Many times, one can find themselves not reading a book because they have heard so much about it over the years that they feel like they have already read it. That was the case with me and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I had never read it but felt like I had from everything I had heard. In my History of the English Language class, I had a chance to really read it. Did I learn a lot!
Much of what I had heard over the years about the Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book was close to accurate, but the picture in my mind that had not read it conjured up something way different. I finally got to read the work itself and found myself glued to the book until I was done.
This is not a book that shows only the horror of slavery. Yes, there is much that is horrific in these pages. The treatment that many slaves met with is beyond anything a human being should ever encounter. Ms. Stowe describes the beatings, starvations, and cruel deaths while not getting into the worst of descriptions. She alludes to them while not getting too graphic. But the author does more than recount horrendous treatment of slaves. She looks into the heart of the slaves, the owners, and those around them.
I think this is what impressed me the most. Not all slaves had a good heart. Some of them were greedy and as mean as their owners. They would rat out each other in an attempt to look good to a master. Others just tried to keep their heads down and make it alive to another day.
The slaves were very interesting in their varied personalities. Uncle Tom is, of course, a main character whose heart is so pure that anything and anyone held up against him seems dirty and dingy. Despite being sold from his family and good master, he keeps up hope and his faith in God. Even death facing him does not have him giving up hope.
The lives of the other main slave characters show the struggle within them for freedom and the ability to feel like a true man. A woman is willing to give up everything she has as a slave which is a very good life for her to keep her child by her side. Even being treated kindly is not enough to make a person feel like….a person. It takes the love of their family and the sense of independence.
I couldn’t help being drawn to the each of the slaves who sought their freedom through escape or through just simple faith. I kept putting myself into their shoes and wondered if I could have the strength to do what they did and survive. I honestly couldn’t answer that. It’s a situation that few in America find themselves in today.
Another aspect that really stuck out was the various white people in the book. There were the kind slave owners who knew that the slaves they owned were their property but were treated as part of the family. They were up against an institution that they alone could not fight. Instead, they loved their slaves and gave them more than many slaves ever had. Yet, it was not enough when death entered the scene before the slave owner could free them. They typically found themselves facing much of the hell that many slaves lived in.
The torture found in those that used slaves yet found the act repulsive was something I had not expected to find. There were many who tried in their hearts to reconcile the act and the accepted practices to what they felt in their souls.
Looking at the act of slavery from today’s eyes seems so easy. We have a view of it being wrong, period. Yet, when one reads this book that helped bring the topic of slavery to the forefront of America, you can’t help but see how it was not so easy during this time. Slavery was something that was accepted as part of life by the white man and the black for so long that the voices that stood out against it were getting lost in the wind. It took life changes events and the perfect opportunity for many to see the error of the institution and the logical way out. Just freeing the slaves could have been more harmful than preparing them for a life of freedom. It was a situation that really had no perfect ending.
If you think you know what Uncle Tom’s Cabin is really about but have never read it. I highly suggest that you pick up the book and read it for yourself. Never make assumptions or take anyone else’s view as the gospel. I did read the free Kindle version which has many formatting problems, but the text is accurate.
This is one book that I think you should read. It will give you a new perspective of slave-holding America and give you a little more depth into the lives that were affected by it. Let Harriet Beecher Stowe take you into a world you only thought you knew.
Note: This book was purchased by myself for a class in school.