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Uncle Tom's Cabin was a sensation upon its publication in 1852. In its first year it sold 300,000 copies, and has since been translated into more than twenty languages. This powerful story of one slave's unbreakable spirit holds an important place in American history, as it helped solidify the anti-slavery sentiments of the North, and moved a nation to civil war.

Topics: Slavery, American Civil War, Race Relations, American History, Civil and Political Rights, Escaping Oppression, Underground Railroad, Adventurous, Heartfelt, Tragic, Realism, Civil War Period, Kentucky, and Debut

Published: Aladdin on
ISBN: 9781442457829
List price: $8.99
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Whatever your feelings about the characterizations in this book are, it is a true classic of literature. As a woman, Stowe had to please both herself and the male-dominated world she was writing for (both abolitionist and non-abolistionist), and she did so beautifully. Along with Gone With the Wind, the most important literary work of fiction concerning slavery. Pioignant in it's humany and rich in laguage, this is one of my favorite books. I can't believe I waited until I was in my 40s to read it, but I've read it twice now.more
Now I know why it's a classic! This may be the best-written piece of persuasive writing I've ever read. The stories are so artfully told and the characters so endearing. It's not hard to see why the book could engender the passions it did. I never expected to like it, much less to be made an abolitionist in the reading.more
Uncle Toms Cabin Character: Tom, The Shelbys, Eliza, Harry, Simon Legree, Topay, Ophelia, St. Clare, Tom LokerSetting: Planation in Kentucky Theme: Prejudices of the South and enduring faithGenre: Historical FictionSummary: The story begins on a planation in Kentucky where the family is having financial issues and have no other choice but to sell some of their slaves. Once Eliza finds out her son is one of the slaves they escape. She is soon met by her husband who had escaped some time before. The family is being hunted by a slave hurter who her husband pushed off a cliff only to leave him at a Quakers home nearby. The family makes it to Canada where they become freedmen. Other slaves on the planation are not so lucky. Tom is to be sold. He is sent on a riverboat to Mississippi. On his way he meets a young girl named Eva. Eva’s father Tom decides purchase Tom and take him to his planation in New Orleans. Eva grows sick and dies but before she does has a vision of heaven. Inspired by her death her father decides he is going to sent Tom free but is killed before he had the chance. Eva’s mother sells Tom to Simon Legree who beats him and tries to break his spirit because he refused to whip another slave. Tom is beaten by another slave and dies. Shortly after Tom’s death, George Shelby arrives to buy Tom’s freedom but he is too late. Cassy escapes and arrives in Canada where she discovers Eliza is her lost daughter who was sold as a child. Audience: Middle/High SchoolCurriculum ties: Slavery, Civil WarPersonal response: I believe this is a must read when studying slavery. It gives a clear picture of the life of a slave and the harsh treatment they endured. It also shows that not all slave owners are cruel. I believe this book could be used at all grade levels if excerpts are used and vocabulary is explained.more
The books message is great. The bravery in addressing the subject deserves our praise, but the quality of writing is atrocious. Although one of the best selling books ever, there are good reasons it never gets on anyone's "best" lists. Although you might care about poor Tom by the end you'll sure be glad it's over.

Chapeter 18 starts out "Our friend Tom, in his own simple musings." Change Tom to Harriet and it's a done deal.more
Such a beautiful story. I adored the realism of the characters. Stowe did a wonderful job balancing out personalities. No race was glorified or demonized, nor were genders shown in disproportionate light; the first few chapters, all the women were nigh-on saints, but Mrs. St. Clare more than makes up for it (I wanted to strangle that b!tch. Even if it weren't for her views on slavery). I was a bit dismayed at the deus ex machina nature of the happily ever after (the reunions at the end), but I thoroughly enjoyed the "epilogues" and the end note.more
I decided to read this as I am making my way through "Team of rivals" which is a biography of Abraham Lincoln. I was not sure what to expect but once I got used to the archaic language and the dialogue, I found this to be a very enlightening text. I found the author's story and characters to be very compelling. I also learned a great deal about the economics of the slave trade and the treatment of slaves at the hands of their masters. I expected the character of Tom to be obsequious and subservient, aiming to please to get ahead. Tom is a highly principled, very deeply religious person who has a positive impact on those around him. In particular, at his last home, he brings hope to his fellow slaves. The denouement has a happy ending for many of the main characters who find a happier life outside the US.I really enjoyed the book, the characters and the social commentary of this time in US history. if you have not read this, you should.I downloaded this from the Gutenberg library collectionmore
At some points you will cry at other you will want to bash heads. It is a great read and I believe should be taught in high schoolsmore
I am in the minority of readers, as I found this work overly simplistic and slow. While Stowe's political and social commentary is compelling, the outdated notions of the slaves is much akin to the equally inaccurate concepts of American Indians as "noble savages." In fact, the slaves, as all people, were more more complex, containing both admirable and deplorable traits.more
