The story was popular among the White readers in the North because it dramatized slavery. Between 1861 and 1865, Americans were involved in different battles, killing one another in huge numbers. Killings were partly because some Americans believed they could not live in a nation that endorsed slavery. Slavery in the US has been a contentious issue for a long time. The soaring issue of independence made many Americans uneasy over humankind being treated like property in a land of freedom and liberty. This essay analyzes the novel as it emphasizes the major themes and influences.
Summary of the Novel
This novel tells the story of an enslaved Black American (Uncle Tom). He is described as dignified and saintly, steadfast and noble in his faith and beliefs. Tom rescues Little Eva, a forgiving and angelic young girl while travelling by boat to be auctioned (Rahmayanti, 2020). Eva’s father later purchases Tom, who bonds well with the little Eva and makes good friends. Eva’s health deteriorates, and she makes a wish while lying on her bed to the father so that he can let the slaves go (free them). Eva’s father had plans to release all the slaves in his possession but got killed by Simon Legree, who becomes Tom’s new owner. Some slaves manage to escape, and Tom refuses to disclose their whereabouts (Rahmayanti, 2020). Being angry at Tom’s refusal to disclose the whereabouts of his fellow slaves, Simon has him whipped to death. Being a faithful Christian, Tom maintains a steadfast attitude towards his problems as Stowe hues his demise with echoes of Christ.
The evilest character in the story, Simon Legree, portrays brutality and greed and is seen as a man who prefers sin over reform. Because he is wicked, through his command, he assigns the slave separate roles forcefully. It is seen when he forces a woman called Cassy to stay with him. When he bought Tom, he also bought Emmeline, a 15-tear-old girl, intending to use her as Cassy’s replacement (Rahmayanti, 2020). Legree uses reward and punishment to turn Sambo and Quimbo into his enforcers and companion. Legree forces Sambo and Quimbo to punish other slaves at his command, even forcing them to kill Tom. The two expressed shame and remorse as Tom was dying, and he forgives them before he dies.
Themes and Influences
Slavery and the use of humans to acquire wealth or as property are the main themes in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The author counterbalances these concepts against Christianity beliefs and morals. The Description of slavery in this novel is influenced by Christianity, the religious beliefs of the writer. Additionally, the Description of slavery is informed by the author’s emphasis on abolitionist writing (Rahmayanti, 2020). The author also focuses on her experience living in Ohio during the 1830s and 1840s. Cincinnati, Ohio, was a preferable place of stay for the people escaping slavery. In this novel, Stowe made her case by compiling the suffering of slaves and portraying how slave owners lived broken lives (Rahmayanti, 2020). She also compiles documents and testimonies that were used to prove how slavery is represented in her novel.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a novel that blended sentimental fiction and elements of humor robustly. Some people believe that Stowe, through Uncle Tom’s Cabin, precipitated the Civil War (Rahmayanti, 2020). Abraham Lincoln even made a statement to Harriet Beecher Stowe in December 1862, claiming she precipitated the American Civil War by her novel (Rahmayanti, 2020). In his statement, Lincoln said to the little girls that the book they wrote caused great war. Although some people believe that these words were not from Lincoln, many people repeatedly cite them as the novel’s legacy.
Female virtue is another essential theme notable in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The female gender is portrayed with less-conventional characters in stereotypical domestic roles. The female characters like Emily Shelby and Eliza represent moral and ethical dignity. Emily Shelby, Legree’s wife, has moral influence over her husband’s slaves, and Eliza, her maid, is a woman whose actions are influenced by maternal love and fear (Rahmayanti, 2020). On the other hand, Eva, an innocent young lady, embodies moral purity. To some extent, the author empowered the women to fight for their rights in the then male-dominated society.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin drew a lot of criticism in the 20th century, with its reputation becoming problematic. Langston Hughes named the novel A Moral Battle Cry (1952) as he tried to save it; as a result, attack of by Black people, especially Richard Wright and James Baldwin, in the previous two decades (Rahmayanti, 2020). Uncle Tom was also used as an insult against the Black people showing obsequiousness to White people. It is verifiable to the beginning of the 20th century ascribed Marcus Garvey and George Alexander. Currently, the novel’s depiction of its black characters is viewed as condescending and racist.
Rahmayanti, A. (2020). The representation of racial discrimination in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Doctoral dissertation, UIN Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung). , 2020).