Maddi Terry, GBP Student
There are only a handful of books that resonate with individuals regardless of the time period, content, or genre. These famous works of art are seen to outlast shifts in culture and societal norms, changes the composition of our nature as humans, and even what we value as a community of human beings. Often times the author of the book is the source of the fame and success, but sometimes the book is so well written, so diverse in nature, that it is able to resonate with individuals over a wide span of time. From Moby Dick to The Great Gatsby, from Hamlet to The Odyssey, these works span a wide range of genres.
(Image from Black History 101.)
Among this great collection of books is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a story written in the 1850s about slavery in the South and Stowe’s perception of the slave industry. Unlike the majority of people of her time, Stowe was against slavery and the ideas that it stood for and was willing to publicly share her opinion. Being a woman in a time when women were financially and socially powerless under men, it was unusual for Stowe to publish a book, nevertheless go against one of the most prosperous industries in our nation’s history.
As we read and discuss the book as a class, we have begun to uncover the many controversial topics that make this book so well known. One aspect of the novel that stood out to the class was the way Stowe narrates the story by interweaving third person and second person voice. For example, when the author is writing about a slave named Eliza having her child taken away from her Stowe relates this idea to the reader by saying: “...such tears, woman, as you shed when you heard the cries of your dying babe. For, sir, he was a man,—and you are but another man. And, woman, though dressed in silk and jewels, you are but a woman, and, in life's great straits and mighty griefs, ye feel but one sorrow!” (Stowe 103). The use of second person creates a bond between the reader and the slave characters that was not found in any other published book at the time.
Another major idea that we have identified throughout the book is that Stowe uses Christianity and faith in God to connect the reader and the characters, similarly to how she uses second person. The significance in this connection between the two communities is that it merges the gap between the white and the black people in the story and puts the white slave masters in the slaves’ shoes. For example, the character Eva stands as a icon for an angel that sees the good in people despite their race. When talking about a slave to her aunt Eva says, “But, mamma, isn't God her father, as much as ours? Isn't Jesus her Saviour?” (Stowe 773). During our group discussions we were able to come to the conclusion that Stowe purposefully uses a young, white character to be able to relate more to the readers. By having the white child say that the two races share the same God it relates to the reader while challenging the general opinion of slavery.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin has helped us to understand the views of white people at the time of slavery, and has showed us how the beginning of the end of the slave industry was sparked.
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