Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

"The Kitchen is Seasoned With Love"

The above quotation is stamped on countless refrigerator magnets and embroidered on dishtowels across the world; and yet, how many of us ever stop to think about what it really means? After all, why is it important that a concept as ethereal and abstract as love should have significance in the kitchen, a place supposedly reserved for preparing that which is necessary only to maintaining the physical body? This question can perhaps be best answered by the “little woman” named Harriet Beecher Stowe, in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin – written before we even had refrigerators, much less magnets bearing heartwarming little proverbs.

Whereas it may at first be overlooked, the description of different types of kitchens in Uncle Tom’s Cabin is in fact a recurring theme in the novel and not to be trivialized. On the contrary, Harriet Beecher Stowe uses the image of the kitchen to encompass one of the most pertinent aspects of her argument against slavery: that of the importance of the home and domestic life in the fight against oppression and injustice. An indoctrinated member of the infamous “Cult of True Womanhood,” an unofficial sisterhood designed to combat women’s lack of physical and political power by encouraging them to develop the power of influence, Stowe uses representations of the ideology of this alliance – whose central tenets are piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity – as weapons in her narrative battle against slavery’s evils. She aims these weapons straight at the heart of female readers belonging to the same sisterhood, especially mothers; and with what territory should her feminine readership be more closely acquainted...

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...ey into freedom.

Finding meaning in Stowe’s use of kitchen imagery is not too difficult a task; her comparison of Chloe’s and Dinah’s kitchens shows the almost polar variations that can occur in slaveholding households, but the ultimate destruction that takes place in both homes proves that no matter how things may at first appear, tragedy will always be the result when slavery is at the core. The only way that true harmony can be achieved is through a system that is not based on slavery, as seen in the example of Rachel Halliday’s Quaker kitchen, where the scenarios of the other households are reversed, and the result is a hopeful end for the sufferer through the kindness of a fellow human being. Now it is up to us as readers to conduct our own kitchens with the same values of motherly nurturing, compassion for one’s fellow man, and most importantly, love.
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