[63] He said it was not well-written.[63]

In the 1960s and '70s, the Black Power and Black Arts Movements attacked the book. They said that the character of Uncle Tom was a part of "race betrayal". They said that Tom made slaves look worse than slave owners.[63] Criticisms of the other stereotypes in the book also increased during this time.

In recent years, however, people such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. have began studying Uncle Tom's Cabin again. He says that the book is a "central document in American race relations and a significant (important) moral and political exploration of the character of those relations."[63]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Charles Edward Stowe, Harriet Beecher Stowe: The Story of Her Life (1911) p. 203.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Douglas, Ann (1981). Introduction [to Uncle Tom's Cabin]: The Art of Controversy. Viking Penguin Inc. ISBN 0 14 03.9003 0. 
  3. The Complete Idiot's Guide to American Literature by Laurie E. Rozakis, Alpha Books, 1999, page 125, where it says that one of the book's main messages is that "The slavery crisis can only be resolved by Christian love."
  4. Domestic Abolitionism and Juvenile Literature, 1830–1865 by Deborah C. de Rosa, SUNY Press, 2003, page 121, where the book quotes Jane Tompkins on how Stowe's strategy with the novel was to stop slavery through the "saving power of Christian love." This quote is from "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History" by Jane Tompkins, from In Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790–1860. New York: Oxford UP, 1985. Pp. 122–146. In that essay, Tompkins also says "Stowe conceived her book as an instrument for bringing about the day when the world would be ruled not by force, but by Christian love."
  5. "The Sentimental Novel: The Example of Harriet Beecher Stowe" by Gail K. Smith, The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing by Dale M. Bauer and Philip Gould, Cambridge University Press, 2001, page 221.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Introduction to Uncle Tom's Cabin Study Guide, BookRags.com. Retrieved May 16, 2006.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Goldner, Ellen J. "Arguing with Pictures: Race, Class and the Formation of Popular Abolitionism Through Uncle Tom's Cabin." Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 2001 24(1–2): 71–84. Issn: 1537-4726 Fulltext: online at Ebsco.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hulser, Kathleen. "Reading Uncle Tom's Image: From Anti-slavery Hero to Racial Insult." New-York Journal of American History 2003 65(1): 75–79. Issn: 1551-5486.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Stowe, Harriet Beecher (1986). Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0 14 03.9003 0. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Africana: arts and letters: an A-to-Z reference of writers, musicians, and artists of the African American Experience by Henry Louis Gates, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Running Press, 2005, page 544.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Stobaugh, James P. (2005). Skills for Literary Analysis. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ISBN 0-8054-5897-2. 
  12. Harriet Beecher Stowe, A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin 1853, page 42, in which Stowe states "A last instance parallel with that of Uncle Tom is to be found in the published memoirs of the venerable Josiah Henson…" An excerpt of this information and acknowledgement is also in A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin by Debra J. Rosenthal, Routledge, 2003, pages 25–26.
  13. Weld, Theodore Dwight. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001–2005. Retrieved May 15, 2007.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 20, 2007.
  15. First Edition Illustrations, Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Culture, a Multi-Media Archive. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  16. 16.00 16.01 16.02 16.03 16.04 16.05 16.06 16.07 16.08 16.09 16.10 16.11 16.12 16.13 16.14 16.15 16.16 16.17 Stowe, Harriet Beecher (1986). Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0 14 03.9003 0. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 A Routledge Literary Sourcebook on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin by Debra J. Rosenthal, Routledge, 2003, page 31.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” SparkNotes LLC. 2002. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/uncletom/ (accessed March 18, 2010).
  19. Hagedorn, Ann. Beyond The River: The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad. Simon & Schuster, 2002, pp. 135–139.
  20. The Word Detective, issue of May 20, 2003, accessed February 16, 2007.
  21. Homelessness in American Literature: Romanticism, Realism, and Testimony by John Allen, Routledge, 2004, page 24, where it states in regards to Uncle Tom's Cabin that "Stowe held specific beliefs about the 'evils' of slavery and the role of Americans in resisting it." The book then quotes Ann Douglas describing how Stowe saw slavery as a sin.
  22. Drawn With the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War by James Munro McPherson, Oxford University Press, 1997, page 30.
  23. Drawn With the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War by James Munro McPherson, Oxford University Press, 1997, page 29.
  24. "Stowe's Dream of the Mother-Savior: Uncle Tom's Cabin and American Women Writers Before the 1920s" by Elizabeth Ammons, New Essays on Uncle Tom's Cabin, Eric J. Sundquist, editor, Cambridge University Press, 1986, page 159.
  25. Whitewashing Uncle Tom's Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe by Joy Jordan-Lake, Vanderbilt University Press, 2005, page 61.
  26. Somatic Fictions: imagining illness in Victorian culture by Athena Vrettos, Stanford University Press, 1995, page 101.
  27. The Stowe Debate: Rhetorical Strategies in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Mason I. (jr.) Lowance, Ellen E. Westbrook, C. De Prospo, R., Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1994, page 132.
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