Influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe Essay

Influence of Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe Essay

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In an era of Rush Limbaugh and a historic presidency, racism is a topical and controversial issue. People struggle to examine their own racial prejudice. The largest obstacle is not the understanding racism is wrong, rather the ability to pry open the hearts of the prejudice to show how their prejudice affects more than those they stereotype. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs wrote narratives to abolish slavery while appealing to their audience’s emotions. Their writings all helped to speed up the process of abolition, but some of the books used different methods. Douglass’s and Jacobs’ narratives portray graphic horrors of slavery while advocating the importance of education as a tool for freedom. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a sentimentalist novel that included and undercut some of the stereotypes and assumptions made by Stowe’s white audience. Although some may argue that the novel’s subtlety failed to convince that slavery is wrong, it succeeded in becoming popular because of people’s reaction to its controversial content. Stowe’s novel was the bestseller of the 19th century because it used subtle strategies available to fiction in order to woo its audience. Stowe wrote to the interests of the audience, such as good morals and empathetic characters. While Douglass and Jacobs had to stick to facts, Stowe could create compelling plot lines and appealing characters that the audience could be sympathetic towards and critical of because of the detailed explanation their thoughts and emotions. On the other hand, Jacobs and Douglass could not take such creative license.
The freedom of a fictional work allows for creativity and the ability to create story lines that are interesting however, this is diff...


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...reate fiction, Stowe would have better understood the societal norms. The popularity of her texts suggests that nineteenth century Americans were unprepared to see characters whose traits were against those that were commonly accepted. Many Americans were threatened by the objective narrations of graphic incidents. Because of their race and the lack of credibility associated with their race, Jacobs’ and Douglass’s audience was limited to a progressive group of abolitionists. In contrast, Stowe was able to engage a broad range of audience members in the process of empathizing with the large number of people damaged by slavery. Without the constraints of non-fiction, Stowe was able to direct her novel towards the audience. Abraham Lincoln referred to her as the “little lady who started [the civil] war” because she wrote a piece that appealed to her white audience.

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