It is reported that when President Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he said, “So you’re the little lady who caused this big war.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin may not have caused the war, but it certainly stirred anti-slavery sentiments internationally. I first read it more than 30 years ago and remembered it only as a great story, a real page turner. Recently, while researching the concept of evil, there were two things that repeatedly appeared in my reading: the Holocaust and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A re-reading was in order.Even though she furnished adequate proof that her characters were drawn from real life [see The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1854)], Stowe’s emotional presentation, typical of novels of the period, was distracting to me until, again, I was drawn into the story: a kind slaveowner finds himself in financial straits and must sell property to keep from losing everything. Rather than part with acreage, he sells his most valuable slave, Uncle Tom, along with Harry, the young son of his wife’s chamber maid Eliza. Thus, Tom is separated from his wife and children, and Eliza runs away in the night with little Harry. A key character is St. Clare, Uncle Tom’s new master, who assuages his guilt at being a slaveowner by indulging his human property and foregoing the whippings that are common among his peers. Indeed, he metes out no discipline at all. St. Clare’s petulant wife is capricious in her treatment of her servants. Their child Eva is a younger, Western version of Siddhartha. When her father attempts to shield her from the truth, she protests: “You want me to live so happy, and never to have pain,—never suffer anything,—not even hear a sad story when other poor creatures have nothing but pain and sorrow, all their lives,—it seems selfish.”Stowe uses her characters to deliver her orations on the causes and evils of slavery and how good people behave badly when society seems to demand it of them; or as St. Clare says, “It’s pretty generally understood that men don’t aspire after the absolute right, but only to do about as well as the rest of the world.” St. Clare, too, reflects Stowe’s thoughts on the profit motive behind slavery:"On this abstract question of slavery there can, as I think, be but one opinion. Planters, who have money to make by it,—clergymen, who have planters to please,—politicians, who want to rule by it,—may warp and bend language and ethics to a degree that shall astonish the world at their ingenuity; they can press nature and the Bible, and nobody knows what else, into the service." (p. 189)Mr. Shelby’s speeches present the case of the genteel, kind slaveowner; Mrs. Shelby’s speeches provide the practicing Christian viewpoint; and Uncle Tom and George Harris speak of the experience of being treated as a piece of property rather than a man. Other characters reflect the sentiments of the many voices that weigh in on the complex nature of slavery as an economic necessity.Thus the story I read years ago as an exciting bit of fiction, I now review as a powerful political statement. Knowing now, that even the individual characters, as well as the events, were literally taken from real life, the story has deeper meaning. I was struck by how often some speech or wisp of philosophy seemed hauntingly relevant to today’s society, where the closing of factories and downsizing of businesses do not send workers to the block to be sold, but rather leave them in a limbo, like freed slaves without the tools to make it in this new emerging society.more
Excellent book read for Great Books over a four week period. Why did I wait so long to read this? So much of it still applies to today.more
I knew a few things about Uncle Tom's Cabin before cracking open the book. From The King and I I knew some characters and scenes like Eliza escaping over the ice floe. I knew that upon meeting author Harriet Beecher Stowe, President Lincoln said she was the "little woman who made this great war"--the American Civil War. And I thought I knew that Stowe had never visited the South. That last turned out to be wrong. According to the introduction, she had once visited slave-holding Kentucky, which is where she initially sets the book. Of course, her limited contact with slavery doesn't mean she didn't know what she was writing about. As the introduction and her note after the novel relates, as part of an abolitionist family, she had known and interviewed ex-slaves and read various first-hand slave narratives, including that of Frederick Douglas. I feared what I'd read would be a minstrel show knowing the reputation of "Uncle Tom," and I'd heard it had a reputation as overly sentimental and anti-slavery propaganda. Given all that I found the book a surprisingly good read. Sure, it's an old fashioned book. Published in 1852, like many Victorian authors I've read such as Dickens, Alcott and Gaskell, it can strike a reader as sentimental and steeped in religiosity. Were it published today it would be considered "Christian Fiction." Stowe hits very hard on Christian themes and how slavery makes living a Christian life difficult for slave and slaveholder alike. Sometimes it can get unbearably preachy--I found the character of "Little Eva" particularly hard to take seriously. There is also some racial stereotyping, but according to the introduction Stowe was progressive for the period and her purpose was to show the "full humanity" of blacks, and she constantly pressed the reader to put themselves in the shoes of slaves and insisted they felt everything any reader would feel upon being separated from family and home, or used unfairly and cruelly. And Uncle Tom is no Uncle Tom. He does refuse to run away, because he fears it would result in all the slaves in the estate being sold, and he is honest and conscientious in his dealings with his masters--but he's not a sycophant, and openly disobeys orders that would make him act against his conscience. And there are other characters--such as George Harris--willing to defend the liberty of himself and his escaping family by any means necessary--including at gunpoint.At the same time, Stowe doesn't demonize slaveholders, and Stowe paints a deft portrait of their rationalizations--one could imagine that what came out of her characters' mouths is what Stowe herself must have heard from those sympathetic to slavery. There are scenes among the St Clare family particularly that provided very sharp social commentary--even satire--as Marie St Clare complains of the selfishness of her slaves or Augustine St Clare points out to Miss Ophelia, his abolitionist Northern cousin, her racism and hypocrisy.I've read modern depictions of slavery by authors such as Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler, but Uncle Tom's Cabin reminds me most of a 19th century slave narrative by Harriet Jacobs I read for college. Both books emphasize the moral dimension of slavery--not simply how slavery is cruel or wrong, but how being owned by others means a slave is denied moral agency. And reading Uncle Tom's Cabin I can imagine why this was moral dynamite laid at the very foundations of slavery that would help lead to it being exploded little more than a decade after it was published. This is undeniably one of the most important books ever published in terms of its historical effects and on that basis alone, despite its flaws, deserves to be more widely read today.more
