Uncle Tom's Cabin: or, Life among the Lowly (Modern Library Classics)

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Paperback, 2001




Modern Library (2001), Edition: 1st, 688 pages


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: The novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe, focuses on a slave named Uncle Tom to weave a portrayal of the cruelty of slavery, finding redemption in the idea that Christian love can conquer something so destructive. It turned out to be the bestselling novel of the nineteenth century, helping to further the abolitionist cause after publication in 1852. At the start of the American Civil War Abraham Lincoln met Stowe and is said to have declared "So this is the little lady who made this big war." The novel had a major effect on people's attitudes towards slavery at the time..


½ (2185 ratings; 3.8)

User reviews

LibraryThing member LynnB
This is the first time I've read Uncle Tom's Cabin. Like almost everyone, I had heard of it, and was familiar with the characters of Uncle Tom, Topsy, and Simon Legree.

By today's standards, the book would likely be judged too sentimental. The author includes 10-page chapter called "concluding
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remarks" in which she expresses her own views against slavery, and how it is incompatible with Christianity. This just isn't done in modern novels.

In assessing the book against other literature of the period, though, a different perspective emerges: one of a sweeping tale, encompassing many characters with a strong story of good and evil. Like Dickens' works, it is a scathing assessment of the society in which it is written. In this way, and in the complex blending of good and evil within individual characters, it is a more satisfying than The Book of Negroes.

I am also reading a biography of William Wilberforce, and found Ms. Beecher Stowe's work an enriching complement.
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LibraryThing member PaperbackPirate
I hear references to Uncle Tom's Cabin all the time but had never read it before now. It took me over a month to read but it was worth it.

The story follows Tom, a slave in Kentucky who is sold after his kind masters hit some hard times and have to settle a debt. He has the opportunity to run away
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with 2 other slaves, but opts to be sold because it is the will of his master and Tom's mission in life is to do as his master asks. As he is preparing to leave his family and his cabin his wife cooks his favorite breakfast one last time. That entire scene left me crying my eyes out.

I think this is where the phrase, "sold up the river," comes from because he is sold and moves up the river. Good or bad, his story continues from there.

It made me consider what it was truly like to live in the south in the 1850s, when her story was written. In fact, the funnest part of reading it for me (if reading about slavery can be considered fun) was knowing that it was written before the Civil War. I learned that some say this book, which was actually not a book but a serial installment released in a magazine of the time, was like a rattling saber, "starting" the Civil War! Abraham Lincoln met her and said, "So this is the little lady who made this big war"!!! Can you imagine?!

The end of the book gets a little too religious for my taste, but I am able to forgive it considering the time period it was written in.

Harriet Beecher Stowe did a brilliant job exploring every persons' aspect of slavery through her tale, which is partially based on true stories.
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LibraryThing member cdiemert
Although the American anti-slavery movement had existed at least as long as the nation itself, Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) galvanized public opinion as nothing had before. The book sold 10,000 copies in its first week and 300,000 in its first year. Its vivid dramatization of slavery's
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cruelties so aroused readers that is said that Abraham Lincoln told Stowe her work had been a catalyst for the Civil War.

Today the novel is often labeled condescending, but its characters still have the power to move our hearts. Stowe's Tom is actually American literature's first black hero, a man who suffers for refusing to obey his white oppressors. Uncle Tom's Cabin is a living, relevant story, passionate in its vivid depiction of the cruelest forms of injustice--and the courage it takes to fight against them.
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LibraryThing member fuzzy_patters
I enjoyed reading Uncle Tom's Cabin in many ways, and I found the character of Uncle Tom to be one of the most heroic characters of whom I have read. It should also be pointed out that this was one of the most important novels written in American history because of the influence that it had on
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opening northern eyes to the horrors of slavery.

However, the book does present some difficulties to the modern reader. For one, Stowe frequently refers to the races in stereotypical terms. To Stowe, people of African decent are all magnanimous, warm-hearted beings, which robs them of the humanity and ability to be unique individuals. I should probably give Stowe a pass for this, but it was difficult to get past as a modern reader.

