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The Effect Of Uncle Tom's Cabin

878 words - 4 pages

The Effect of Uncle Tom's Cabin

 

        Seldom does a one work of literature change a society or start it

down the road to cataclysmic conflict.   One such catalytic work is Harriet

Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).  It is considered by many, one

the most influential American works of fiction ever published.  Uncle Tom's

Cabin sold more copies than any other previous fiction title.  It sold five

thousand copies in its first two days, fifty thousand copies in eight weeks,

three hundred thousand copies in a year and over a million copies in its

first sixteen months.   What makes this accomplishment even more amazing is

that this book was written by a woman during a time in history women were

relegated to domestic duties and child rearing and were not allowed

positions of influence or leadership roles in society.  Legend holds that

when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe in 1682 he said, "So you're the little woman

who wrote the book that made this great war".  The impact of Uncle Tom's

Cabin did more to arouse antislavery sentiment in the N orth and provoke

angry rebuttals in the south than any other event in antebellum era.

 

        Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), born Lichfeild, Connecticut, was

the daughter, sister, and wife of liberal clergymen and theologians.  Her

father Lyman and brother Henry Ward were two of the most preeminent

theologians of the nineteenth century.  This extremely devout Christian

upbringing, focusing on the doctrines of sin, guilt, atonement and

salvation, had an undeniable impact in her writings.   Each of her

characters displays some aspect of these beliefs.  Although he is unjustly

and ignorantly vilified by contemporary Black society, the character Uncle

Toms is given a Christ like persona.  Tom forgives his oppressors, turns

the other cheek to blows, blesses those who curse him, and prays for those

who sin against him. At the end of the story he even gives his life to save

his people. Beecher's upbringing is readily apparent in the formation and

characterization of Uncle Tom's Cabin.  She even goes as far as to credit

God with authorship, only allowing herself to be viewed as God's instrument

 against the evils of slavery.

 

        Before the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, information regarding

the evils of slavery and the treatment of slaves was readily available, but

little of this information was read outside anti-slavery circles. The

narratives of escaped slaves, as well as the work of other writers,

documented stories relating real...

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