Monday, January 10, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin

In 1852 a woman named Harriet Beecher Stowe published the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. This book became the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century. Stowe clearly wrote the book with the purpose of undermining the slavery of the American South. The book is rightly or wrongly credited for influencing people to bring about the Civil War which lead to the freedom of the slaves.

Not wanting to rush into anything, I finally read this novel (now more than 150 years after it was published). I must admit that I was shocked at how compelling the story of the book actually was. It is a real page-clicker (if you read an electronic edition as I did). No doubt one of the reasons for the terrific interest in the book was because the book itself was terrifically interesting.

I believe that what made this book interesting were the plot, the characters, and the conversations. Even though I had a good idea of what the book was about and what the impact of the book had been, I was still surprised by the many plot twists throughout the book. The characters were made life-like through an assortment of interesting observations and through the way they acted. The characters were written in such a way that you would not have any trouble imagining them as real people. The conversations between the characters seemed like real conversations that would have taken place at that time in America's history. Most likely the reason that Stowe was able to make the events, characters, and conversation seem so true to life was because she admitted that she based the story on composites of real people and on conversations she had had and on events of which she knew to be true.

Stowe very clearly argues against the evils of slavery. She wrote in order to encourage people to set the slaves free. But while she encouraged freedom, she did not write against the South completely or exclusively. Surprisingly, she showed that the prejudice of Northern people was often more severe and just as wrong as the prejudice of those in the South. She also showed that people in the South often treated their slaves as part of their family, though they might have never considered granting them their freedom. While the positive aspects of some slave holders were shown, the evils of the system and the heart-wrenching way in which it continually ripped families apart was highlighted even more.

Very few novels impact their generation the way this one did. Very few novels take on a societal issue and encourage people to do something about the issue the way this one did. Very few novels draw you into their story with such life-like characters, facts, and plot the way this one does. These are some of the reasons that very few novels stand the test of time the way this one has. If you haven't already read Uncle Tom's Cabin, it is certainly worth taking the time to enjoy.

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