The novel Uncle Tom's Cabin is a story that revolves around the cruel treatments of slavery, in a time where slaves were seen more as property then human beings. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author, allows the reader to see how slaves were treated in the United States during the mid-nineteenth century. Intentionally using the book as a way of spreading an anti-slavery campaign in order to allow people to not just know the lives of slaves in plantations, but also to allow the reader to feel their emotions and attitudes. Describing the rough lives slaves had; of being sold and abused just to fulfill their master's needs. At the extent of being separated from their families and led to a life of pain, all leading to either death or freedom.
The novel begins in a plantation in Kentucky, where the owner is faced with debt and has to sell some of his slaves in order to survive.
The owner, Arthur Shelby, decides on selling two of his slaves; Uncle Tom and Harry. Uncle Tom, the story's protagonist, has a family in the plantation, but since he is sold he is forced to be separated from them. Harry on the other hand is much younger and notice of his fate is not easily accepted by his mother, Eliza. Knowing that Harry is to be sold, Eliza escapes with Harry to Canada, where there are no laws towards slavery and where she can be free. Tom on the other hand is sent with Mr. Haley, a slave trader, to a slave market. On the boat trip there he encounters a young girl name Eva, who takes a liking to him. Eva stages an incident and falls overboard, Tom saves her, and as compensation Eva's father buys Tom from Mr. Haley.
Eliza meanwhile reunites with her husband George, whom together are prosecuted by slave traders. Heading north, the family takes shelter with a small community of Quakers. Continuing to head north to Canada. Tom ends up with Eva in a plantation in New Orleans, where the life is much simpler and not as rough. Being at the plantation, Tom develops a dedication for Christianity, which is furthermore influenced by Eva and her social connection to God. Eva brings a sense of religion into the story, connecting religious sanctity with slavery. Proclaiming that there is no separation between blacks and whites, that there is no such thing as "race." Communicating the message of love to the reader, and describing a force strong enough to end slavery. That no sense of duty alone is enough to end slavery, the only way is through the use of emotions. This message is seen by Ophelia, Eva's aunt, who by teaching Topsy, a young slave in the plantation, sees that you have to not only help someone physically but emotionally as well. Because Topsy, other then being uneducated, had no family and no love. "Pity those mothers that are constantly made childless, and families torn apart by the American slave trade." A common issue throughout many of the slaves at the time, of not having families.
After Eva's death Tom and the other slaves are promised to be set free. But soon after Eva's death her father also passed away, leaving the slaves under the control of Marie, Eva's mother. Marie, unlike Eva, is cruel and completely against slaves and instead of setting the slaves free she decides to sell them. Tom is sold to a cruel plantation owner known as Simon Legree. In this new plantation, religion is not tolerated and completely forbidden. But even though it was forbidden, Tom never abandoned his religious commitment, always using Eva as an inspiration to continue on through the rough times he encountered. It is Legree's plantation that Stowe uses as the biggest representation of the actual slave life at the time. Where slaves were on the verge of death, badly treated and to the point that they could not even come in contact with one another. Only bringing a bad road for Tom, meanwhile Eliza encountered her freedom. Insinuating the difference between the north and the south, the north representing Freedom and life, while the south representing Slavery and death.
The story contains two sides, one of freedom and one of death. Portraying the life of African Americans during the time in the United States. Which was a time where the country was split in two, due to the causes of the Civil War. The Civil War being a war based on the issue of slavery, weather to keep it or to abolish it. In this time, women became a stronger influence in the household. Throughout the novel, women are characterized as having a greater influence. The story tells of women who fought for, and against slavery, some being racist and others not. Young female slaves were also portrayed in the story, whom were mostly bought as means of entertainment for the men, such as Emmeline, a young slave who was bought alongside Tom mainly because of her looks. Something that Stowe wanted people to realize, that not only were slaves being treated badly, but many were also being abused. Other female slaves were usually maids in the household, always being in close contact with the owners.
Stowe throughout the course of the novel allows the reader to feel the attitudes that were expressed at those time, those of weather or not slavery was good or evil.
"Perhaps there is, after all, but one method of carrying on a crusade,
and that unscrupulous fighting is the rightful warfare of the crusader.
Mrs. STOWE having made up her mind that slavery is an abomination
in the sight of God and man, thinks of nothing but the annihilation of
the pernicious system." (London Times)
Stowe through the novel was able to express her thoughts about slavery, and because of it, was able to influence the opinions of many other people. The Story is very symbolic and meaningful, allowing readers to make their own perceptions on the many symbols Stowe creates toward the ideas surrounding slavery. Through the stories of both Tom and Eliza, not only did Stowe express her point, but also exceeded the meaning of the abolition of slavery. Making it a subject that after reading the book is completely unacceptable.
Uncle Tom's Cabin should not only be read by those who want to support abolitionist movements, but also by anyone who wants to experience what slaves went through around the time of the Civil War. A time where the north meant freedom and the south meant slavery, in a time where the country was divided by right and wrong. Even though slavery was good for some people, the majority of people were against it, but for a period of time in the U.S. slavery supported the lives of many rural families. An issue of racism, slavery, through the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe represent only death and the bad things in life.
Beecher Stowe, Harriet. Uncle Toms Cabin.
New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1958.
Unsigned. "London Times Review of Uncle Tom's Cabin." The London Times
18 Sept. 1852 . . 8 Mar. 2004 .