With that being said, the book was very well-written for a nineteenth century house-wife who was not a writer by trade. Considering her background, I was very impressed with her ability as a writer and am even more impressed with the guts it must have taken for a woman to speak out about injustice in a society that would not allow her the right to vote and have a say in how society was run. For this reason, Stowe's work is something that should still be read and admired by modern readers.
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LibraryThing member CBJames
Uncle Tom's Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe is the book that started the American Civil War, according to Abraham Lincoln who was only being partially facetious when he first made that comment to the author. Starting a war was not Ms. Stowe's goal when she wrote Uncle Tom's
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Cabin, but ending slavery in America certainly was. Telling a story, creating a work of art, while important, played a secondary role in her ambitions. The story serves an express purpose, exposing the horrors of slavery in order to bring about its end. So, 150 years after it's initial publication, what does Uncle Tom's Cabin have to offer a 21st century reader?

As a historical document, Uncle Tom's Cabin, it must be acknowledge, carries a lot of weight. It was after all, the best selling novel of the 19th century, the second best selling book in the world, second only to the bible. Written as an angry response to the passage of the fugitive slave law, it certainly tapped into the cultural zeitgeist of it's day. Stowe's novel and the wide ranging dramatizations it inspired, some of which were staged before the novel serialization was finished, have entered into the American collective consciousness. (Even Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim referenced the novel; his song "Not Getting Married" includes the line "like Eliza on the ice.") The characters Uncle Tom, Topsy, Eliza, Simon Legree, Little Eva have all taken on a life of their own, often unfortunately so. Stowe's depiction of slavery, while far from comprehensive and probably far from accurate, opened the eyes of contemporary readers, and can still at least raise a few eyebrows today. People tend to forget how horrible things were with the passage of time which makes books like Uncle Tom's Cabin useful reading.

But, in the end, is it a good read? The story begins with high melodrama that does not let up until the very end. In the opening chapters, Uncle Tom, though devoted to his master, Mr Shelby, and his master's family, is sold along with young Harry, Eliza's son. Eliza has already lost her husband to a plantation owner who refuses to let her see him, so she takes her young son and runs away before he can be sold soth. Eliza carries her son across a the broken ice that floats down the Ohio River in order to be free. Uncle Tom is sent to the slave markets in New Orleans on a river boat. While on-board he rescues a young girl, Eva, who insists that her father, Mr. St. Clare, buy him so she can have his company. On the St. Clare plantation Uncle Tom and Little Eva win the hearts of just about everyone but Mrs. St. Clare who sells Tom instead of granting him freedom after the deaths of both Eva and her father. Tom then ends up in the hands of Simon Legree who runs a plantation straight out of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Tom's wife, Aunt Cloe, meanwhile, works and saves her money so she can buy Tom's freedom. In the end, Mr. Shelby, Jr. goes to Legree's plantation to buy Tom back only to find he is dying from the severe beating Legree has given him. Back in Canada Eliza, George and their children decide to emigrate to Liberia to start a new life and to bring Christianity to Africa.

You can see why so many modern reader's have problems with the novel. It's not that the black characters are realized as less than fully human, it's that they are realized as children. Tom and Little Eva are equals, both portrayed as children in a sentimental Victorian melodrama. Both are devoted to each other and to Christianity as only little childre can be. Both believe that God will save them and that everyone should turn to God and all their problems will be solved. The message of the novel is not just that slavery is wrong, but that turning away from God is wrong. We must end slavery as a means of returning to the path of righteousness that God has set out for us to follow. This path, leads the black characters back to Africa, not as a return to the lives their ancestors left, but as missionaries spreading Christianity. Why should they have to go back in the first place? Don't they have as much right to be in America as anyone? Stowe was against slavery, but she is not really arguing for racial equality.

The major problem a modern reader will have with Uncle Tom's Cabin may not be the book's racism, arguing that the 19th century American novel is racist seems moot to me anyway, but that the book is very preachy. Much of the dialogue serves to provide a platform to advance the case against slavery rather than to develop the plot or the characters. Whether two characters are sitting in a parlor or facing each other over the point of a gun, the speeches against slavery continue. Many of them are very good. Case in point, George's reply to the bounty hunters who have cornered his family on a hillside in Ohio:

"I know very well that you've got the law on your side, and the power," said George, bitterly, "You mean to take my wife to sell in New Orleans, and put my boy like a calf in a trader's pen, and send Jim's only mother to the brute that whipped and abused her before, because he couldn't abuse her son. You want to send Jim and me back to be whipped and tortured, and ground down under the heels of them that you call masters; and your laws will bear you out on it,---more shame for you and them! But you haven't got us. We don't own your laws; we don't own your country; we stand here as free, under God's sky, as you are; and, by the great God that made us, we'll fight for our liberty till we die."

