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Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe - Misery of Slavery Exposed

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Misery of Slavery Exposed in Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beacher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin addresses the issue of slavery in close accordance with the style of Frederick Douglas' narrative. A theme that Stowe impresses strongly upon the reader is the degenerative effects of slavery upon both the slave and the master. Frequently in the novel the issue is raised . Even Mrs. Shelby recognizes the depravity and admits that slavery, "is a bitter, bitter, most accursed thing- a curse to the master and a curse to the slave!"(45). The injustices of slavery are frequently identified in the novel but, of course, the practice is continued. Many of those involved in holding slaves are sensitive to the problem. Mr. Shelby, for instance, is not contented by the idea but enjoys the benefits out of what he deems necessity. The inherent problem of slavery is again stated when John Van Trompe is being described. His worn appearance is attributed to the ,"workings of a system equally bad for oppressor and oppressed,"(105). The novel also dexterously demonstrates the absurdities and contradictions of slavery. For instance, Mr. Shelby's actions are strongly contradictory to his statements. He believes himself to be a good Christian man with a genuine respect for his slaves. Yet the fact that he holds slaves opposes all that he says and although his treatment of slaves is better than most master's, he still is not respectful of them. For example, in the first chapter when Shelby and Haley are discussing the ensuing trade, Harry enters the room and Shelby has him dance around like a clown and then tosses raisins at him. Also, Mr. Harris, a slave owner, in defense of his relocating George asserts that, "it's a free country sir; the man's mine,"(24). It is also ironic that after George invents a machine to clean hemp the employer congratulates not George, but George's master for owning such a fine slave. Another example that effectively illustrates the strong contradictions and absurdities of slavery and slave owners is the philosophy of Haley concerning the proper treatment of slaves. Haley, whose practice is to buy and sell people asserts that, "its always best to do the humane thing,"(16) and that it is good to have a conscience, "just a little, you know, to swear by,"(13). Another topic often addressed in the novel is exclusion of blacks in the law and the injustice of the entire condition.
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