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Uncle Tom's Cabin
Pious old Uncle Tom is sold by his well-intentioned Kentucky owner Mr Shelby in financial straits. He is bought first by the idealistic Augustine St Clare. In his New Orleans house, Uncle Tom makes friends with St Clare's daughter, the saintly Little Eva, and her black friend, the impish Topsy. 'Never was born!' persisted Topsy... 'never had no father, nor mother, nor nothin'. I was raised by a speculator, with lots of others.' Tom is sold to Simon Legree, a Yankee and a brutal cotton plantation owner. Two of his female slaves pretend to escape and go into hiding. Tom will not reveal their whereabouts and Legree beats Tom. A parallel plot centres on Eliza, her child, and her husband George who escape to freedom in Canada using the Underground Railroad. Other important characters are Miss Ophelia St. Clare, a New England spinster, and Marks, the slave catcher. The religiosity of the story and its dubious conclusion, in which most of the survivors disappear back to Africa to become missionaries, contributed to a shift of attitude. 'Uncle Tom' was used pejoratively, meaning white paternalism and black passivity, undue subservience to white people on the part of black people. When modernist critics argued that literature should not aim to effect social change, Stowe's novel was far from their fields of interest. However, in the 1970s Uncle Tom's Cabin, with its strong female characters, started to attract the attention of feminist critics. Stowe's radical Christian vision, based on matriarchal values, now found defenders. Tom's passivity has been compared to Gandhi's strategy of peaceful resistance.
This is a tale of how slavery has affected America. Uncle Tom, an unlearned, pious slave, lives out the Christianity of which his masters are boasting but not living up to. The author, Harriet Beecher Stowe captures the heart of the abolitionists of her day with this captivating story of a black male slave who would rather die than dishonor his heavenly master, God Himself. He is described as profoundly Christian, and he affects positively all the lives around him. He stands as the embodiment of Jesus' beatitudes of Matthew 5. This book is a literary masterpiece that is comparable to da Vinci's Mona Lisa. While many may consider Uncle Tom a Christian hero and martyr, others believe he is a passive and subservient character created from Stowe's romantic racism. The latter claim does not do justice to the book which also chronicles the courageous escape of a noble Black couple and their son who escapes by means of the famous Underground Railroad. Stowes' own life is a testimony to her stand on slavery issues. She was the daughter and wife of abolitionists, and she herself helped many slaves escape their misery. This very book is the product of the stance she took against the legal oppressors of the African race in this country. It is a phenomenal American achievement.--Submitted by Ron Stimphil
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