George stood out in fair sight, on the top of the rock, as he made his declaration of independence; the glow of dawn gave as flush to his swarthy cheek, and bitter indignation and despair gave fire to his dark eye; and, as if appealing from man to the justice of God, he raised his hand to heaven as he spoke.

If this works for you as a reader, you'll find much to enjoy in Uncle Tom's Cabin. I found it to be tough going for much of the novel. Towards the end of the book, once Tom arrives at Simon Legree's plantation, I found the speeches became less frequent and the narrative pace picked up quite a bit. The book almost became hard to put down for the last 200 pages.
In the end, while interesting and important as a historical document, Uncle Tom's Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly, by Harriet Beecher Stowe has little to offer the modern reader. I'm giving the book three out of five stars.
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LibraryThing member gbill
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1852) was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and of such importance that Abraham Lincoln reportedly said "So this is the little lady who made this big war" upon meeting Stowe.

I think it's unfairly criticized in the 20th century and today for (1) being overly
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sentimental and dramatic, and (2) for its characters who created or amplified racial stereotypes. As James Baldwin put it in "Everybody's Protest Novel", "Uncle Tom's Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women".

I can't disagree more. The book is powerful and exposes the extreme cruelty of slavery. I can't understand why critics feel a need to cast it aside in favor of "Huckleberry Finn" as if one needed to decide "either/or" which was superior.

The Norton Critial Edition is well worth it for its ocassional illustrations, articles putting the work in historical context, and for the reviews. Some of this extra material will resonate (for me, George M. Frederickson's, "Uncle Tom and the Anglo-Saxons: Romantic Racialism in the North"), and some of it will not, but most of it will stir a discussion and make you think.

On beauty in old age:
"Her hair, partially silvered by age, was parted smoothly back from a high placid forehead, on which time had written no inscription, except peace on earth, good will to men, and beneath shone a large pair of clear, honest, loving brown eyes; you only needed to look straight into them, to feel that you saw to the bottom of a heart as good and true as ever throbbed in woman's bosom. So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?"

On God:
"Is there a God to trust in?" said George, in such a tone of bitter despair as arrested the old gentleman's words. "O, I've seen things all my life that made me feel that there can't be a God. You Christians don't know how these look to us. There's a God for you, but is there any for us?"

On immortality:
"O with what freshness, what solemnity and beauty, is each new day born; as if to say to insensate man, "Behold! thou hast one more chance! Strive for immortal glory!"

On racism:
"If we emancipate, are you willing to educate?
We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe."

On religion, powerful words:
"Religion! Is what you hear at church religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath."
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LibraryThing member keegopatrick
This book took me a very long time to get into and since I only read American "classic" novels to stay well rounded with my reading not because I find them entirely interesting there were many times where I contemplated not finishing. All of those feelings were in the first 150 pages or so but once
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Uncle Tom connected with St. Clair and Eva I got really into the book and really started identifying with characters and some of their plights. Many parts of this book were so moving that I can completely understand how this book could have moved people to the Civil War to free the slaves. This book was powerful and have to say that it is in the top five best novels that I have ever read. The range of emotions that you will feel while reading this book will blow your minds! One weird aspect of this book is that it is very religious which may be a sign of the times or may be the way that the author found to be the best vehicle to make the masses see the evil of slavery. The weird part, however, is that I am usually not a religious person but this book rose spiritual feelings within me that I did not even know existed anymore which I think is more evidence of how powerful this book can play on your emotions. One last thought: I desired to read this book as a result of the term "uncle tom" that is used in modern slang English to mean a black person who identifies or hangs with whites more than people of his or her own race. I did not really see this connection except for Tom being a devout christian and if this is why people make the reference then they are not very smart because being a law abiding christian who follows the word of G-D more than anything else is a virtuous trait rather than a negative one. If someone can explain the meaning of our modern language "uncle tom" please do because I am fully interested. Overall, anamazing book that all American middle or high school students should be forced to read to be given a better idea of the Civil War era.
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LibraryThing member dustinthewind
Excellent book read for Great Books over a four week period. Why did I wait so long to read this? So much of it still applies to today.
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I knew a few things about Uncle Tom's Cabin before cracking open the book. From The King and I I knew some characters and scenes like Eliza escaping over the ice floe. I knew that upon meeting author Harriet Beecher Stowe, President Lincoln said she was the "little woman who made this great
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war"--the American Civil War. And I thought I knew that Stowe had never visited the South. That last turned out to be wrong. According to the introduction, she had once visited slave-holding Kentucky, which is where she initially sets the book. Of course, her limited contact with slavery doesn't mean she didn't know what she was writing about. As the introduction and her note after the novel relates, as part of an abolitionist family, she had known and interviewed ex-slaves and read various first-hand slave narratives, including that of Frederick Douglas. I feared what I'd read would be a minstrel show knowing the reputation of "Uncle Tom," and I'd heard it had a reputation as overly sentimental and anti-slavery propaganda.