This book, written by a Northern woman, has been read by thousands and reviewed by many. Whether I can add any incite from this book, is hard to believe but here are my thoughts. The men say one thing and do another, i.e. slavery is bad but I'll still own slaves. The majority of the women in this story are the moral backbone of the families that they are members of. There is a strong Christian theme throughout from the slaveholders and the slaves. There also appears to be a great deal of symbolism in the book - Eliza's leap to freedom, Uncle Tom's Cabin, South as cruelty and North as freedom, Eliza's escape versus Uncle Tom's sale into deeper oppression.The Christian population of the North, this book ignited a flare against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and slavery in general.more
Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is set between 1840 and 1850, is a novel that brought the cruelties of slavery into American homes. It unveils how slaves, like Uncle Tom and Eliza, were treated by slave owners, like Simon Legree. Throughout the novel there's a strong contrast between good and evil, which is personified by the different slave owners. First, Tom and Eliza serve a Christian family. Tom embraces Christianity through his compassion for others, honesty, evangelism, humbleness and his obedience without compromising his beliefs. Eliza, a beautiful Christian mulatto, shows her courage and love for her son. This love becomes strongest when she escapes with him to Canada after he's sold to pay debts. In the meantime, Tom is sold to Simon Legree. Simon displays evilness in his strength, greed and brutality. After Tom's friend escapes the plantation, Tom is blamed. The plot thickens when in Eliza's journey to Canada, she literally skates over thin ice as her son's master is close behind.more
I was pleasantly surprised to find this book not only readable, but actually captivating. Even people in my book club who aren't history geeks described this as a compelling read. That's saying a lot for book that's more than 150 years old. I now understand better why Stowe's novel ended up being so pivotal in the years leading up to the American Civil War.more
Many portions of this book are difficult to get through, you have to sound out the accented phonic spellings and I found it more distracting then illustrative. If you enjoyed Huckleberry Finn, and the language there didn't bother you, then it won't here either. Both books bothered me on that front.more
I enjoyed reading Uncle Tom's Cabin in many ways, and I found the character of Uncle Tom to be one of the most heroic characters of whom I have read. It should also be pointed out that this was one of the most important novels written in American history because of the influence that it had on opening northern eyes to the horrors of slavery.However, the book does present some difficulties to the modern reader. For one, Stowe frequently refers to the races in stereotypical terms. To Stowe, people of African decent are all magnanimous, warm-hearted beings, which robs them of the humanity and ability to be unique individuals. I should probably give Stowe a pass for this, but it was difficult to get past as a modern reader. With that being said, the book was very well-written for a nineteenth century house-wife who was not a writer by trade. Considering her background, I was very impressed with her ability as a writer and am even more impressed with the guts it must have taken for a woman to speak out about injustice in a society that would not allow her the right to vote and have a say in how society was run. For this reason, Stowe's work is something that should still be read and admired by modern readers.more
My 2nd read of this book; the first read was about two decades ago. This time around, the book walloped me so much that for days I could think of nothing else. It is reported that Abe Lincoln remarked to the Harriet that her book was responsible for starting the Civil War. I would have loved to be present at that conversation and observed Beecher's response. What did she say and do after that comment?more
The first time I read this book, I was quite young. I think I was in primary school and it was the children's version.To be quite honest, I can hardly remember anything, except that I was overwhelmed by the story.Upon hearing my best friend had never read this classic I advised her to read it, which she did. We got the old fashioned version from the library, and of course that means 'old' English.My friend, rightfully, noted that it's very very Christian. To the point of (or even past that point) of exaggeration! Personally it doesn't bother me, but that could be the difference in our upbringing. What's more, the writer obviously comes from a very religious family, so it is to be expected.Even if you strip this book of its Christianity, it's still a very powerful story!It shows various sides of slavery as the writer has seen it and heard about it (the last chapter is an eye opener as far as that goes!). Obviously it's not really of this time anymore (are we really free of slavery though?), but it is educational. At least it's a wonderful story of people and their struggles, both slave and master. Wonderfully written, hard to put down. Quite rightfully regarded as a classic!more
Substance: Philosophy, religion, sociology, character-studies, and milieu are all channeled to the single purpose of demonstrating that the enslavement of blacks in America is wrong. One can see why she is credited with raising the abolitionist cause to its zenith, but the story is not sacrificed for the cause, but rather the cause is justified by the story. The book has fallen out of favor, no doubt, because of its forceful demonstration of true Christianity, which formed the backbone of the abolitionist cause in reality. Unexpectedly humorous incidents lighten the tragedy, and the author claims to have eyewitness-warrant for many of the episodes. The full tale is much more complex and extended than its mangled re-tellings would suggest.Style: Allowing for the conventions of nineteenth-century novelists, and ignoring the painful imposition of dialectical spelling, Stowe is pitch-perfect in representing her characters, milieu, and arguments. Her satire can hardly be called gentle, but it is not strident or vicious. All varieties of good and evil, Christian or pseudo-Christian or atheist, high society and low estate are given full and fair treatment.more
