The Role Of Religion In Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Role Of Religion In Uncle Tom's Cabin

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William Arthur Ward once said, "Real religion is a way of life, not a white cloak to be wrapped around us on the Sabbath and then cast aside into the six-day closet of unconcern." Religion is the one thing that people can usually tolerate but never agree upon. Each faith seems to have an ordained assumption that they have the correct thoughts on how to life one's life or how to think about things or the way to act in certain situations. Still, each religion has its own "sub-religions." If someone refers to Christianity, there are several different religions that are blanketed under that umbrella: Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian are just a handful. The inconsistencies that are associated with everyone's belief about religion run into deeper ruts of confusion. This confusion leads people to have distorted views as to what they believe and what their religion is all about. This is no different from the feelings about slavery by Christians in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Throughout the novel, Christianity presents itself in a few different lights; as a twisted and deformed glimmer of what religion is supposed to be with undertones of bigotry and prejudice, an innocent yet naive child that brings joy to everyone he or she meets, and as Uncle Tom himself, the standard for what a Christian is supposed to be. These different portrayals of Christian living come from Stowe's own beliefs about Christians and brings them into the light.
Many people during the time of Harriet Beecher Stowe and even now regard religion as a means of getting out of the requirement of having to go to Hell by being a part of a religion. What these people do not realize is that there is more to just being able to say that they are Christians and getting out of the punishment for their sins. They must be examples of what it is like to be religious and practice it with fervency and commitment. Miss Ophelia was Stowe's embodiment of these people that are trying to cheat their way out of spiritual punishment. She admits to having feelings of bigotry toward blacks. "I've always had a prejudice against negroes […] and it's a fact, I never could bear to have that child touch me; but, I didn't think she knew it" (246). Miss Ophelia's aversion toward African Americans shows that to be human is to be flawed; however, it is still unchristian to be so.

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She shows through her inflection as the chapter proceeds that she, in fact, does not like being this way, but she cannot help but have these feelings.
Innocence has a strong tie to Christianity. In the Old Testament of the Bible, only the innocent and pure lambs were taken and used as offerings by people to God to take away their sins. Later in the New Testament, Jesus Christ came as a human child into the sinful world of man to grow up and be used as a final, innocent sacrifice for the sins of mankind. This innocence that goes along with Christianity is brought forth through the little girl in the novel, Evangeline St. Clare. She is described as a beautiful child both physically in appearance and spiritually in her devotion to the faith. Her good nature and kindness to those that spend time with her help them to live happy lives and lead some to follow Christ. "It's jest no use tryin' to keep Miss Eva here…she's got the Lord's mark on her forehead" (240). This quote shows that Eva is Stowe's symbol for a good Christian. She is determined to bring others to Christ, she is unbiased, has no prejudice, loves everyone, cares for people's feelings, and so on. She does, however, seem to be almost too perfect. This leads the reader to believe that maybe she's only an idea of what the perfect Christian is and not a person in the story.
The most critical figure in the story is, of course, the main character, Uncle Tom. Uncle Tom is described as an extremely religious and kind-hearted man. His virtues go beyond measurable, from a good father with his children, to his heroic demeanor throughout the novel. He could basically be described as a woman disguised as a muscular black man. His most important trait, however, is his undying devotion to his faith in God. Stowe portrays him like a Christ figure in the novel. He converts people through his love for them, his endearment, and finally in his death. Tom is always willing to help. One example is when he saved Eva from drowning.
Tom was standing just under her on the lower deck, as she fell. He saw her strike the water, and sink, and was after in a moment. A broad-chested, strong-armed fellow, it was nothing for him to keep afloat in the water, till, in a moment or two, the child rose to the surface, and he caught her in his arms and swinging with her to the side of the boat-side, handed her up, all dripping, to the grasp of hundreds of hands, which, as if they had all belonged to one man, were stretched eagerly out to receive her (145).
Tom's love for others, like Eva, was unmatched by anyone throughout the novel, except maybe Legree. This man was designated "the villain" of the novel by his first interaction with Tom. After basically removing all of his personal possessions and finding Tom's Bible, he says to Tom, "Well, I'll soon have that [religion] out of you. I have none o' yer bawling, praying, singing niggers on my place; so remember. Now, mind yourself […] I'm your church now! You understand – you've got to be as I say" (336). This "new church" would be Tom's greatest test in the novel. By the end of it, he will have triumphed against it by not giving in to what Simon Legree wanted from him. The beatings tat he received finally killed Tom, but through his death and time there on Legree's plantation, many people were converted to Christianity or at least were given the thought in the heads that maybe life was not all about cruel work, but about praising God and following in his son's footsteps.
Those that have read Uncle Tom's Cabin have views about it that are much similar to that of others when it was first written in the 1800s. they think it is a book gushing with racism by Harriet Beecher Stowe, they feel it does not capture the true feelings of what it was like to be an African American slave working on a plantation, and traded a few times only to be beaten and treated unfairly. However, many of these people missed the underlying message of Uncle Tom's Cabin. It is not just about slavery but about the place for religion in society around the time of the Civil War as well as today.
Religion has come a long way since the time of Harriet Beecher Stowe. It has changed its face into so many things, people are too confused to say which one is true and which one is false, which one is worship to a lifeless object or to a deist god that cares nothing for its people. Though the example of Miss Ophelia, we learn that no one is perfect but one must still hold true to the beliefs and values of what his or her religion says. Through Eva, Stowe's model for the "perfect Christian" was presented in a small, innocent, and naïve child that cared for everyone and had a Christian passion for bringing others to her religion. Tom represented the Christ figure that people of the Christian faith strive to imitate in everything they do. His passionate caring for others and strong faith in God made by Stowe toward the reader to help them with a correct way of viewing lie; it is short and people need to make the greatest possible impact on the world, despite the odds.
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