Given all that I found the book a surprisingly good read. Sure, it's an old fashioned book. Published in 1852, like many Victorian authors I've read such as Dickens, Alcott and Gaskell, it can strike a reader as sentimental and steeped in religiosity. Were it published today it would be considered "Christian Fiction." Stowe hits very hard on Christian themes and how slavery makes living a Christian life difficult for slave and slaveholder alike. Sometimes it can get unbearably preachy--I found the character of "Little Eva" particularly hard to take seriously. There is also some racial stereotyping, but according to the introduction Stowe was progressive for the period and her purpose was to show the "full humanity" of blacks, and she constantly pressed the reader to put themselves in the shoes of slaves and insisted they felt everything any reader would feel upon being separated from family and home, or used unfairly and cruelly. And Uncle Tom is no Uncle Tom. He does refuse to run away, because he fears it would result in all the slaves in the estate being sold, and he is honest and conscientious in his dealings with his masters--but he's not a sycophant, and openly disobeys orders that would make him act against his conscience. And there are other characters--such as George Harris--willing to defend the liberty of himself and his escaping family by any means necessary--including at gunpoint.

At the same time, Stowe doesn't demonize slaveholders, and Stowe paints a deft portrait of their rationalizations--one could imagine that what came out of her characters' mouths is what Stowe herself must have heard from those sympathetic to slavery. There are scenes among the St Clare family particularly that provided very sharp social commentary--even satire--as Marie St Clare complains of the selfishness of her slaves or Augustine St Clare points out to Miss Ophelia, his abolitionist Northern cousin, her racism and hypocrisy.

I've read modern depictions of slavery by authors such as Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler, but Uncle Tom's Cabin reminds me most of a 19th century slave narrative by Harriet Jacobs I read for college. Both books emphasize the moral dimension of slavery--not simply how slavery is cruel or wrong, but how being owned by others means a slave is denied moral agency. And reading Uncle Tom's Cabin I can imagine why this was moral dynamite laid at the very foundations of slavery that would help lead to it being exploded little more than a decade after it was published. This is undeniably one of the most important books ever published in terms of its historical effects and on that basis alone, despite its flaws, deserves to be more widely read today.
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LibraryThing member MacDad
Harriet Beecher Stowe's book is one that I would classify as important rather than great. It's a powerful condemnation of slavery using the language of Stowe's Christian faith, and her moral outrage at it seeps through nearly every page. This I expected; what I didn't expect was how she developed
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her characters. While her African American characters are uniformly dignified and good, most of the slaveholders received surprisingly nuanced treatments, with some good (if hypocritical) characters among them and only the infamous Simon Legree really embodying in full the evil and corruption resulting from slavery. Yet for all the positive nature of her depiction of her slave characters Stowe cannot help but reflect the racial attitudes of her time, with descriptions that have not aged well. In this she demonstrates the limits of even antislavery activists in their attitudes towards African Americans, yet this is all of a piece in a work that arguably serves as the most historically significant novel in American history, one that helped galvanize opposition to the institution that was corroding the nation's soul.
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LibraryThing member estamm
When I read this, I was unprepared for it. I didn't realize how gripping the story would be, and how I would come to care for all the characters (well, the ones you are SUPPOSED to care about). I can see how this book could have started a war. Years ago, this book was required reading in high
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school. It really should be again. Recently, Michael Medved wrote an article about how slavery wasn't really so bad. Obviously he is clueless when it comes to American history.
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LibraryThing member hmskip
Now I know why it's a classic! This may be the best-written piece of persuasive writing I've ever read. The stories are so artfully told and the characters so endearing. It's not hard to see why the book could engender the passions it did. I never expected to like it, much less to be made an
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abolitionist in the reading.
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LibraryThing member srboone
Whatever your feelings about the characterizations in this book are, it is a true classic of literature. As a woman, Stowe had to please both herself and the male-dominated world she was writing for (both abolitionist and non-abolistionist), and she did so beautifully. Along with Gone With the
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Wind, the most important literary work of fiction concerning slavery. Pioignant in it's humany and rich in laguage, this is one of my favorite books. I can't believe I waited until I was in my 40s to read it, but I've read it twice now.
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LibraryThing member benuathanasia
Such a beautiful story. I adored the realism of the characters. Stowe did a wonderful job balancing out personalities. No race was glorified or demonized, nor were genders shown in disproportionate light; the first few chapters, all the women were nigh-on saints, but Mrs. St. Clare more than makes
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up for it (I wanted to strangle that b!tch. Even if it weren't for her views on slavery).

