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Uncle Tom's Cabin

From Academic Kids

Simon Legree menaces Uncle Tom
Simon Legree menaces Uncle Tom

Uncle Tom's Cabin is a novel by American novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe which treats slavery as a central theme. The work was first published on March 20, 1852.

Contents

Origins

Stowe had written the novel as an angry response to the 1850 passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, which punished those who aided runaway slaves and diminished the rights of fugitives as well as freed slaves. Many writers have credited this novel with inflaming the passions of residents of the northern half of the United States to work towards the abolition of slavery, though the novel's historical influence has been disputed. Moreover, some critics highlight Stowe's paucity of life-experience relating to Southern life; for instance, she never set foot on a Southern plantation.

Before being published in novel form, the story was a long-running, anti-slavery serial called Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. It ran in the National Era, an abolitionist periodical, for eleven months starting in the 5 June 1851 issue.

Stowe lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, and:

"she observed firsthand several incidents which galvanized her to write [the] famous anti-slavery novel. Scenes she observed on the Ohio River, including seeing a husband and wife being sold apart, as well as newspaper and magazine accounts and interviews, contributed material to the emerging plot." [1] (http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/Library/special/exhibits/clastext/clspg149.htm)

Major Characters

Eliza

A slave (personal maid to Mrs. Shelby), she escapes to the North with her five-year old son Harry after he is sold to Mr. Haley. Her husband, George, eventually finds Eliza and Harry in Ohio, and emigrates with them to Canada, France, and Liberia.

Little Eva

Little Eva, whose real name is Evangeline St. Clair, is the daughter of Augustine St. Clair. Eva enters the narrative when Uncle Tom is traveling via steamship to New Orleans to be sold, and he rescues the 5-year-old girl from drowning. Eva encourages her father to buy Tom and he becomes the head coachman at the St. Claire plantation. He spends most of his time with the angelic Little Eva, however.

Eva constantly talks about love and forgiveness, even convincing the dour slave girl Topsy that she deserves love. She even manages to touch the heart of her sour aunt, Ophelia. Some consider Eva to be a prototype of the character archetype known as the Mary Sue.

Eva soon falls ill, however, and, on her deathbed, gives a lock of her hair to each of the slaves, telling them that they must become Christians so that they may see each other in Heaven. As she dies, she convinces her father to free Tom, but circumstances intervene, and the deathbed promise never materializes.

Simon Legree

A villainous slave owner whose name has become synonymous with greed.

Topsy

A ragamuffin young slave girl who "just growed", but was transformed by Little Eva's love. [Topsy is often seen as the origin of the pickanniny stereotype of black children].

Uncle Tom

  • Main article: Uncle Tom
  • A noble long-suffering Christian slave, after whom the book is named. His name has become an epithet directed towards African Americans, largely as a result of inaccurate play and movie interpretations. He apparently represents the submissive slave who is punished despite his loyalty, and has come to represent African Americans who sell themselves out to the whites and thus become a bad role model for black society.

Cinematic versions

'Uncle Tom's Cabin' has been made into several movies.

A highlight of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I (1951) is a ballet, "Small House of Uncle Thomas", in traditional Siamese style which has been organized by Tuptim, on the subversive theme of Eliza's escape.

Related articles

External links

fr:La Case de l'Oncle Tom he:אוהל הדוד תום ja:アンクル・トムの小屋 nl:De Negerhut van Oom Tom zh:汤姆叔叔的小屋 sv:Onkel Toms stuga

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