The Publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin Essay

The Publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin Essay

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The Publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin


Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, has been widely identified as the most influential American novel in the country’s history. Books have, of course, always had the power to bring about great social change, and the widespread distribution of Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave a vivid image of Southern life, particularly the mistreatment of slaves, to the entire country. While slavery was previously an issue between slaveholders and abolitionists, the moral outrage caused by Uncle Tom’s Cabin went a long way towards bringing the slavery debate to the forefront of the entire American consciousness. Broadly speaking, the book’s success brought the moral conflict to the general public, causing many ordinary citizens to form their own moral judgments, often critical ones, of the nature of slavery, while they previously would have been more apathetic. Here, I will investigate the reaction to and effects of the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, particularly divided into two groups: the scholarly or critical reaction, and the public reaction, including both public opinion of the book and the various derivative works that were created for public consumption. I have researched both portions of this topic through the more modern works of historical analysis, and by examining primary sources reproduced in online collections (with especially heavy use of Railton’s extremely resourceful website, for which I would like to acknowledge my gratitude).

Outside of the Southern region that Uncle Tom’s Cabin criticized, the book immediately received a critical reception “of wild enthusiasm” (Donovan 16) that fully recognized the strong moral weight that was carried in its strong narrative. While the...


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...can Culture: A Multi-Media Archive. Dir. Stephen Railton. 2002. <http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/utc/onstage/films/mv03hp.html>

Other Relevant Works

Hildreth, Margaret Holbrook. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Bibliography. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1976.

Jorgenson, Chester E., comp. Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Book and Legend: A Guide to an Exhibition. Detroit: 1952.

Stowe, Charles Edward. Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Boston: Houghton & Mifflin, 1890.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat, 1853.

[1] To clarify, while “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was the title of both the novel and the play, my mention of the title in this document refers to the novel unless otherwise stated.

[2] This name “is almost certainly a pseudonym” (UTCAC).

[3] UTCAC identifies Gamaliel Bailey as a possible author of this anonymous article.

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