Essay, Research Paper: Uncle Tom's Cabin By Harriet Stowe

Literature: Civil War

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Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe Many people believe that a novel has
a direct and powerful influence on American history. One such novel was written
by a woman by the name of Harriet Beecher Stowe. The name of this novel is Uncle
Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher was born on June 14, 181l, in Litchfield,
Connecticut. Her father Lyman Beecher, was a renowned preacher. Harriet was a
student and later a teacher, at Hartford Female Seminary. In 1832, the Beecher's
moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Just across the Ohio River lay slave territory.
Beecher's visits to plantations confirmed her disdain for slavery. In 1836,
Beecher married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a seminary professor (Compton's). Upon
moving to Brunswick, Me. , in 1850, Stowe was challenged by her sister-in-law to
"write something that would make this whole nation feel what an accursed
thing slavery is!" The answer to the challenge was Uncle Tom's Cabin; or,
Life Among the Lowly', which appeared in 1851 to 1852, in an anti-slavery paper
called "National Era." Though the story depicts some of the kind and
patriarchal aspects of slavery, it emphasizes the dark and cruel side. Published
in book form in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin was an unprecedented success in American
publishing, selling two million copies before the start of the American Civil
War. It has translated into more than 20 languages and presented countless times
on the stage and in motion pictures (Grolier). Stowe died on July 1, 1896, in
Hartford Connecticut. Among her other works are "The Mayflower" (1843,
a collection of tales and sketches; "Dred: a Tale of the Great Dismal
Swamp" (1856); "The Minister's Wooing" (1859); and "Lady
Bryon Vindicated" (1870) (Compton's). Harriet Beecher Stowe was in
challenge by her sister and when she had to pick something to write about. Stowe
decided to write a fictional story about Slavery. That is the main historical
basis for this book. During the time of Harriet Beecher Stowe, there was a
bitter feud between the North (Anti-slave states) and the South (Pro-slave
states). Blacks, also known as African Americans, were being bounded and their
freedom was being taken away from them. The south felt that they had the right
to do this. It was their obligation. The north on the other hand saw a different
story. The North believed in freedom and some equality for all man-kind(except
for women back in those days). New pieces of lands were being won and bought and
there was matter of dispute to what would it happen. In the 1860's slavery was
abolished with the Emancipation Proclamation. Years before this proclamation, a
bitter battle was fought between the North and the South. This war was known as
the bloodiest war, putting family against friends and brother against brother.
This war was known as the Civil War. Before the Civil War (1861 to 1865),
Harriet opened the eyes with her fictional story and made a complete historical
factor in American history. This novel opens on the Shelby plantation somewhere
in Kentucky before the Civil War. The Shelby's own numerous slaves all of whom
they treat as though they are family. Unfortunately, at the opening of the book
it is understood that Mr. Shelby has gotten into some financial difficulties,
and the only way out of debt is to sell some of his slaves. He is left no other
choice but to sell his most faithful and hardest working slave, Tom, and a
little boy named Harry. Mr. Haley, a slave trader comes to the Shelby plantation
one afternoon to finalize the deal, but the transaction is overheard by Eliza,
Harry's mother. She goes into a panic and swears that she will not allow them to
take her child, so she tries to persuade Tom to run away with her and Harry. Tom
refuses because, being the loyal man that he is, he knows that Mr. Shelby is
only doing what he has to do. This does not discourage Eliza from doing what she
has to do, running away. Due to the separation of these two parties, Stowe
spends the remainder of the novel updating their progress in designated
chapters. Eliza and Harry leave the plantation as soon as they can get away, but
their absence is discovered quickly, and this sends Mr. Haley searching for his
property. At one point, Haley is so hot on her trail that Eliza has to
miraculously run across blocks of ice on the Ohio River holding her son. When
they reach the other side, they are taken in by a nice family that introduces
them to a Quaker network that aides slaves in their pursuit of freedom. Like
many other slaves at that time, Eliza is determined to reach Canada. Along the
way, Eliza is reunited with her husband, George, and eventually the entire
family reaches their destination. Tom's journey is not filled with so many
fortunate situations. He is bought by a nice man, Mr. St. Clare who has a
daughter, Little Eva. Eva has a great impact on the life of Tom and the other
characters in the novel with her angelic qualities. Unfortunately, within days
of each other, Eva and Mr. St. Clare die, and all the St. Clare slaves are left
in the hands of Maria, the wife. She always hated the slaves and thought that
her husband treated them too nicely, so when she gets this opportunity, she vows
to teach them a lesson, and she sells them down the river. It is here that Tom's
life takes a turn for the worst. He is bought by an evil man, Simon Legree, who
prided himself on being able to "break" all of his slaves, but Tom is
different. He is untouchable. Tom's great faith in God taught him to be honest
and good, and no matter what Legree does, these attributes remain part of Tom.
This just angers Legree more, and he eventually has Tom beaten to a point which
he never recovers. While Tom is trying to heal from this beating, he is
introduced to Casey, another slave of Legree's who desperately needs to run
away. She has lost all faith in God after being stripped of her children years
ago and subjected to a life of hatred, but after talking with Tom she finally
obtains faith, and with this new faith she is able to contrive a way to escape
the deserted plantation with one of the other young slaves, Emmeline. The two of
them escape victoriously, but since Tom will not tell Legree where the two have
gone, he is beaten again, but this time he does not recover. The son of Mr.
Shelby rescues Tom just before his death. This is a hopeless feat, but Tom is
able to tell George, the son, some final words for his wife, Aunt Chloe, and the
others. After Tom's death, Master George gives Tom a proper burial on his return
home where he meets up with Cassy and Emmeline. It is here that Cassy discovers
that her daughter, whom she thought she would never see again, is Eliza, so
Master George brings the two girls to Canada where the family is reunited. When
he finally returns home, George grants Tom's final wish and emancipates all the
Shelby slaves. When he informs them of the news, he tells each of them to think
of their freedom every time they pass Uncle Tom's Cabin and let it be a memorial
to try to live as honestly and faithfully as Tom with God as their leader. This
statement comes at the very end of the book, and it is not until the end that
the title of Stowe's novel is understood by the reader. I found Uncle Tom's
Cabin to be a very well put book. It has opened my eyes to what life was like
back in the time of slavery. I rate this book a nine. I found it well written
and very worth reading. The one thing that didn't seem to give it that one-point
to make it a ten was that some of the local color in the story was very
difficult to understand and to read. If you have time to read a story whose
dialect is hard to read at some points. This novel was rated a 10 for
entertainment. There never was a dull moment in this novel. Whenever you turned
a page something new was happening. The theme I rate in this book as a nine,
also. The theme was Man vs Man. Overall, the book was excellence and would
recommend it to everyone that is worth reading.
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