Racism In Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe Essay

Racism In Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe Essay

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Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was the defining piece of the time in which it was written. The book opened eyes in both the North and South to the cruelties that occurred in all forms of slavery, and held back nothing in exposing the complicity of non-slaveholders in the upholding of America's peculiar institution. Then-president Abraham Lincoln himself attributed Stowe's narrative to being a cause of the American Civil War. In such an influential tale that so powerfully points out the necessity of emancipation, one would hardly expect to find racialism that would indicate a discomfort with the people in bondage. However, Stowe shows no apprehension in typifying her characters according to their various races. While this at times serves a distinctly polemical purpose, the author often employs racialism in places where it appears to be wholly unnecessary. On the whole, Stowe seems to be all too comfortable with promoting stereotypes unfitting of a polemic piece crying out for the liberation of the Africans and African-Americans in bondage.
George Harris is a slave embodying qualities few people in the South of the nineteenth century would believe to exist in a black man. He displays an adroit ingenuity, inventing a machine that improves the efficiency of cleaning hemp at the factory to which his master rents him out. Unlike many of his fellow slaves, he yearns for something more. When he is belittled and cheated by his master for nothing more than his hard-earned success, he has to restrain every nerve and impulse inside his body to prevent striking back. He shows boldness and audacity in running away from his owner when the sanctity of his marriage to Eliza is threatened, and even more so in his journey to Canad...


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...ack Sam (as he is called around the plantation) is a walking stereotype that serves no polemical purpose whatsoever.
There is certainly no shortage of evidence pointing to the fact that Stowe exhibited unabashed racialism in her writing. At times her stereotypes serve a polemical purpose, but there can be found no reason for Black Sam being a mischievous comedian, for George and Eliza being mulatto rather than African, or for the typecasts of the other characters presented above. It should be taken into account that racialism was a well established and generally accepted practice in the nineteenth century, and Harriet Beecher Stowe does not deserve damnation for perpetuating these labels. However, her readiness to label blacks and whites in such a black and white fashion belies the call for emancipation and Christian undertones that her novel presents to the reader.

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