TheImpact of Uncle Tom`s Cabin
TheImpact of Uncle Tom`s Cabin
UncleTom’s Cabin is an anti-slavery novel written by a renowned Americanauthor Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel is also titled Life among theLowly and was published in 1852. It is credited for helping lay thefoundation for the Civil War. Stowe was born in Connecticut and was ateacher at the Hartford Female Seminary besides being an advocate ofabolitionism. In her story, she featured the character of Uncle Tomwho was a long- anguishing slave of black minority around whom thelives of other characters in the book are founded. The gushy novelportrays the reality of slavery and also asserts that Christian lovecan help overcome the destructive forces of enslavement of otherhuman beings. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the bestselling novel of thecentury and the second bestselling book after the Holy Bible. Thisresearch paper will explore the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin indifferent perspectives.
Oneof the impacts of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the role of family andespecially feminism ideologies. Stowe’s novel revolves aroundfamily and social issues during slavery times. Stowe is cautious towork within the allowed social confinements, hence making her piecemore acceptable to most readers (Carpenter,2013).The novel revolves around home and family which is Stowe’s area ofexpertise being a mother. In fact, Stowe feminizes her mostacquiescent characters and as a mother bring into play motherlyfeelings and images so as to demonstrate the impoverishment thatslavery pushed slave families upon. In the novel, the authorassociated Eva, Tom and most mothers through feminine qualities. Allthese qualities are common to most of the women in the book. Thewomen were also significantly allied to anti-slavery movement inparticular the slave mothers as Stowe places special emphasize on theterrors suffered by the maternal victims of the slavery system(Ammons 1977). Regardless, the women in the novel remained around thehome even when fighting for the end of slavery. A great example isEliza Harris who never opposes the conventional ideas of mothers andwives and the only time when she shows resistance is when her son andfamily are under threat. Through Eliza’s actions, Stowe shows howfamily beliefs and responsibilities can trump rule of law. The ideaof feminism in Stowe’s book is clear and helped greatly in shapingwomen’s role in the Civil War. The participation and gender rolesare clearly but cleverly depicted in the novel a theme that isoutstanding in passing the message of the suffering of the slaves.
Thenovel and the plays that were inspired by the story helped inpopularizing different stereotypes regarding the blacks including the‘mammy’ the affectionate dark skinned mother ‘pickaninny’symbolizing black children and the loyal, long suffering servantobedient to his master or mistress, ‘Uncle Tom’ (Reynolds,2011).Uncle Tom’s Cabin evidently depicted the significance of slavery onfamilies and helped readers empathize with the slave characters. Thecharacters in the novel freely argued on the causes of slavery, thefuture of the freed slaves, the Fugitive Slave law, what people coulddo about slavery and in general racism. In essence, the book was acry for freedom as what Langston Hughes a poet called it. The authoralso noted that, in 1862 Abraham Lincoln saluted Stowe terming her asthe little woman who wrote the book that spurred the Civil War. Thisshows the contribution of the book to the emergence of the Civil War.The war emerged from different perspectives including regional tusslebetween the South and the North, humanitarian pleas of the enslavedindividuals as well as economic forces. The war which ran for fouryears pitted one part of the country against another and almostbrought the United States down. The novel contributed to the outbreakof the war through personification of the economic and politicalarguments regarding slavery. The informal conversational writingapproach of Stowe inspired people across the country in a manner thatpolitical campaigns, speeches, newspapers and tracts could not. Thebook helped many Americans express what kind of a future they wantedfor their country (Reynolds,2011).
Theimpact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin was so rampant in that after itspublication, the piece became a smash hit across the world withinfluential international figures praising it and abolitionists andsupporters of slavery reacting to it with equal magnitude. It was ahousehold book and its influence on slavery was evident. As GraceSeiler puts it in her writing, Stowe’s book had such a huge effectin America that for a moment, in any case, the power of the novel wasso great as to make the implementation of the Fugitive Slave Lawunfeasible (Seiler, 1949). Other notable figures including the Pope,George Sand and a Russian Diplomat reacted favorably towards thenovel. In addition, the masterpiece so celebrated that one of themost common name for baby girls was Eva at the time it was released.As Hirsch (1978) argues, Stowe later argued that God had used her towrite the novel as nothing written by a human could have such aninfluence on the world.
