Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin Essay

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin Essay

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Harriet Beecher Stowe's melodramatic novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which she called in the preface a "series of sketches", was written "to awaken sympathy and feeling for the African race" (Stowe "Preface"). It was so successful as a polemic against slavery that Lincoln gently called Mrs. Stowe "the little lady who started this big war" (Hughes "Introduction"). Stowe wrote from the point of view of an abolitionist, a Christian and a Northerner from a state that bordered the slave-owning South.

I. The Treatment of Slaves

It would be an exaggeration to say that all slaves were mistreated physically, and Stowe makes the point that some states were more disposed to treat slaves decently than others. Haley, the trader, comments that "You Kentucky folks spile your niggers" (Stowe, UTC Chapter 1, p.7). The farms of Kentucky offered a moderate climate and a more bearable workload than, for example, the Deep South where the cotton plantations rapidly destroyed the health of the pickers; to be sold "down the river" was a death sentence, the "last severity of punishment" (Stowe UTC Chapter 10, p. 94). Because the cotton had to be picked and got off the fields when it matured, the entire year's profit for the slave-owners hinged on working the slaves mercilessly during that time period (Stowe, UTC Chapter 1, p. 8).

Both the Shelbys and Augustine St. Clare were kind masters; not all owners were Legrees. Yet debt or death meant that their human possessions might be sold at any time. It was this uncertainty that made many attempt escape even "from comparatively kind masters" (Stowe UTC Chapter 10, p. 94). It should also be noted that sometimes slaves were treated with comparative physical decency to protect the owner's investment; cruelt...


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...the ability to fulfill themselves. She also rejected the idea that freed slaves should be sent back to Africa, as being too ill-prepared by generations of slavery to succeed there (pp. 438-39). She felt that if whites in the North and South were to listen to their conscience and educate the slaves and former slaves, that a blended society might be possible (pp. 440-441).

Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. "Introduction", Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among The Lowly. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., © 1952.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. "Preface", Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among The Lowly. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., © 1952.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among The Lowly. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, © 2002.

Williams, Harry T. The Union Sundered: The History of the United States, Volume 5. New York: Time Incorporated, © 1963.

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