Uncle Tom’s Cabin As A Slavery Novel

1147 words - 5 pages

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a book that brings up and addresses many issues and themes, like: race, religion, femininity, love, suffering, violence, home, and masculinity. But Stowe specifically illustrates the inhumanity and evil of slavery to her mid-19th century readers, for whom slavery was a current and heated political issue. The novel shows not only the misery and the suffering of the slaves themselves, but also the way that slavery as an institution effects everyone involved in it, even those who do not participate directly in slavery– such as northern politicians and citizens. Stowe illustrates the issue of slavery through her use of symbolism and her choice in ...view middle of the document...

Then at the end of the novel, George Shelby turns the cabin into an even more obvious symbol when he tells his freed slaves to look at it and remember the sacrifice Uncle Tom made and to think of their freedom which (indirectly) was brought about because of Uncle Tom.
Another important, thought probably less obvious, piece of symbolism is Eliza’s leap across the river. When she crosses the treacherous, icy Ohio River, she is literally leaping from the south side of the river to the north side- from slavery to freedom. This action is a powerful image of the slaves’ desire for emancipation and the risks they’re willing to take to achieve it. Of course, Eliza doesn’t leap across the river in a single bound. She scrambles across jagged, loose, dangerous ice flows, cutting up her feet, and finding strength and agility in her intense desire to protect her child.
“The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake – stumbling – leaping – slipping – springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone – her stockings cut from her feet – while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank.” (Stow, 62).
On the simplest level, Eliza’s leap shows the moral and legal divide between the North and the South. Yet, Stowe constantly reminds the reader that while the North may not have its own slaves, it is still legally, morally, and economically involved in southern slavery. Eliza’s not safe once she reaches Ohio; the Fugitive Slave Act makes it dangerous for escaped slaves, because all citizens are legally required to help return the fugitives to their masters. Stowe wants this to enrage the reader: after everything Eliza’s been through, shouldn’t making it to Ohio be enough? Shouldn’t Eliza be able to live in the free states as an independent woman, like any other pious wife and mother? But the fact is no, she isn’t safe, and wont be until she crosses Lake Erie and makes it to Canada. So Eliza’s leap also comes to symbolize the futility...

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