Uncle Tom’s Cabin
By Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom lives with he’s wife and children; Eliza lives with her son Harry under Mr and Mrs Shelby’s roof, she is married to George who is owned by another man. Both Tom and Eliza are owned by Mr and Mrs Shelby, that is until the Shelby’s get into debt and Mr Shelby makes the choice to sell both Tom and Eliza’s son.
We follow the journey Eliza and Tom take as they go into different worlds, both demonstrating the effects that slavery has on relationships for both blacks and whites, from the slaves to the free-men; to the traders and the Quakers. Freedom, struggle and family are expressed in Stowe’s attempt to bring a realistic view on slavery at a time where the abolition movement was taking place, which Stowe herself was greatly involved in.
The novel was well narrated, it was like being in a lecture with the author as she constantly referred back to me as the ‘dear reader’, feeding me facts regarding the issues faced in that era, making the novel timeless, although Stowe is addressing the audience of the 1850’s, it appears as if she is giving the future an insight. Stowe takes us to different characters, with the main focus being Eliza and Tom; we see the impact that their reactions have on those around them.
One thing which Stowe focused on was hope, most of the time coming in the form of religion, throughout the novel there are bible verses quoted, especially from uncle Tom, as he deeply relies on he’s faith, even through the worst situations, and we see how hope and God is shared through people. We see religion as encouraging but also destructive, this is for both those who appear to be living comfortably, to those who have had all taken from them.
I felt the nurturing of children was a main theme, Stowe really captured the effects children have, whether it be via sacrifice or change, we see how Eliza goes through extreme extents to protect her son from being sold, we see the negative impact that punishment has on a ‘misbehaved’ slave child (named Topsey); we see the pleas to end slavery from a dying child. These young characters reach the heart of the audience, creating a strong emotion within the book (I guess for those who love children).
Women were also a great focus, we see the strength through each female character, but also the weaknesses which it brings to men. Perhaps these were slightly biased as it was written by a woman.
Overall I enjoyed reading the book, and there were moments which left me speechless, the way that each characters lives connect at the end brings a good close. There are many debates amongst the characters, all ranging from why slavery should go on, to why it should be ended. Stowe based many of her characters on real people and cases she saw, and I can see why this book had caused controversy in its time. The lives of blacks and whites are placed in one book demonstrating cause and effect of such a horrific practice (Atlantic slave trade).
I would recommend this book to a friend for sure. Particular those who want an overall sense of the Atlantic slave trade, or with an interest in Britain 1800’s.