I was a bit dismayed at the deus ex machina nature of the happily ever after (the reunions at the end), but I thoroughly enjoyed the "epilogues" and the end note.
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LibraryThing member EllaBelakovska
There are reasons I really wanted to like this book:

*It is (or was) a classic
*Its author is famously known as the person Abraham Lincoln jokingly credited with starting the American Civil War and, ergo, an end to slavery in the United States.
*The principles and courage of the author to put herself
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out there and critique a nation, not just for its legislation, but the more insidious racism of many abolitionists, must have been tremendous.

However, I found the act of ploughing through this novel to be one long exercise in patience. As someone who does not adhere to any religion, the endless passages about The Lord, quotes from the Bible, and descriptions of religious activity were increasingly tedious and I found myself skipping swathes of text just to get on with the story.

Ah, the story... therein lies another problem. Having done a little more research since completing this book, I understand that Beecher Stowe originally wrote this as a series, published weekly in a paper. Therefore, the introduction to each chapter, which reminds 'our reader' who we are catching up with next and apologises to 'our reader' for not having had time to describe Mrs Such-and-Such last night with 'all the activity going on' became equally as wearing as the Bible-bashing after a few chapters. The other consequence of this approach means that Beecher Stowe introduced a plethora of new characters with each section. I ended up losing interest in 'meeting' yet another person because I couldn't get into any of the characters enough to care about them. The titular Uncle Tom is absent for more of the book than he is present and this makes it especially difficult to root for him by the time his story reaches its climax.

