Mrs. Taylor Sims
15 December 14
Women, Men, and the Good Man Uncle Tom
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a woman who grew up in a time of slavery under the heavy influence of the white man. She sought to spread her powerful abolitionist message of the humanization of slaves through her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which uses structures of parallelism and contrast with slaves as sympathetic and moral human beings. From their small remarks, to their letters and even their own feelings towards their, more often than not, villainous masters, Stowe shows the slaves are sympathetic and real humans. Stowe goes on beyond this message to also portray women as the actively moral, men as the avaricious, and Uncle Tom as the exception to both.
Women often took the actively moral role in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Most of the women were idealized as almost angelic mothers, wives, and guides. Women were more of the guiding moral lights to those such as the men or southerners. Mrs. Ophelia is a particularly curious character in such that she is one of the only characters in Uncle Tom’s Cabin who develops as the story continues. Once Topsy was put in her care, Ophelia begins to have more contact with a slave. At first she tries to teach Topsy out of a sense of moral duty, she considered it to be “real missionary work” (Stowe 203). But Stowe recommends that those who feel a sense of obligation to better the darker race alone will not do away with slavery—abolitionists must act out of love not duty. Eva’s death proves the crucial facilitator in Ophelia’s transformation, and she comes to love Topsy as a human being after a gesture of being there for Topsy when the child expresses her love for Eva, the only one who ever loved her. ...
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...ea.” (Foner 459) This is where feminism and slavery differed while black and white alike had separate ideas of feminism versus slavery. Harriet Beecher Stowe succeeded in spreading her abolitionist and feminist message through the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. She does so by showing women as the morally just, men as their more aggressive counterparts (as opposed to the wife being the assumed counterpart), and creating a well-rounded Christian martyr of a slave man hero who transcended the races, Uncle Tom. Legree’s demoniacally evil ways also play an important role in shaping the end of the book along the lines of the traditional Christian narrative.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher, and Ann Douglas. 1981. Uncle Tom 's cabin: or, Life among the lowly. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books.
Foner, Eric. 2009. Give Me Liberty!: an American History. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
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