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Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
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Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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  1. 21
    Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (LisaMaria_C)
    LisaMaria_C: This is the slave narrative of Harriet Jacobs and shares with Stowe a Christian sensibility and emphasis on how slavery destroys a slaves moral agency.
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English (136)  Dutch (3)  German (2)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All (145)
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Josh and Katie
  LoBiancoBuzzard | Apr 4, 2017 |
Summary: Stowe's classic novel depicting the evils of slavery, the complicity of North and South, and the aspirations and faith of slaves themselves.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century, and it's author the one who Abraham Lincoln reputedly greeted as "the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war." While much has been written of and imputed to this book, one thing that I think Stowe herself would denounce is the idea that she wrote this book to embroil the nation in war.

What then did she do? First of all, she wrote a novel with memorable characters, evocative scenes and a plot line with the right mix of pathos and triumph. Of course there is the title character. More recently, "Uncle Tom" has become an epithet for blacks who sell out to the white system, but this seems an unjust reading of Tom whose faith leads him to serve, to evangelize, and when ultimately necessary, resist his white overlords. There is Eliza, whose memorable flight to freedom across the ice flows of the Ohio River keep the reader's rapt attention. We have the evil Legree, who epitomizes the worst of slaveholding, as well as the consequences of a heart hardened and given over to evil. The death of Eva pulls at the heartstrings, drawn out over a couple chapters. The plot line of Tom's sale for the debts of the Selby's, his descent to New Orleans and the temporary rest of St. Clare's liberal household, the nadir of conditions under Legree, followed by redemption and the closing of several circles leads the reader through an expose of the different dimensions of slavery while drawing to a climax and satisfactory conclusion.

She writes artfully, if not with subtlety. She interposes humorous chapters with grievous ones, and moments of rest, such as the reunification of George and Eliza among the Quakers with stories of mothers and children being parted by slave traders. She challenges Northern sensibilities as well as southern ones. St. Clare's dialogues with prim and abolitionist-proper Ophelia reveal the hypocrisies of northerners who would end slavery but want little to do with Blacks as co-equals. Her struggles with Topsy expose to her her lovelessness. On a structural level we see the complicity of Northern politicians in passing fugitive slave laws and bankers whose practices of lending helped perpetuate the economics of slavery.

This is what makes the simplistic comment that this book made, or helped make the Civil War, while probably meant as a jest, an unfair charge. Yes, Southerners vigorously defended themselves against the claims of the book, claims which Stowe subsequently documented, demonstrating that, if anything, her portrayal was restrained. I think Stowe's aim was not to condemn, except for those like Legree, but to encourage slaveholders who had their own doubts of the justice of slavery. Her portrayals of both the Selbys and St. Claire reflect the ambivalence of slaveholders who saw the evil of the system of which they were a part. What is more striking to me, perhaps because I live in the North, is that Northerners ignored her critique of their own hypocrisies and complicity in regard to slavery, and gave heed to the voices that inflated their sense of self-righteousness.

The book is not without its problems. It indulges in racial stereotypes that are offensive to the modern reader. And it seems to participate in the hypocrisy of celebrating the spirituality and humanity of blacks and yet suggests that perhaps it indeed is best to free them, educate them, and send them back to Africa, when in fact blacks were here before the Mayflower and had as much a claim to this country as do whites.

At the same time, Stowe does a radical thing in this book. She portrays Tom as a black "Christ figure" to a racist nation. She does something similar to what Jesus himself does with Jewish religious leaders in using a despised Samaritan as the model of a good neighbor. She exposes her readers to the reality not only of the humanness of blacks but of their spiritual brotherhood with others who would identify as "Christian," which would have been much of America, North and South. We are forced to deeply identify with the offense of treating as a piece of property to be disposed of as one would wish, one who we would call "brother."

This is a book that, with all its flaws, is part of the cultural history of a nation, and, I think, should be on the reading list of every literate American. It continues to raise questions for us of how we will act when what is legal may not be just. It helps us understand the power of systems of injustice, and yet the personal choices both those with power and those without may make to resist injustice. It is a book to make us search our own souls. ( )
  BobonBooks | Mar 19, 2017 |
Another book that I cried buckets over, over the fate of Evangeline and Tom. I came away from the book with a renewed conviction in God. Although fictional, if Tom can love and trust in God in spite of all that had befallen him, what more I, in my situation? ( )
  siok | Jan 30, 2017 |
Fictional account of slavery prior to the Civil War ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 10, 2017 |
This book is so overwhelming good, I just don't know what to say, other than, I wish I had read it earlier in my life, and I wish all United States citizens and residents were required to read this. The author's "Concluding Remarks" alone are powerful enough to bring the reader to tears, and the whole book makes one question man's inhumanity to man in one of the darkest chapters of this planet's history. I feel spent just from having read it. I can't imagine all the poor souls who had to go through this... ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Dec 18, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (161 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harriet Beecher Stoweprimary authorall editionscalculated
Curtis, Christopher PaulForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Douglas, AnnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holmberg, NilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, EastmanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kazin, AlfredAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larsson, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lynn, Kenneth S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mackey, William, Jr.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Noto Soeroto, TrisnatiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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"Your heart is better than your head, in this case, John," said the wife, laying her little white hand on his. "Could I ever have loved you, had I not known you better than you know yourself?"
Of course, in a novel, people's hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is very convenient. But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright to us dies to us. There is a most busy and important round of eating, drinking, dressing, walking, visiting, buying, selling, talking, reading, and all that makes up what is commonly called living, yet to be gone through; and this yet remained to Augustine.
"Well," said St. Clare, "suppose that something should bring down the price of cotton once and forever, and make the whole slave property a drug in the market, don't you think we should soon have another version of the Scripture doctrine? What a flood of light would pour into the church, all at once, and how immediately it would be discovered that everything in the Bible and reason went the other way!"
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The Young Folks' Edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin has different text and ~92 pages; please do not combine with the main work.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553212184, Mass Market Paperback)

Uncle Tom, Topsy, Sambo, Simon Legree, little Eva: their names are American bywords, and all of them are characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe's remarkable novel of the pre-Civil War South. Uncle Tom's Cabin was revolutionary in 1852 for its passionate indictment of slavery and for its presentation of Tom, "a man of humanity," as the first black hero in American fiction. Labeled racist and condescending by some contemporary critics, it remains a shocking, controversial, and powerful work -- exposing the attitudes of white nineteenth-century society toward "the peculiar institution" and documenting, in heartrending detail, the tragic breakup of black Kentucky families "sold down the river." An immediate international sensation, Uncle Tom's Cabin sold 300,000 copies in the first year, was translated into thirty-seven languages, and has never gone out of print: its political impact was immense, its emotional influence immeasurable.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:17 -0400)

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First published 1852

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