The final chapters are ludicrous in their reliance on coincidence - at least Oscar Wilde made sure his tongue was firmly in his cheek during the reveal. The only aspect of the book I found interesting was the final word by the author, highlighting the plight of the slave to her Southern cousins and Northern friends. I would have been happy to read that part on its own and still come away with the same level of understanding about attitudes and issues at that time. Others have described the entire novel as reading more like an essay and I agree. Had Beecher Stowe not used such a clunky, preaching approach I am sure this would have continued to shine as an illuminating example of literature's powerful role in society. As it is, the author lacked the talent of her contemporary peers to create a wonderful narrative and the result, a century and a half later, is painfully dull.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Honestly, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book. It was one of those classics that I felt I Should read at some point, so I finally picked it up. What I found was one of the most touching surprises I've found to argue against my expectations.
This book explores the lives of various characters,
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white and black, free and enslaved, northern and southern. While it's obvious, particularly at the end, that the author Stowe has an agenda, the book reads as a masterpiece of fiction. It does not use heavy rhetoric to drive your opinion, but incorporates character, story, and religion to make you consider the circumstances and drive you toward your own opinions. Having read many other works that deal with slavery and race relations, I wasn't expecting this book to touch me quite like it did, but because the author lets the characters and story flow in a natural rhythm, and because she moves between them to naturally create suspense, a reader can't help but remain entranced in this book. It moves quickly, and though the length may look daunting, it flies by. I'd say that for a complete understanding of American history--or, as complete as could be possible, at least--this is the first novel I've read which would be absolutely required reading. It is a beautiful novel, complete, and Stowe never puts her agenda above the story she's following. I would argue that this might well be the most lasting work of American Literature written, and that this might be the quientessential American novel even beyond Huck Fin.
For anyone, I'd strongly recommend this book. It may take some time to pick it up since it is long, but you won't be tempted to leave it aside once you do.
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LibraryThing member Clif
This is a book everyone has heard of, but few have read. The title has turned into a well know adjective that is intended to be uncomplimentary. It is an uncomfortable book for readers today because some the 19th Century ideas expressed by the characters (including blacks, whites, abolitionists and
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pro-slavery folks) in the book are frankly not politically correct under today's standards. Literary scholars don't give it high marks because they say it is too emotional, too sentimental, not complex enough, and too overtly religious. However, one can't understand the 19th Century without reading this book. I think this is the second best selling book of the 19th Century after the Bible. This is the book that (it can be argued) caused the the Civil War. I think it should be read and appreciated for the insight it gives into the heart felt emotions of Northerners in reaction to the Fugitive Slave Act that made it a federal crime to assist slaves who had fled from slave states. Another characteristic of this book is its emphasis on the heartbreak consequences of breaking up slave families. The book portrays several examples of the painful anguish caused by children being taken away from mothers. Some have suggested that this book may have never been written if slave owners had not been permitted to break up the family's of slaves by selling them to different owners. The story is painful for 21st Century readers to read even with the knowledge that the conditions described happened over 150 years ago. The book must have been even more unbearable for mid 19th Century readers since it described current happenings. Stowe's writing is clear and easy to read. I recommend it to all.
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LibraryThing member MaryAnne_Marrington
I can totally understand why this novel made such an impact when it was first written. It is a courageous exposition of slavery and the differing views of those either involved in the slave trade or living in a society where slavery existed. It shows how necessary abolition of slavery was when
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people could be treated as less than human, based on the colour of their skin. What is equally amazing is the dignity and resilience of the slaves who suffered centuries of family break-up, deprivation and despair at the hands of landowners. Once I became used to the language spoken at the time, the book was fascinating and rewarding to read.
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LibraryThing member uveasey
This is a GREAT Book. It has humor, heartache, triumph, inspiration and reflection. Don't run away from this book because of the controversy of slavery.Give it a chance, you will not regret it.
LibraryThing member Kristelh
Published in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin is an antislavery book. It is a story written in supplements like Dicken's wrote his stories and the stories of various characters revolve around Uncle Tom, a longsuffering, godly man. It was the best selling novel of the 19th century,
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second to the Bible. The characters can be called stereotypes and this book gets much criticism in this day and age. I read this after reading The Underground Railroad and am glad to have done so. What I liked in the story is that the author not only shows the evil of slavery in south she also shows the bigotry of the Northern people in their treatment of blacks. It is unfortunate to only criticize the book for its stereotypes and fail to acknowledge the impact of the book during the time in which it was written.

Rating 3.85
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
Within a few pages I quickly understood why they aren't teaching this one in schools anymore. It's not nearly so bad as adaptations would have you believe, but yeah, it's bad. The author's heart was clearly in the right place, but several times she assigns blanket characteristics to an entire race.
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It's a fascinating historical artifact, but far from politically correct by today's standards. What's most engaging about reading it now is its perfect capturing of the voice of its times. It's difficult to fathom a world where slavery is the number one pressing political issue, but here it is in all its grimness. This is no great work of literature - the author's insertions, the staggering pacing, and the giant Christianity club can be wearing - but every bit worth a read for a chilling visit to a not-distant-enough past.
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LibraryThing member brothersdr
This has to be the most biased and twisted version of the old South since it was written by a Yankee who misunderstood southern society.
LibraryThing member librisissimo
Substance: Philosophy, religion, sociology, character-studies, and milieu are all channeled to the single purpose of demonstrating that the enslavement of blacks in America is wrong. One can see why she is credited with raising the abolitionist cause to its zenith, but the story is not sacrificed
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for the cause, but rather the cause is justified by the story. The book has fallen out of favor, no doubt, because of its forceful demonstration of true Christianity, which formed the backbone of the abolitionist cause in reality. Unexpectedly humorous incidents lighten the tragedy, and the author claims to have eyewitness-warrant for many of the episodes. The full tale is much more complex and extended than its mangled re-tellings would suggest.
Style: Allowing for the conventions of nineteenth-century novelists, and ignoring the painful imposition of dialectical spelling, Stowe is pitch-perfect in representing her characters, milieu, and arguments. Her satire can hardly be called gentle, but it is not strident or vicious. All varieties of good and evil, Christian or pseudo-Christian or atheist, high society and low estate are given full and fair treatment.
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LibraryThing member varwenea
I spent two months reading “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, not for the complexity of prose but for the subject matter. At times, reading no more than two pages, putting it down, digesting the words (or trying to forget the words) for days before picking it up again. I don’t know how many tissues I
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went through reading this book. My reading speed picked up when the precocious little Eva entered the pages. Oh, how I fell in love with Eva St. Clare. She was the joy and sunshine in a dark, oppressive tale who reminded the reader how innocence, love, and kindness can radiate to all. I needed her to carry me through this difficult story. (In 1852, 300 babies in Boston alone were named Eva.)

