Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom's CabinUncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Did I "like" Uncle Tom's Cabin? That's pretty much beside the point.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is a historic, important work, one which was famously credited by Abraham Lincoln for the start of the Civil War.

There is no question that Uncle Tom's Cabin meets Stowe's goal of making the horrors of slavery vivid and concrete. She presents all the evils of slavery and the participants in the slave economy, from the beatings and other tortures visited on the slaves, to the anxiety of the slave at the prospect of a new owner, to the almost unimaginable pain of family separation; she also presents a range of owners, from the seemingly benevolent but cynical and negligent St. Clare, to the vicious Simon Legree. (Unlike Uncle Tom, Simon Legree truly earns the evil reputation popular lore has attached to the name.) She also presents the courage and dedication of Northern allies who assist escaping slaves without sparing sanctimonious and frankly racist northerners, and she presents some believable and memorable characters, sometimes even in minor roles.

The shortcomings? An overly sentimental religiosity, the frankly incredible purity and redemptive death of Little Eva, and a creaking writing style that many readers will have difficulty enduring.

If it is her best-known work, Uncle Tom's Cabin is not the only anti-slavery book by Harriet Beecher Stowe, including A Companion to Uncle Tom's Cabin, which sets forth documented cases supporting her portrayal of slavery. Probably one is enough, but as a powerful and influential element of American history, Uncle Tom's Cabin merits a read.

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July 18, 2016 3:42 AM  

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