Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin ot Life Among the Lowly, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1952.

This is a fascinating book.  It was written many year ago, and published in 1852 as an antislavery novel.  It was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  It was the most read novel of the 19th century, and more copies of this were sold than any other book with the exception of the Bible. 
The story of this book is very exciting.  It shows many different kind of slave holders, and even though some are kind and good, it also tells how those who are kind and good, make it possible for the tyrant to exist.  This book actually tells many stories, but mostly it tells the story of Eliza, who runs away when her baby when he is sold to a slave runner, and Tom, who refuses to run away when he has the chance, saying he would rather honor his master by doing what he thinks is right, rather than run away.  Eliza is successful in making her escape.  She crosses the Ohio on floating ice, jumping from one ice flow to the next while holding her baby.  Her escape, and that she could keep her baby safe, is a miracle. 
Tom throughout the book has a sense of honor, and a pride which shows through in his Christian living. 
In writing the book, Stowe often goes on you person tangents, i.e. “now you see” so as to make her points about the cruelty about slavery.  One of things she attacks most about slavery is that it tears families apart, and she talks about this in telling several different stories. 
Towards the end of the book we are introduced to the tyrant master, Mr. Simon Legree.  Legree would prefer to use up his slaves and buy new ones, getting all he can from them, and beating them cruelly if they don’t perform.  He beat Tom cruelly, and eventually has his two overseer negroes beat him to death.  However, when they see Tom’s Christian nature, the repent.  They say they will refuse to do anything like this again.
This book does a great job of getting its message across.  Reportedly when President Lincoln met Stowe he commented, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”  Records of this statement were not recorded the night of the meeting, but her son remembered it later.   Whether the statement is true, her book was very influential.  It also is good at describing the attitudes of many towards slavery and African Americans.  The Northern church that supports slavery by investing in slaves, although not participating; the laws that were made to appease slave traders, and slavery in general, including the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  (Later she explains that this motivated her to write the book.) 
Tom is a person with bad luck, but always loyal and hard working.  He has a good master, and pretty much runs the place.  However, the master gets in debt, and is forced to sell Tom.  Tom has a wife and children, and is separated, with the promise they will buy him back when circumstances are better.  He is bought by a good family, Augustine St. Clare who has a daughter Eva.  Eva wants the slaves to be freed.  She is sickly, and gets her father to promise to free them before she dies.  St. Clare is going to do this, but he is murdered in a bar fight, and Tom is sold farther south to Legree.  Legree is determined to break tom, to make him so he is no longer a Christian.  Legree fails.  In this aspect, the book seems like Job, but Legree does kill Tom in the end. 

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