- Series: Dover Thrift Editions
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; 1 edition (August 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486440281
- ISBN-13: 978-0486440286
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3,352 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Uncle Tom's Cabin (Dover Thrift Editions) 1st Edition
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Every one should read this book. It can be a hard read as it is a glimpse into a dark period in history.
I would not recommend this book to those who are quickly angered by racial slurs or degradation of any kind. I think one of the most difficult things for readers in the present will be remembering that for the time period of this book, that the language used was part of the culture.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to feel enlightened and full of hope, despite the hardship you must follow in order to feel them. Uncle Tom himself is a beacon of true light and he honestly made me want be a better person. This book is smart, real and oddly uplifting. Because of some of the language used, I only recommend this to readers 15 and up.
You will not regret reading this truly heart wrenching and yet, inspiring story.
Stowe’s representation of slavery, specifically slaveowners, had a certain amount of nuance. She made it a point to include slaveowners with varying levels of decency. There were, of course, the most appalling of the bunch: the brutal actions of Legree, who said he’d “break every bone in his [Tom’s] body, but he shall give up!”, and the slimy, uncaring slave trader Mr. Haley, who parted families without a second thought (338). However, Stowe also presents slave owners with a certain amount of decency and affection towards their slaves, such as the Shelbys, Tom’s original owners. The Shelbys even make it a point to teach their slaves to read, so they could read the Bible. Stowe further implies that in the northern slave-states, there are many with similar attitudes, saying, “Perhaps the mildest form of the system of slavery is to be seen in the State of Kentucky” (8). Despite this more favorable representation, however, Stowe cuts the Shelbys no slack; they are shown to be fully complicit in the immoralities of slavery, especially when they agree to sell Harry and Tom away from their families to get out of debt. They appear weak-willed in the book, as they break explicit promises to their slaves without even accepting full responsibility for this breach of trust and decency. Mr. Shelby even bemoans the decision he made, but even that isn’t enough to change his mind; he ultimately prioritizes money over human lives. Had Stowe depicted slaveowners as universally brutal, her writing could have been dismissed as a series of uninformed northern stereotypes about slavery. Her more nuanced, yet firmly condemning portrayal of slave owners allowed her to convey her message against slavery to a larger audience, with more of an effect.
Stowe also threads a strong religious appeal throughout Uncle Tom’s Cabin, strengthening her argument for her pre-Civil War readers, most of whom would have been religious. She starts this appeal by creating a community of Christian slaves belonging to the Shelbys. The Shelbys’ slaves read the Bible, and fervently take its teachings to heart; Uncle Tom even leads regular prayer meetings in his cabin. By depicting the slaves as upstanding, devout Christians, Stowe humanizes them, and makes their situation more unacceptable to the readers. Eliza clearly shows this religious devotion when she is advising her husband George to not “do anything wicked” on his escape; “if you only trust in God, and try to do right, he’ll deliver you” (15). I would even argue that Stowe sets up Uncle Tom as a kind of Christ figure; he is willing to be sold south as long as that means his family and the rest of the slaves are safe and get to stay with the Shelbys (85). He willingly sacrifices himself without a fight for the sake of those he loves.
Stowe’s religious background explains a lot about her frequent references to religion, and her choice to portray the slaves as devout Christians. Religion was a very large part of her life; her father was a well-known preacher, and her brothers also became preachers. If that wasn’t enough, she also married a preacher. It was her religious beliefs that led her to believe that slavery was wrong, and so it makes sense that she incorporated them so strongly in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Writing these religious tones into the novel also shows that she was using a medium she knew well--it may not have been in a church, but she managed to preach her own message. These appeals to religion would have reverberated with her audience, most of whom would have been Christian themselves. Her story, and the weight attached to it due to her connections to respected preachers, caused her readers to analyze the issue of slavery through a different lens.
Stowe’s strongest literary tactic was, in my opinion, the strong emotional punch she was able to deliver. She focused very strongly on familial bonds, in particular the bond between mother and child. When Eliza finds out that her son will be sold away from her, she is devastated, and frantically acts to run away and avoid that situation. This response triggers a strong emotional response from the reader; it is hard to overlook the raw emotion in the novel and justify the cruel separation of families due to slavery. Stowe further drives this emotional scenario into the hearts of her readers by commenting, “If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, to-morrow morning...how fast could you walk?” (46). This appeal to the emotions is so important for Stowe to emphasize that she breaks the 4th wall to do it. Statistics and logical arguments are important, but nothing sparks action more than a direct emotional appeal--in this case, the story of a young mother desperately trying everything she can to protect and stay with her child. This punch to the emotions is a key strength of Stowe’s novel.
Stowe’s strong literary tactics in Uncle Tom’s Cabin really helped her drive home her message of anti-slavery. They also contributed to the novel’s effect on society prior to the Civil War, and to its overall longevity as a novel. I would definitely recommend reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin.