Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe and published in the United States in 1852. The novel depicted slavery as a moral evil and was the cause of much controversy at the time and long after. Uncle Tom’s Cabin outraged the South and received praise in the North. The publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a major turning point for the United States which helped bring about the Civil War. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is said to have contributed to the Civil War because it brought the evils of slavery to the attention of Americans more vividly than any other book had done before (“Harriett’s Life”).
The novel made people who had never really thought about slavery realize how cruel and unjust it was. It also turned many people against slavery so bad that they decided it was a good cause to fight for. For many Northerners who had no personal experience with slavery the novel personalized the evils of slavery for them (“Uncle”). It showed them how slavery actually affected the slaves and how they were treated by their owners. Some Northerners, however, criticized the book, some because they believed it exaggerated slavery’s cruelty and others because they thought it downplayed slavery (“Uncle).
The novel was so gruesome at times that people could not believe that what had happened in the book could really happen to slaves. The novel outraged the South and they declared the book to be criminal, slanderous and utterly false (“Africans). Obviously the south was for slavery and they did not like the book because they did not want others to know what was happening to their slaves. If people were to find out they knew people would reject to it immediately and that is exactly what happened.
The South disliked the book so much that they banned it and a book seller was forced out of town in Mobile, Alabama for selling copies of the book (“Africans”). Uncle Tom’s Cabin was liked and disliked by many people in America. When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe after the beginning of the American Civil War, he supposedly said to her, “So you’re the little woman that wrote the book that started this Great War” (“Harriet’s Life”). Lincoln was referring to Harriett Beecher Stowe’s book Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
The quote implies that even the president of America had recognized and emphasized the impact of the novel on American Society as being the key cause to something as important as the Civil War. Harriet Beecher Stowe began writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed (“Africans”). The Fugitive Slave Act was an agreement between the north and the south that mainly said that if a runaway slave was caught in a free state, the runaway slave had to be returned to his or her owner (“Uncle”).
She started to publish her story first as a series of stories in a newspaper called the Era, and when a publisher by the name of John Punchard Jewett read the article, he decided to publish it in book form (“Harriett’s Life”). It became the best seller in the United States, England, Europe and Asia (“Harriett’s Life). The novel also began to be dramatized all over the world without the consent of Stowe. Uncle Tom’s Cabin not only became a success in book form but also in dramatic from. In this novel there are many families who end up getting torn apart from each other.
In the beginning of the story there are two men bargaining over the sale of a slave, or slaves, to cancel a debt that a plantation owner named Mr. Shelby had. Mr. Shelby decides to sell his most trusted slave to him, but Haley is not satisfied with him and wants another slave to go with him. Then at this time a little slave boy walks in named Harry and Haley wants him too. Haley told Mr. Shelby, when Mr. Shelby had second thoughts about taking Harry away from his mother “These critters an’t like white folks, you know; they gets over things, only manage right” (Stowe 5).
Haley does not think that slaves have the same feelings about their children as white people do. He thinks that they will get over it quickly. The story goes on to talk about Eliza’s husband John and how his owner does not want him to be married to Eliza any longer and he says that he is going to flee to Canada and save money to buy her and Harry. Eliza gets upset about Harry being sold and decides to run away and go to Canada. During her journey she has to cross the Ohio River with out a boat so with little Harry in her arms she jumped from ice chunk to ice chunk until she reached the other side.
The author actually got this scene from something that really happened to a slave mother; she too had to cross the Ohio River in the same way (“Harriett Beecher”). Stowe’s infant son died because of a terrible illness and that is where she got the idea for a slave child to be taken away from his mother (“Harriett’s Life”). She realized it was horrible for her son to be taken away from her because of death but it would be ten times worse for a mother to lose a child because the child was sold (“Harriett’s Life”). It also talks about Uncle Tom and his family.
He has a wife named Chloe, two boys and a baby girl named Polly. When Haley buys him, he also takes him away from his family. The author also found an article that talked about a faithful slave husband in Kentucky who was sold “down river” and this is where she got the character for Uncle Tom (Warner). Eliza and George ended up being reunited in the story, but unfortunate as it is, Tom and Chloe never get the chance to see each other again. In the story there is also a mother who is on a ship with Tom and Haley who had a newborn baby with her.
When she walked over to look over the boat, the baby was taken and sold with out her knowledge by Haley. Another incident of a family being taking apart is when Emmeline and her mother Susan were separated when they were sold to different owners. This is just a few examples of slaves being separated from their families; there were many more slaves taken from their families. Stowe also represents the Underground Railroad in her novel. The Underground Railroad was a vast network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada (“Africans”).
When Eliza started to escape to Canada she got a lot of help from different people along the way. When Eliza was about to cross the Ohio River, Mr. Symmes, who was friends with the Shelby’s helped her by telling her where she could go to get shelter and safety on the other side (Stowe 58). The house that she goes to belongs to a senator named Mr. Bird. They welcome her in and even give them clothes to wear. Eliza gets to the Bird’s home right at the time when they were passing the fugitive slave law and the senator was saying how, if they helped the slaves, it would be “aiding and abetting the law” (Stowe 76).
But Mrs. Bird keeps on saying how unchristian it is to not help these poor people and she says “I don’t know anything about politics but I can read my Bible and there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate” (Stowe 77). After they stay there one night the senator takes them to a client’s house to hide them. The Trompes (the senator’s clients) will protect Eliza and Harry until they can help get them to Canada. It is here at their house where Eliza and George become reunited. The Trompes eventually help them to reach Canada where they are safe and free.
So, not all people in the South are horrible slave owners because, if they were, there would not have been anybody to help Eliza and her family. The book portrays many different types of slave owners. Some slave owners can be horrible and cruel, while others can be nice and caring to their slaves. Uncle Tom seemed to keep running into both types of owners. The first Owners he had were the Shelbys and they treated him like he was one of their own. They tried to educate Tom and they trusted him to run their plantation because they knew how loyal and honest he was.
Their son George was Tom’s master and he read the Bible to Tom everyday because Tom was really religious. One of Mrs. Shelby’s responses to the fact that Mr. Shelby was going to sell tom and Harry was that “I have taught them the duties of the family, of parent and child, husband and wife; and how can I bear to have this open acknowledgement that we care for no tie, no duty, no ration, however sacred, compared with money” (Stowe 32). When the Shelbys sell Tom to Haley he does not treat Tom nearly as good as the Shelbys did. He put shackles on Tom’s feet when they were riding so Tom could not get away from him, like Harry did.
He eventually begins to trust Tom and takes off his shackles. Then Tom gets sold to a guy by the name of St. Clare and his daughter Eva. They treat Tom just as good as the Shelby’s did. Eva loved Tom as if they were related. It was very uncommon for whites to love their slaves. Eva, just like George, read Tom the Bible, and she even helped him to write a letter to his family. Everything was going great for Tom until one day Eva died; then a few weeks later so did her father. All the slaves on the plantation had to be auctioned off. Tom’s last owner treated him horribly.
He used to beat him all the time. Besides being utterly evil, Legree, Tom’s new owner, was also a drunk. He tried to get Tom to tell him where Cassy and Emmeline had escaped to. But Tom continued to refuse telling him. Finally Legree got so upset, he told Tom “I’ll conquer ye, or kill ye! ” (Stowe 410). Tom continued to refuse, so Legree beat Tom until he passed out and Tom ended up dying. George’s master treated him horribly too. He treated him so bad that when George invented a machine for cleaning up the hemp, his master got upset about it and took him back to his plantation.
Slaves basically had a fifty percent chance of getting a master who treated them nicely and getting a master who treated them horribly. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is said to have been a book that tells the truths of slavery. It does this by telling the actual things that happened to many slaves. By publishing this book, Stowe made those who knew nothing of the evils of slavery realize how cruel it really was, and by doing this she made the South angry. She made the North so angry at the South that the two began to fight over slavery. This is truly one of the reasons why the Civil war began.
Courtney from Study Moose
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