Well, I'm pleased to say that I finally finished Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I have always wanted to read this book given its status as an American classic, and that the author was considered to be the first 'serious' female American author. The novel was published in 1852 and addresses the issue of slavery in such a confronting and raw way that it would have been very difficult to ignore in its time. I must admit that I struggled to get through this one, as the dialogue of the characters is extremely authentic to the times and therefore difficult to follow. The subject matter is also quite heavy and religion is mentioned on almost every page. All in all, I can now see why this book is called a 'classic' and I'm really glad I persisted and finished it.Would I recommend it? That's difficult to say... if you like to challenge yourself every now and again by reading a classic (like I do) then sure, this is worth it.more
This has to be the most biased and twisted version of the old South since it was written by a Yankee who misunderstood southern society.more
This is an amazing novel which is deservedly an all time classic. It is at various times, and sometimes at the same time, moving, horrific, grippingly exciting and comically funny. Like many 19th century novels, it has what to many modern readers seems to be excessive sentimentality, though in this context, it doesn’t seem excessive to me. The narrative also places a reliance on the role of religious faith and Christian virtue in overcoming adversity that may strike many readers especially in Western Europe as rather dated, though I find it very moving in this context of resisting oppression and injustice especially as articulated by the title character. From the historical point of view, there are a number of significant learning points. The life of a slave depended solely on the arbitrariness of having either a kind or a cruel master; the life of a slave belonging to a kind master may appear superficially quite reasonable but if that master dies or goes into debt, the slave can be sold off to a very different kind of master. Some “superior” slaves who acted as foremen on behalf of their master could be as cruel to other slaves as the masters themselves. Finally, and perhaps, most revealingly, is that both kind and cruel masters see their slaves as animals rather than humans, the kind master indulging them as many people do their pet dogs or cats, the cruel master doing worse, but neither of them understanding that the black man or woman could feel love for their family as much as the white man and fight to prevent their being sold off separately. This e-book edition contains a postscript by the author describing the sources for her narrative incidents. A profoundly moving and human book that should be read by everyone whatever their race or nationality.more
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1852) was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and of such importance that Abraham Lincoln reportedly said "So this is the little lady who made this big war" upon meeting Stowe.I think it's unfairly criticized in the 20th century and today for (1) being overly sentimental and dramatic, and (2) for its characters who created or amplified racial stereotypes. As James Baldwin put it in "Everybody's Protest Novel", "Uncle Tom's Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women". I can't disagree more. The book is powerful and exposes the extreme cruelty of slavery. I can't understand why critics feel a need to cast it aside in favor of "Huckleberry Finn" as if one needed to decide "either/or" which was superior. The Norton Critial Edition is well worth it for its ocassional illustrations, articles putting the work in historical context, and for the reviews. Some of this extra material will resonate (for me, George M. Frederickson's, "Uncle Tom and the Anglo-Saxons: Romantic Racialism in the North"), and some of it will not, but most of it will stir a discussion and make you think.Quotes:On beauty in old age:"Her hair, partially silvered by age, was parted smoothly back from a high placid forehead, on which time had written no inscription, except peace on earth, good will to men, and beneath shone a large pair of clear, honest, loving brown eyes; you only needed to look straight into them, to feel that you saw to the bottom of a heart as good and true as ever throbbed in woman's bosom. So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?"On God:"Is there a God to trust in?" said George, in such a tone of bitter despair as arrested the old gentleman's words. "O, I've seen things all my life that made me feel that there can't be a God. You Christians don't know how these look to us. There's a God for you, but is there any for us?"On immortality:"O with what freshness, what solemnity and beauty, is each new day born; as if to say to insensate man, "Behold! thou hast one more chance! Strive for immortal glory!"On racism:"If we emancipate, are you willing to educate? ...We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe."On religion, powerful words:"Religion! Is what you hear at church religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath."more
Not always a easy read during some of the character's dialog. I enjoyed it more for it's historical value, I can see how it made a powerful statement during it's time.more
This is a GREAT Book. It has humor, heartache, triumph, inspiration and reflection. Don't run away from this book because of the controversy of slavery.Give it a chance, you will not regret it.more
This novel must be read in the context of its own time. Looking at the book from present-day eyes, it seems to contain, not characters, but caricatures. The characters in this book became larger than life through time and collected a series of emotion attached to them that were not intended in the beginning.Beautiful and poignant, it changed history: Upon meeting the author Abraham Lincoln said, "So you're the little lady who wrote the book that made this great war." She replied, "I did not write it. God wrote it. I merely did his dictation."While most of the book is painful to read, it is a sprawling story full of amazing characters and horrific events. It is a true "slice-of-life" that we, as modern readers, can never truly understand. This book makes a huge gesture in that direction and it is well worth the uncomfortable reading, in order to honor those that lived it.more
