Published in 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was an answer to the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 had declared that all runaway slaves that were caught were to be brought back to their masters. Stowe used the Fugitive Slave Act as “the stimulus for showing [her] white readers how slavery threatened American culture” (Robbins 534). Uncle Tom’s Cabin is an anti-slavery novel, and Stowe uses the novel touch upon all aspects of slavery and its long lasting effects on not only the slaves, but also their families as well as their masters and their masters families. Stowe introduces the reader to characters who feel real and who are suffering at the unforgiving and unjust hands of slavery. She forces her readers to consider the effects of slavery from the point of view of the slaves, instead of from the point of view of the master. Stowe appeals to the reader’s emotions, playing on their guilt and forcing them to see how slavery not only ruins lives, but entire families as well. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe demonstrates how the corruptness of slavery dismantles and eradicates domestic life and stability, and that the only way to save the home is to get rid of slavery.
During the time of publication of this novel, the role of women was simple. They were expected to stay home, tend house, and raise children. Stowe takes this idea and builds on it: she appeals to the domesticity of women as a way to highlight the injustice of slavery. In his article, Tim O’Loughlin writes, “… as a popular text, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in a variety of forms, acted as a public site within which changing concerns about race, gender, class, and issues of nationhood were brought together and linked, or, to be more precise, coordinated… Uncle Tom’s Cabin served as both a barometer and agent of cultural change for almost one hundred years” (574). One of the most prominent ways that Stowe tries to bring about this change is by setting specific parts of the book in a home setting (and especially with the use of kitchen metaphors), and showing how slavery invades and ruins the home. In the very start of the novel, Stowe writes,
Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P----, in Kentucky. There were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely approaching, seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness (13).
Stowe introduces these two men, which we find out are Mr. Shelby and Haley, who are so desensitized to slavery that they just accept it as a way of life. They live and were raised in a society where slavery was the norm, and they, in turn, treat it as such. As the passage goes on, we find out that Haley is a slave trader, and he is meeting with Mr. Shelby, who owes him money, to discuss potential slaves of his that he can buy. This scene is a prime example of the way slavery has invaded...