I was going through old schoolwork today, and found a book review that I wrote for Grade 11 American History (I'm Canadian). Hence, the following is a condensed version of my paper, which represents my thoughts on the book at the time that I read it.
It has been said that upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln greeted her by saying, “So you’re the little lady who wrote the book that started this great war”. Indeed, the abolitionist from Connecticut created a work that had a profound impact on American society. First published in its entirety in 1852, the story was intended as a reply to the Fugitive Act of 1850, which stated that runaway slaves had to be brought back to their masters, and that it was illegal to assist a runaway slave. Hence, to achieve real freedom, slaves had to flee north, out of the country. In this novel, Harriet Beecher Stowe directly addresses her fellow northerners, presenting her views and arguments on the controversial, nation-splitting issue of slavery. Though there are inaccurate portrayals of some characters, her book succeeds in conveying strong arguments as to why slavery is immoral, un-Christian, and should ultimately be abolished.
The author is very explicit in terms of stating her thesis, which is reiterated and argued throughout the novel. She directly addresses her audience, aiming to depict the blatant evil of slavery. The book convincingly argues why it should be abolished, whilst asserting the strength of Christianity, and how Christian love can overcome and bring society through the horrors of enslavement.
Hope. Equality. Freedom.
Harriet Beecher Stowe reminds her readers that these words should sound familiar. This was one of the many strengths of this novel, bringing the minds of Americans back to their own revolution, and the morals that many of their relatives had given their lives for not too long ago. She appeals to the emotions of the readers and makes the powerful statement:
To your fathers, freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To him, it is the right of a man to be a man, and not a brute; the right to call the wife of his bosom his wife, and to protect her from lawless violence; the right to protect and educate his child; the right to have a home of his own, a religion of his own, a character of his own, unsubject to the will of another.
The author greatly appeals to the reader’s sense of humanity, and pleads with the reader to recognize themselves in the goodness of many of the slaves, and to recognize that they are equal, hence deserve to be treated as such. She crafts her characters to contain traits that are relatable to the audience, which is an effective tool in getting the reader to understand the society that the author wants to live in.
Though the novel is relatively lengthy, it tells a captivating tale filled with action and tension. The scene in which Eliza frantically jumps across the partially frozen river holding onto her son is perhaps the most memorable, showing her desperation. Eliza would risk death over being captured and having her son taken away from her.
The author is unreserved, directly addressing her audience, directly stating her views, and directly demanding change. Overall, it was well written. In addition, behind the words, the strength of her conviction in her arguments is remarkable to read.
Indeed, this is a book that everyone should read if they want to better understand the forces contributing to the American Civil War. Although there is an explicit bias in the portrayal of characters, it still remains that Harriet Beecher Stowe effectively presented the views of many abolitionists. In addition to the historical significance of this novel, the book holds a great deal of creative merit, which makes it an immensely engaging read.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin conveys the arguments of people against slavery through situational examples with the characters, how slavery is evil in all of its forms, how Christian love can help overcome slavery, and how everybody is equal, regardless of their skin colour. Uncle Tom’s Cabin successfully brings together these arguments in a way that engages and persuades the reader. This book has a profound effect on society, garnering support, angering slave owners, and inspiring a genre known as ‘anti-Tom literature’ from those who disagree it. This book, regardless of its inaccuracies, stands as a testament in time, representing those who fought for the rights of African-Americans, and those who recognized the evil and immorality of slavery. It challenges readers to express the love and piety shown by Tom. It challenges readers to follow in his footsteps to become a better person. It challenges readers to think of the meaning of freedom, and to find within themselves the knowledge that it is not theirs to restrict.