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Reviews

Whatever your feelings about the characterizations in this book are, it is a true classic of literature. As a woman, Stowe had to please both herself and the male-dominated world she was writing for (both abolitionist and non-abolistionist), and she did so beautifully. Along with Gone With the Wind, the most important literary work of fiction concerning slavery. Pioignant in it's humany and rich in laguage, this is one of my favorite books. I can't believe I waited until I was in my 40s to read it, but I've read it twice now.more
Now I know why it's a classic! This may be the best-written piece of persuasive writing I've ever read. The stories are so artfully told and the characters so endearing. It's not hard to see why the book could engender the passions it did. I never expected to like it, much less to be made an abolitionist in the reading.more
Uncle Toms Cabin Character: Tom, The Shelbys, Eliza, Harry, Simon Legree, Topay, Ophelia, St. Clare, Tom LokerSetting: Planation in Kentucky Theme: Prejudices of the South and enduring faithGenre: Historical FictionSummary: The story begins on a planation in Kentucky where the family is having financial issues and have no other choice but to sell some of their slaves. Once Eliza finds out her son is one of the slaves they escape. She is soon met by her husband who had escaped some time before. The family is being hunted by a slave hurter who her husband pushed off a cliff only to leave him at a Quakers home nearby. The family makes it to Canada where they become freedmen. Other slaves on the planation are not so lucky. Tom is to be sold. He is sent on a riverboat to Mississippi. On his way he meets a young girl named Eva. Eva’s father Tom decides purchase Tom and take him to his planation in New Orleans. Eva grows sick and dies but before she does has a vision of heaven. Inspired by her death her father decides he is going to sent Tom free but is killed before he had the chance. Eva’s mother sells Tom to Simon Legree who beats him and tries to break his spirit because he refused to whip another slave. Tom is beaten by another slave and dies. Shortly after Tom’s death, George Shelby arrives to buy Tom’s freedom but he is too late. Cassy escapes and arrives in Canada where she discovers Eliza is her lost daughter who was sold as a child. Audience: Middle/High SchoolCurriculum ties: Slavery, Civil WarPersonal response: I believe this is a must read when studying slavery. It gives a clear picture of the life of a slave and the harsh treatment they endured. It also shows that not all slave owners are cruel. I believe this book could be used at all grade levels if excerpts are used and vocabulary is explained.more
The books message is great. The bravery in addressing the subject deserves our praise, but the quality of writing is atrocious. Although one of the best selling books ever, there are good reasons it never gets on anyone's "best" lists. Although you might care about poor Tom by the end you'll sure be glad it's over.

Chapeter 18 starts out "Our friend Tom, in his own simple musings." Change Tom to Harriet and it's a done deal.more
Such a beautiful story. I adored the realism of the characters. Stowe did a wonderful job balancing out personalities. No race was glorified or demonized, nor were genders shown in disproportionate light; the first few chapters, all the women were nigh-on saints, but Mrs. St. Clare more than makes up for it (I wanted to strangle that b!tch. Even if it weren't for her views on slavery). I was a bit dismayed at the deus ex machina nature of the happily ever after (the reunions at the end), but I thoroughly enjoyed the "epilogues" and the end note.more
I decided to read this as I am making my way through "Team of rivals" which is a biography of Abraham Lincoln. I was not sure what to expect but once I got used to the archaic language and the dialogue, I found this to be a very enlightening text. I found the author's story and characters to be very compelling. I also learned a great deal about the economics of the slave trade and the treatment of slaves at the hands of their masters. I expected the character of Tom to be obsequious and subservient, aiming to please to get ahead. Tom is a highly principled, very deeply religious person who has a positive impact on those around him. In particular, at his last home, he brings hope to his fellow slaves. The denouement has a happy ending for many of the main characters who find a happier life outside the US.I really enjoyed the book, the characters and the social commentary of this time in US history. if you have not read this, you should.I downloaded this from the Gutenberg library collectionmore
At some points you will cry at other you will want to bash heads. It is a great read and I believe should be taught in high schoolsmore
I am in the minority of readers, as I found this work overly simplistic and slow. While Stowe's political and social commentary is compelling, the outdated notions of the slaves is much akin to the equally inaccurate concepts of American Indians as "noble savages." In fact, the slaves, as all people, were more more complex, containing both admirable and deplorable traits.more
