The Quakers and Uncle Tom’s Cabin
In this paper, I will examine the choice of using the Quakers as the angelic figures that become the saviors for the black race during the slave movement in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. While examining this topic, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s background of Puritanism becomes the focus for her motivation to change the world around her and her strict discipline of keeping spiritual values as part of her daily existence. The next stage to be discussed is her conversion from conservative Calvinist views to liberal ideals of social reform. This reform captures the spirit of Transcendentalism, the idea of the individual as a divine being changing society to meet with those ideals. Finally, I will touch on the belief of the Quakers and their history and how they became the model of godliness that is portrayed in Stowe’s novel.
In the Haggadah, God creates the world by his word, the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet descending from the crown of God engraved with a pen of flaming fire on the mind of Man (Barnstone 15). Many great writers strive to tap into this inspiration of divine light or intellectual genius to produce works of literary art. The written word from these writers possessed enough power to start revolutions, change public sentiment, and alter the rational thinking of the times. One such writer that changed historical events during the American Renaissance is Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her literary masterpiece, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, caused such enlightenment of the general public to push the United States into Civil War to emancipate the black race from the bonds of slavery. The main source of inspiration for her writings comes from her own personal experiences of life and the deeply ingrained ethics of a strong religious tradition.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was the product of her religious background in Calvinism and ideas of predestination. Puritanism arose as a vehicle for the definition of middle class attitudes toward economics, society and a cohesive political structure (Foster 68). The individual within this system felt a need from social insecurity to perfect their community and the world through Christian teaching. This would purify society and the church through instilling these ideals into the community. The theory of predestination set up a work ethic that forced the individual to work, in the extreme sense, to create peace of mind for him. The puritan individual always had insecurity instilled to produce more and more. This work ethic drive not only helped in the maintaining of the Puritan system but also provided relief of mental agony of whether one was selected among the divinely chosen or not. Harriet had a contention with the system, even in her younger life, due to the natural desire to do goodness. This spark of goodness worked against the convictions of predestination, where the individual was already destined for eternal life or damnation. What was the use of doing well if one...