Stowe’s Christian Stand in Uncle Tom's Cabin
The nineteenth century proved to be a period of turmoil for women and the role they would play in an ever-changing America. Women contended with not only hard living in the domestic sphere, but were impacted by the undercurrent of slavery issues. The Anti-slavery movement and Women’s rights movement were bringing forth a new dimension of writers taking hard positions on these issues. Harriet Beecher Stowe became one of the country’s most well known writers who bridged these factions together with her famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her position was not from the perspective of women’s rights as much as the rights and freedom of slaves. Stowe appealed to the basis of Christian beliefs and maternal instincts more than that of the assertive and vocal Women’s movement. She deftly steps aside from the more liberal feministic ideas, instead focusing on more traditional aspects of the role of women, particularly mothers. It is through this mode that she cries out against the insidiousness of slavery. The role of mother represents not just a domestic maternal figure confined to family, but also a universal figure who is led by Christian beliefs with compassion and empathy towards all who are suffering.
The origins of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s beliefs began as a child. Although her mother died when Harriet was five, her mother left an undeniable impact on her children (Adams 20). The image of Roxena Beecher, Harriet’s mother was of a saintly woman who embodied all aspects of a virtuous loving mother. Roxena Beecher had many children and lived in struggling, difficult conditions, much the way Harriet did when she became a mother. According to one biographer, when Roxena died, "she became pure spirit with them all, an ideal, the family’s Virgin Mary, the symbol of all that was most perfect in womanhood"(Hedrick 7). Harriet was compelled to measure up to the same aspirations as her mother had. She emulated her mother’s pious and humble nature, and was reinforced by her father who was a popular minister. The Puritan attitudes of Christianity were stamped onto Stowe’s character as she proved through many of her writings.
It is this image of the "universal" mother that Stowe works with, in her famous book Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the spiritual sense, a mother's love is likened to that of Christ. Her love is unconditional for her children, similar to the divine love of God. It is this comparison that offers a new insight of motherhood. Not only does a mother love her own children with purity, but also she feels that love elevated towards all children. The ideal mother in Stowe's opinion is one who transcends her love towards all who suffer. The father figure in many of her writings is authoritative and protective towards his family, but often cannot understand the concerns of women towards other people. It is these concerns for slaves through the eyes of every mother that motivates Stowe and propels her...