It is reported that when President Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he said, “So you’re the little lady who caused this big war.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin may not have caused the war, but it certainly stirred anti-slavery sentiments internationally. I first read it more than 30 years ago and remembered it only as a great story, a real page turner. Recently, while researching the concept of evil, there were two things that repeatedly appeared in my reading: the Holocaust and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A re-reading was in order.Even though she furnished adequate proof that her characters were drawn from real life [see The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1854)], Stowe’s emotional presentation, typical of novels of the period, was distracting to me until, again, I was drawn into the story: a kind slaveowner finds himself in financial straits and must sell property to keep from losing everything. Rather than part with acreage, he sells his most valuable slave, Uncle Tom, along with Harry, the young son of his wife’s chamber maid Eliza. Thus, Tom is separated from his wife and children, and Eliza runs away in the night with little Harry. A key character is St. Clare, Uncle Tom’s new master, who assuages his guilt at being a slaveowner by indulging his human property and foregoing the whippings that are common among his peers. Indeed, he metes out no discipline at all. St. Clare’s petulant wife is capricious in her treatment of her servants. Their child Eva is a younger, Western version of Siddhartha. When her father attempts to shield her from the truth, she protests: “You want me to live so happy, and never to have pain,—never suffer anything,—not even hear a sad story when other poor creatures have nothing but pain and sorrow, all their lives,—it seems selfish.”Stowe uses her characters to deliver her orations on the causes and evils of slavery and how good people behave badly when society seems to demand it of them; or as St. Clare says, “It’s pretty generally understood that men don’t aspire after the absolute right, but only to do about as well as the rest of the world.” St. Clare, too, reflects Stowe’s thoughts on the profit motive behind slavery:"On this abstract question of slavery there can, as I think, be but one opinion. Planters, who have money to make by it,—clergymen, who have planters to please,—politicians, who want to rule by it,—may warp and bend language and ethics to a degree that shall astonish the world at their ingenuity; they can press nature and the Bible, and nobody knows what else, into the service." (p. 189)Mr. Shelby’s speeches present the case of the genteel, kind slaveowner; Mrs. Shelby’s speeches provide the practicing Christian viewpoint; and Uncle Tom and George Harris speak of the experience of being treated as a piece of property rather than a man. Other characters reflect the sentiments of the many voices that weigh in on the complex nature of slavery as an economic necessity.Thus the story I read years ago as an exciting bit of fiction, I now review as a powerful political statement. Knowing now, that even the individual characters, as well as the events, were literally taken from real life, the story has deeper meaning. I was struck by how often some speech or wisp of philosophy seemed hauntingly relevant to today’s society, where the closing of factories and downsizing of businesses do not send workers to the block to be sold, but rather leave them in a limbo, like freed slaves without the tools to make it in this new emerging society.more
Excellent book read for Great Books over a four week period. Why did I wait so long to read this? So much of it still applies to today.more
I knew a few things about Uncle Tom's Cabin before cracking open the book. From The King and I I knew some characters and scenes like Eliza escaping over the ice floe. I knew that upon meeting author Harriet Beecher Stowe, President Lincoln said she was the "little woman who made this great war"--the American Civil War. And I thought I knew that Stowe had never visited the South. That last turned out to be wrong. According to the introduction, she had once visited slave-holding Kentucky, which is where she initially sets the book. Of course, her limited contact with slavery doesn't mean she didn't know what she was writing about. As the introduction and her note after the novel relates, as part of an abolitionist family, she had known and interviewed ex-slaves and read various first-hand slave narratives, including that of Frederick Douglas. I feared what I'd read would be a minstrel show knowing the reputation of "Uncle Tom," and I'd heard it had a reputation as overly sentimental and anti-slavery propaganda. Given all that I found the book a surprisingly good read. Sure, it's an old fashioned book. Published in 1852, like many Victorian authors I've read such as Dickens, Alcott and Gaskell, it can strike a reader as sentimental and steeped in religiosity. Were it published today it would be considered "Christian Fiction." Stowe hits very hard on Christian themes and how slavery makes living a Christian life difficult for slave and slaveholder alike. Sometimes it can get unbearably preachy--I found the character of "Little Eva" particularly hard to take seriously. There is also some racial stereotyping, but according to the introduction Stowe was progressive for the period and her purpose was to show the "full humanity" of blacks, and she constantly pressed the reader to put themselves in the shoes of slaves and insisted they felt everything any reader would feel upon being separated from family and home, or used unfairly and cruelly. And Uncle Tom is no Uncle Tom. He does refuse to run away, because he fears it would result in all the slaves in the estate being sold, and he is honest and conscientious in his dealings with his masters--but he's not a sycophant, and openly disobeys orders that would make him act against his conscience. And there are other characters--such as George Harris--willing to defend the liberty of himself and his escaping family by any means necessary--including at gunpoint.At the same time, Stowe doesn't demonize slaveholders, and Stowe paints a deft portrait of their rationalizations--one could imagine that what came out of her characters' mouths is what Stowe herself must have heard from those sympathetic to slavery. There are scenes among the St Clare family particularly that provided very sharp social commentary--even satire--as Marie St Clare complains of the selfishness of her slaves or Augustine St Clare points out to Miss Ophelia, his abolitionist Northern cousin, her racism and hypocrisy.I've read modern depictions of slavery by authors such as Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler, but Uncle Tom's Cabin reminds me most of a 19th century slave narrative by Harriet Jacobs I read for college. Both books emphasize the moral dimension of slavery--not simply how slavery is cruel or wrong, but how being owned by others means a slave is denied moral agency. And reading Uncle Tom's Cabin I can imagine why this was moral dynamite laid at the very foundations of slavery that would help lead to it being exploded little more than a decade after it was published. This is undeniably one of the most important books ever published in terms of its historical effects and on that basis alone, despite its flaws, deserves to be more widely read today.more
