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Uncle Tom's Cabin Critical Analysis

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Uncle Tom's Cabin - Critical Review

Skyler Carrico


Harriet Beecher Stowe's primary argument in Uncle Tom's Cabin is clearly her opposition to slavery. She had a lifelong principle that slavery is anti-Christian, and used her writing skills to spread the word. In Uncle Tom's Cabin, we observe how she portrayed very strong female characters and represented how their influence guided powerful men. Stowe's real life as an openly religious, Christian woman focused on her being surrounded essentially by clergymen (her father, brother, and husband were all Congregationalist ministers.) This story makes strong, moral statements against slave trade and suppressing human rights. Stowe expresses her opinions through the actions and character traits of the slaves and slave owners. Her key argument is that a Christian cannot morally support slavery. She provides direct examples, and builds the storyline around examples from the New Testament, specifically the martyrdom of Christ. It's full of tragedy and sadness, which causes the reader to feel a sense of loss and sympathy. The storyline is not only blunt, but certainly biased against the popular, Southern 19th century point-of-view towards slavery. This is definitely not a children's book because the cruelty towards human beings and animals is, quite simply, disturbing.

However, it is a solid historical tool that describes the issue and controversy of slavery in the 19th century. A mature reader will find a lot of cultural details and valuable perspectives about the United States' struggle with slavery up until the Civil War. The dialog and actions explain popular opinion from that time period, which helps a reader today better understand how conflict existed towards Integration up through the Civil Rights Movement. This is a book modern readers will not forget because the moral outrage and injustices suffered by the African American characters is beyond anything that would be considered legal or moral today. Just as importantly, Stowe's heroic characters, possessing ideal Christian virtues, show an obvious goal to guide the reader towards salvation through Christianity. By today's standards, Uncle Tom's Cabin is politically incorrect in its use of derogatory words towards African Americans. It has realistic, graphic violence, and can be categorized as a Christian missionary writing. These elements certainly aid in explaining why this book is banned from many school libraries.

This book tells the story of two different slave experiences; Uncle Tom's and Eliza's. Both of them lived on the Shelby farm in Kentucky. They were treated more like servants or family rather than slaves. This is an example of the good side to slavery, if you will. Unfortunately, debt caused Mr. Shelby to sell Uncle Tom and Harry, who was Eliza's son, to Mr. Haley. Stowe makes villains out of the characters favoring slavery; Haley is the first of these. He's a slave-trader revealed as a deceiving opportunist. His appearance and language are criticized by the author.

Eliza does not want to be separated from her son, so she travels north to Canada to meet up with her husband, George. Another example of a character that favors slavery is Mr. Harris, George's boss. George was very brilliant and invented items to better the factory he worked for, which reveals the intelligence and ambition of slaves. Mr. Harris' jealousy towards George's abilities leads him to taking away any success George had at the factory, kills his dog, and forces him into hard labor. This brutal treatment made George seek freedom to travel to Canada. George's willingness to die for his freedom reveals the American spirit of independence and sacrifice.

Haley is furious that Eliza ran away with Harry, and sent Tom Locker to catch them. Unlike Eliza, Uncle Tom decides to stay on the Shelby farm to be sold, even though he will be separated from his wife. While on a boat heading to New Orleans Uncle Tom saves a young girl, named Eva St. Clare, from drowning. Stowe uses Eva as an example of a perfect, angelic person who does not agree with slavery, but she begs her father to buy Tom. Augustus St. Clare is a paradoxical character who has no racial prejudices, yet he still owns slaves. His wife, Marie, is a hypochondriac and is a very mean woman. Ophelia was visiting from the north to see her brother, Augustus. She believes slavery is wrong, but is very racist. She represents the Northern thought of slavery and the opposition to abolition. St. Clare challenges Ophelia by buying her Topsy, a slave who has been much mistreated. At first she hates Topsy, but soon she puts her racist beliefs aside and learns to love Topsy, who listens to Eva and tries hard to behave and trust others. During



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