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Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher, 1811-1896
Subject: Slavery -- United States
Publisher: Philadelphia : H. Altemus Co.
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Call number: srlf_ucla:LAGE-3253285
Digitizing sponsor: msn
Book contributor: University of California Libraries
Collection: cdl; yrlsc; iacl; americana
Full catalog record: MARCXML
This book has an editable web page on Open Library.
Graham W -
Subject: An Excellent Edition of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'.
'Uncle Tom's Cabin' is one of my more treasured possessions. My grandmother gave it to me for Christmas many years ago when I was about 12; inside the cover in frail handwriting, she has written to me of her love and well wishes for the season.
Being a famous and well-known work I won't dwell on the novel's story except to mention to those who have yet to read it, that it is a moving and sentimental anti-slavery novel written nearly a decade before the Civil War and thus highly controversial and influential at the time.
This is a book about ethics, morals and humanity and of freedom. I quote from the 'Introductory' preface [p. xi] "Of it the poet Longfellow wrote: "It is one of the greatest triumphs recorded in literary history, to say nothing of the higher triumph of its moral effect.""
This 1900 edition--released just on half a century after the first--is highly interspersed with lovely India(n) ink style line drawings that illustrate scenes from the text. This is supposedly a children's edition but it is equally suitable for adults. The book is produced in a clean and legible style with a very readable font so characteristic of books of the time. I wish that an exact facsimile were available today.
Subject: "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is such a famous book...
I read this book because I was aware of the strong feelings it has created in many people. I knew the general nature of the subject matter. In the macroscopic view, a few things about the book are remarkable to me. First, it is written very much like a screenplay (or a stageplay). Second, the style is rather didactic and all seems to be to drive home the moral that Christianity and slave ownership are philosophically incompatible. Third, the characters in most cases are paper thin caricatures, which is consistent with this work being a "screenplay" and appears a direct result of the fact that more complex characters would not have in any way added to the moral impact of the work. The thinness of the characters is actually more of a problem than it might appear since it makes stereotypes out of the individuals portrayed. These stereotypes and their implications could be discussed at length but are so obvious that I see no need to do so.
WARNING - SPOILERS AHEAD!
Without having already read the book (or any spoilers about it) after about 50 pages I guessed that Tom was destined to die in the deep south and George Harris would live free in the north. My guesses were not quite correct. I did not guess that Tom would have a respite with the St. Clare family. But it seems that this was an artifice added to the story to do two things. First was to expose the hypocrisy typical of many who decried slavery but could not love anyone of a differing background from their own (and most especially those of a different race). The second was to reinforce the overall moral of the story with the idea that Christians could not afford to wait to do something to end slave ownership.
The other surprise that I was unable to predict was that George Harris would take his family to Liberia. I find that development to be a singularly striking event because it gives some insight into the mind of the writer. Apparently she thought that the best possible life and greatest happiness for a former slave would be to go back to Africa. This raises very interesting questions for me about he book: What does this mean? Why did the author write this? Could the author be making an indictment of all people in implying that the most secure and happy situation for a human being in this world is to limit oneself to a society of one's own race? Or could she merely be saying that the racism in all of the societies resulting from European colonialism is so deeply ingrained that it should just be avoided? I cannot answer this, and I don't know if any interview material exists to allow it to be answered...
To a Christian, perhaps the most interesting contrast in the book is that of Tom versus George Harris. Each is confronted with the idea of being sold down the river. Tom shows humility and submission to what he views as the Lord's will. Tom's longsuffering and patience then plays out in his continued nonviolent resistance to so much evil. This makes him a very Christlike figure. Tom's example is also directly in line with the apostle Paul's scripture stating that when one becomes a Christian as a slave that one is to prioritize faith in and emulation of Christ as more important than seeking freedom (as written in 1st Cor. 7:17- 21). George's reaction then appears to be that of a more natural man. He is shown to be prideful and violent, in a way that most would consider justifiable but is quite opposite to the attitudes and actions that Christ showed from Gethsemane through His crucifixion. I suspect most Christians in a similar situation would react more like George even though we probably admire Tom's actions to a much greater degree (in a similar way to how figures such as Mandela, MLK Jr, and Ghandhi are perceived).
Our perceptions and the influence of this book thereupon is its entire raison d'etre. I don't believe any mainstream Christian Church or any of the denominations that existed in 1852 (when the original work was published) ascribes to the idea that human slave ownership is compatible with their faith. So in that respect, the book has certainly seen the accomplishment of its objective. However, Mark Twain's Huck Finn, to me, is better literature (and it propagates virtually the same moral but has deeper characters and is more entertaining too).
Even so, I think this book is still worth reading. For any reader, because of the powerful impact it had on the world. And additionally, for a Christian, due to the fact that it is an effective reminder that we must strive to emulate Christ even in the hardest circumstances and that each of us is our brothers' keeper to the point that we should care for their souls in the way that Tom (and, more importantly, Jesus himself) did.
|Copyright-evidence:||Evidence reported by alyson-wieczorek for item uncletomscabinor00stowiala on November 21, 2006: visible notice of copyright; stated date is 1900.|
|Filesxml:||Thu Mar 18 12:42:33 UTC 2010|