Essay HIST 231

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin Book Analysis

Hannah Pellegrino
Dr. Obernuefemann
History 231: American History to 1865
November 11, 2014 Harriet Beecher Stowe was born into a family of preachers. She was educated and taught moral values by family members, but eventually exposed to the horrific fundamentals of slavery. Stowe placed her strong opinions and beliefs into the controversial novel she published in the 1850s, known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book had sold 300,000 copies within the first year, and even made its way overseas to be read by many. Stowe’s notorious novel created controversy because many saw her strong beliefs as too extreme. The tensions between the north and south in the mid nineteenth century were quite prominent, and had been building up for various reasons, one being slavery. Her novel took things to another level. Americans were yet to read a story consisting of a black, male protagonist whom was capable of logic, reasoning, and equal feelings to that of a white man/woman. Not only did it go against society’s norms to base a novel off of the struggles of a slave, but a woman to publicly condemn slavery in a published novel was considered intolerable by a large number of people. Stowe wanted to persuade the reader to view slaves as people and not as animals or property, which was very uncommon. Uncle Tom’s Cabin also caused a sense of unsettlement in the south due to exposing the immoral treatment of the slaves to its readers. The book destroyed the southern claim that slaveholders acted in the best interest of the salves, because it was made clear in the book that it is in a slave’s best interest to be free. The real horrific conditions and poor treatment of the slaves became known to all. After Stowe curved the reader’s mind, at this time, to see the slaves as people, she made it a point for the reader to understand how wrong and devastating it was for slave children to be pulled away from mothers, and slave families to be torn apart and sold. Many slave owners met the outcome of the story with outrage. Southerners then claimed Stowe’s novel was dramatized. Uncle Tom is the main character of this story. He is not just seen as a slave, but a husband and a father, with real family values. Through his kind and gentle ways, he earns the trust of almost everyone he encounters. Tom symbolizes the greater good and represents a morally perfect Christ figure. He is none other than a faithful and diligent, hard worker. On the many times Tom has the opportunity to run away from his Masters, he never even thinks of doing so. He felt it was his duty to oblige his master. Under Legree’s ownership, he is beaten severely by his master. The moments leading up to his death he spends worrying about Legree’s soul, rather than his own. Tom sets an example to Christians of both colors. I feel that Marie and Legree are so cold towards Tom as a result of feeling threatened and inferior to him, morally. The two characters have quite a bit in common. Both uphold prejudice beliefs against blacks, and have cruel, aggressively unkind natures. In contrast to Marie and Legree, Augustine and the Shelbys share more of a gentle and kinder attitude towards their slaves. They both do not agree that slavery is right; however do nothing to oppose it. Both Mr. Shelby, and Augustine felt that it would be worthless to even try. Augustine says, “The only action worth taking is to shut your eyes and repent on it.” Miss Ophelia, Augustine’s cousin whose beliefs on slavery have shifted since her coming to live with Augustine’s family, begins to question Augustine’s lax stance on the subject. Augustine claims that the slaves are “a class of indolent, debased, uneducated people who are put into the hands of a majority with no self-control, nor enlightenment for doing what is right for their best interest.” Miss Ophelia proves by her developing relationship with Topsy, that through love and