This book, written by a Northern woman, has been read by thousands and reviewed by many. Whether I can add any incite from this book, is hard to believe but here are my thoughts. The men say one thing and do another, i.e. slavery is bad but I'll still own slaves. The majority of the women in this story are the moral backbone of the families that they are members of. There is a strong Christian theme throughout from the slaveholders and the slaves. There also appears to be a great deal of symbolism in the book - Eliza's leap to freedom, Uncle Tom's Cabin, South as cruelty and North as freedom, Eliza's escape versus Uncle Tom's sale into deeper oppression.The Christian population of the North, this book ignited a flare against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and slavery in general.more
Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is set between 1840 and 1850, is a novel that brought the cruelties of slavery into American homes. It unveils how slaves, like Uncle Tom and Eliza, were treated by slave owners, like Simon Legree. Throughout the novel there's a strong contrast between good and evil, which is personified by the different slave owners. First, Tom and Eliza serve a Christian family. Tom embraces Christianity through his compassion for others, honesty, evangelism, humbleness and his obedience without compromising his beliefs. Eliza, a beautiful Christian mulatto, shows her courage and love for her son. This love becomes strongest when she escapes with him to Canada after he's sold to pay debts. In the meantime, Tom is sold to Simon Legree. Simon displays evilness in his strength, greed and brutality. After Tom's friend escapes the plantation, Tom is blamed. The plot thickens when in Eliza's journey to Canada, she literally skates over thin ice as her son's master is close behind.more
I was pleasantly surprised to find this book not only readable, but actually captivating. Even people in my book club who aren't history geeks described this as a compelling read. That's saying a lot for book that's more than 150 years old. I now understand better why Stowe's novel ended up being so pivotal in the years leading up to the American Civil War.more
Many portions of this book are difficult to get through, you have to sound out the accented phonic spellings and I found it more distracting then illustrative. If you enjoyed Huckleberry Finn, and the language there didn't bother you, then it won't here either. Both books bothered me on that front.more
I enjoyed reading Uncle Tom's Cabin in many ways, and I found the character of Uncle Tom to be one of the most heroic characters of whom I have read. It should also be pointed out that this was one of the most important novels written in American history because of the influence that it had on opening northern eyes to the horrors of slavery.However, the book does present some difficulties to the modern reader. For one, Stowe frequently refers to the races in stereotypical terms. To Stowe, people of African decent are all magnanimous, warm-hearted beings, which robs them of the humanity and ability to be unique individuals. I should probably give Stowe a pass for this, but it was difficult to get past as a modern reader. With that being said, the book was very well-written for a nineteenth century house-wife who was not a writer by trade. Considering her background, I was very impressed with her ability as a writer and am even more impressed with the guts it must have taken for a woman to speak out about injustice in a society that would not allow her the right to vote and have a say in how society was run. For this reason, Stowe's work is something that should still be read and admired by modern readers.more
My 2nd read of this book; the first read was about two decades ago. This time around, the book walloped me so much that for days I could think of nothing else. It is reported that Abe Lincoln remarked to the Harriet that her book was responsible for starting the Civil War. I would have loved to be present at that conversation and observed Beecher's response. What did she say and do after that comment?more
The first time I read this book, I was quite young. I think I was in primary school and it was the children's version.To be quite honest, I can hardly remember anything, except that I was overwhelmed by the story.Upon hearing my best friend had never read this classic I advised her to read it, which she did. We got the old fashioned version from the library, and of course that means 'old' English.My friend, rightfully, noted that it's very very Christian. To the point of (or even past that point) of exaggeration! Personally it doesn't bother me, but that could be the difference in our upbringing. What's more, the writer obviously comes from a very religious family, so it is to be expected.Even if you strip this book of its Christianity, it's still a very powerful story!It shows various sides of slavery as the writer has seen it and heard about it (the last chapter is an eye opener as far as that goes!). Obviously it's not really of this time anymore (are we really free of slavery though?), but it is educational. At least it's a wonderful story of people and their struggles, both slave and master. Wonderfully written, hard to put down. Quite rightfully regarded as a classic!more
Substance: Philosophy, religion, sociology, character-studies, and milieu are all channeled to the single purpose of demonstrating that the enslavement of blacks in America is wrong. One can see why she is credited with raising the abolitionist cause to its zenith, but the story is not sacrificed for the cause, but rather the cause is justified by the story. The book has fallen out of favor, no doubt, because of its forceful demonstration of true Christianity, which formed the backbone of the abolitionist cause in reality. Unexpectedly humorous incidents lighten the tragedy, and the author claims to have eyewitness-warrant for many of the episodes. The full tale is much more complex and extended than its mangled re-tellings would suggest.Style: Allowing for the conventions of nineteenth-century novelists, and ignoring the painful imposition of dialectical spelling, Stowe is pitch-perfect in representing her characters, milieu, and arguments. Her satire can hardly be called gentle, but it is not strident or vicious. All varieties of good and evil, Christian or pseudo-Christian or atheist, high society and low estate are given full and fair treatment.more