UncleTom’s Cabin also inspired other literary works. There was a spateof literary efforts to emulate and praise the work of Stowe. This wasparticularly so in magazines, newspapers, poems, essays, songs andplays as they messages on Uncle Tom’s Cabin noting its unwaveringpopularity. Stephen Hirsch demonstrates this impact in his poeticworks including Francis Watkin’s Eva’s Eliza’s Flight and Eva’sFarewell. In addition, Anti-Tom poems also emerged in literaturealthough they were very few like the New York lady’s “The Patentkey to Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (Hirsch, 1978).
Themusic world was also influenced by the work of Stowe in hermasterpiece Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Even though, the songs regularlyromanticized characters or events and at times entirely ignored realevents in the novel. For example, Eva is an admired character in thebook in such music, but rather than presenting her as a cheerful,morally upright child as Stowe presents her, most song writers tendto focus on her death and sanctity (Hirsch, 1978). Basically, mostpresentation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in songs fall far from Stowe’sidea and only used the story to ride on Stow’s epic success.
Probably,the most significant impact of the novel is through theatricalcreations. Such theatricals have been enduring and have helped inshaping the culture of the Americans by far. For example thedramatization of the book by George Aiken may have been one of themost successful of the novel’s theatricals. As argued by Hirsch(1978), Aiken’s work was so successful that, by the time hecompleted his dramatization of the second volume of the book, theresulting production played a total of a hundred performances, arecorded that has never been broken in Troy to date. In addition,when Aiken’s production came to New York City, several playwrightscaught on to the notion that Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was aimplausible success and many plays about the book soon travelledthrough the U.S and Europe in a span of three years furthercontributing to the popularity of the novel (Hirsch, 1978). Eventoday, theatrical influences of Uncle Tom’s Cabin are evident. Forinstance, in Rodgers and Hammerstein creation of The King and Iwhereby a Siamese version of the novel, “The Small House of UncleThomas” is depicted.
Onecannot discuss the significance of Uncle Tom’s Cabin withoutexploring its impact on the author- Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novelmade Stowe a global icon. In 1853 when she traveled to Britain toseek copyright protection for another one of her novels “Dread”she was excitedly rushed by crowds on the streets and invited byelites to their residence (Carpenter,2013).Consequently, she was given a 26 volume petition signed by Britishwomen from all over the world, including the Countess of Shaftsbury,the Duchess of Sutherland and chambermaids and wives of bakerpetitioning her to instantaneously stop slavery (Reynolds,2011).Stowe was often invited in antislavery campaigns but she hid behindVictorian propriety only allowing her brother or husband to pass hermessage. Even Queen Victoria was excited to meet Stowe but wasadvised not to associate with such a controversial person. However,the queen finally organized for Stowe’s carriage to pass on theroad to allow them to silently nod to each other. Stowe’s fame andinfluence led other social reform groups call for her support aswell. She sometimes accepted their pleas and sometimes declined.
Conclusively,Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Stowe has had a significant impactacross the globe. Its production started with events around theauthor’s life which adds reliability and importance to the story,Stowe builds on this basis with her own understanding and purposesand this amalgamation has led to the popularity of the novel. Of mostsignificance is the impact that the novel had in triggering the CivilWar, which had a significant change in the United States. Greatpeople have been cited admiring the work of Stowe and its influenceon putting an end to the dehumanizing act of slavery. The Pope, andthe then president of the United States Abraham Lincoln are notablefigures who openly accepted that Stowe’s piece had an impact on theCivil War. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was epic and found a permanent placein the American society. It helped Stowe make a significant impact onvarious issues, including her life. As Jane Smiley a Pulitzer Prizewinning author argues, literature should help a person faceresponsibilities and not avoid them. Harriet’s words were able tochange the world her valor as she took her ballpoint inspires as tobelieve in our ability to influence positive change. The novel, withits persuasive story, challenges us to face the complicated past andconnect it to contemporary issues.
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Hirsch,S. A. (1978). Uncle Tomitudes: The Popular Reaction to" UncleTom`s Cabin". Studiesin the American Renaissance,303-330.
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