Well, I'm pleased to say that I finally finished Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I have always wanted to read this book given its status as an American classic, and that the author was considered to be the first 'serious' female American author. The novel was published in 1852 and addresses the issue of slavery in such a confronting and raw way that it would have been very difficult to ignore in its time. I must admit that I struggled to get through this one, as the dialogue of the characters is extremely authentic to the times and therefore difficult to follow. The subject matter is also quite heavy and religion is mentioned on almost every page. All in all, I can now see why this book is called a 'classic' and I'm really glad I persisted and finished it.Would I recommend it? That's difficult to say... if you like to challenge yourself every now and again by reading a classic (like I do) then sure, this is worth it.more
This has to be the most biased and twisted version of the old South since it was written by a Yankee who misunderstood southern society.more
This is an amazing novel which is deservedly an all time classic. It is at various times, and sometimes at the same time, moving, horrific, grippingly exciting and comically funny. Like many 19th century novels, it has what to many modern readers seems to be excessive sentimentality, though in this context, it doesn’t seem excessive to me. The narrative also places a reliance on the role of religious faith and Christian virtue in overcoming adversity that may strike many readers especially in Western Europe as rather dated, though I find it very moving in this context of resisting oppression and injustice especially as articulated by the title character. From the historical point of view, there are a number of significant learning points. The life of a slave depended solely on the arbitrariness of having either a kind or a cruel master; the life of a slave belonging to a kind master may appear superficially quite reasonable but if that master dies or goes into debt, the slave can be sold off to a very different kind of master. Some “superior” slaves who acted as foremen on behalf of their master could be as cruel to other slaves as the masters themselves. Finally, and perhaps, most revealingly, is that both kind and cruel masters see their slaves as animals rather than humans, the kind master indulging them as many people do their pet dogs or cats, the cruel master doing worse, but neither of them understanding that the black man or woman could feel love for their family as much as the white man and fight to prevent their being sold off separately. This e-book edition contains a postscript by the author describing the sources for her narrative incidents. A profoundly moving and human book that should be read by everyone whatever their race or nationality.more
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1852) was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and of such importance that Abraham Lincoln reportedly said "So this is the little lady who made this big war" upon meeting Stowe.I think it's unfairly criticized in the 20th century and today for (1) being overly sentimental and dramatic, and (2) for its characters who created or amplified racial stereotypes. As James Baldwin put it in "Everybody's Protest Novel", "Uncle Tom's Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women". I can't disagree more. The book is powerful and exposes the extreme cruelty of slavery. I can't understand why critics feel a need to cast it aside in favor of "Huckleberry Finn" as if one needed to decide "either/or" which was superior. The Norton Critial Edition is well worth it for its ocassional illustrations, articles putting the work in historical context, and for the reviews. Some of this extra material will resonate (for me, George M. Frederickson's, "Uncle Tom and the Anglo-Saxons: Romantic Racialism in the North"), and some of it will not, but most of it will stir a discussion and make you think.Quotes:On beauty in old age:"Her hair, partially silvered by age, was parted smoothly back from a high placid forehead, on which time had written no inscription, except peace on earth, good will to men, and beneath shone a large pair of clear, honest, loving brown eyes; you only needed to look straight into them, to feel that you saw to the bottom of a heart as good and true as ever throbbed in woman's bosom. So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?"On God:"Is there a God to trust in?" said George, in such a tone of bitter despair as arrested the old gentleman's words. "O, I've seen things all my life that made me feel that there can't be a God. You Christians don't know how these look to us. There's a God for you, but is there any for us?"On immortality:"O with what freshness, what solemnity and beauty, is each new day born; as if to say to insensate man, "Behold! thou hast one more chance! Strive for immortal glory!"On racism:"If we emancipate, are you willing to educate? ...We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe."On religion, powerful words:"Religion! Is what you hear at church religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath."more
Not always a easy read during some of the character's dialog. I enjoyed it more for it's historical value, I can see how it made a powerful statement during it's time.more
This is a GREAT Book. It has humor, heartache, triumph, inspiration and reflection. Don't run away from this book because of the controversy of slavery.Give it a chance, you will not regret it.more
This novel must be read in the context of its own time. Looking at the book from present-day eyes, it seems to contain, not characters, but caricatures. The characters in this book became larger than life through time and collected a series of emotion attached to them that were not intended in the beginning.Beautiful and poignant, it changed history: Upon meeting the author Abraham Lincoln said, "So you're the little lady who wrote the book that made this great war." She replied, "I did not write it. God wrote it. I merely did his dictation."While most of the book is painful to read, it is a sprawling story full of amazing characters and horrific events. It is a true "slice-of-life" that we, as modern readers, can never truly understand. This book makes a huge gesture in that direction and it is well worth the uncomfortable reading, in order to honor those that lived it.more
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