“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” traced the story of the pious Uncle Tom and a related/parallel story of escaping slaves, George, Eliza, and Harry Harris. Tragedy strikes throughout UTC, with deaths on both the blacks and the whites. The book was based on the life of Josiah Henson, an escaped slave who fled to Canada with his wife and children in the 1830s. The tragic tales (the suicides, the torture of slaves) and the amazing feat of jumping an icy river were leveraged from real life tales.

Published in 1852, Stowe was inspired to write UTC partly due to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law prohibiting assistance to fugitives. Stowe and her husband were both abolitionist and had supported the Underground Tunnel. A goal of the book was to educate northerners of the realistic horrors of the slave trade happening in the South and also to increase (or initiate) empathy towards slaves for the southerners. This book became a best seller, leading up to the apocryphal that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the Civil War, Lincoln declared, "So this is the little lady who started this great war." However, this text was never in print until 1896. It would have been a good story if true.

Needless to say, the book was condemned in the South during the same era and even in recent history. Interestingly, as African-Americans became educated and were reading the book for the first time, they too criticized the book for its stereotyping of blacks – obsequious and toadying. While I can understand this perspective, the book had served its purpose in 1852.

4 stars for the book itself (a bit wordy). 0.5 stars for the highly affective emotional tugs without feeling overwrought. 0.5 stars for the significant historical footprint it left.

Favorite character: Hands down, Eva St. Clare
Least favorite character: It could have been Haley, the slave trader, or Legree, the cruel plantation owner, but it was Marie Benoir/St. Clare – the most obnoxious, self-centered, tyrannical being who tormented Mammy and refused Tom’s freedom just for the money, even though she doesn’t need it. I wanted to strangle her.

Things I learned: 1. The tragic baby/slave making that women were forced to do. 2. The vulnerability of slaves upon the master’s death.

Some Quotes:

On beauty and old age:
"Her hair, partially silvered by age, was parted smoothly back from a high placid forehead, on which time had written no inscription, except peace on earth, good will to men, and beneath shone a large pair of clear, honest, loving brown eyes; you only needed to look straight into them, to feel that you saw to the bottom of a heart as good and true as ever throbbed in woman's bosom. So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don't somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?"

On God:
"’Is there a God to trust in?’ said George, in such a tone of bitter despair as arrested the old gentleman's words. ‘O, I've seen things all my life that made me feel that there can't be a God. You Christians don't know how these look to us. There's a God for you, but is there any for us?’"

On racism, from St. Clare:
You = Northerners. “You loathe them as you would a snake or a toad, yet you are indignant at their wrongs. You would not have them abused; but you don’t want to have anything to do with them yourselves. You would send them to Africa, out of your sight and smell, and then send a missionary or two to do up all the self-denial of elevating them compendiously.”

On religion, from St. Clare:
"Religion! Is what you hear at church religion? Is that which can bend and turn, and descend and ascend, to fit every crooked phase of selfish, worldly society, religion? Is that religion which is less scrupulous, less generous, less just, less considerate for man, than even my own ungodly, worldly, blinded nature? No! When I look for a religion, I must look for something above me, and not something beneath."

On slavery, from St. Clare:
“It’s all nonsense to talk to me about slaves enjoying all this! … Tell me that any man living wants to work all his days, from day-dawn till dark, under the constant eye of a master, without the power of putting forth one irresponsible volition, on the same dreary, monotonous, unchanging toil, and all for two pairs of pantaloons and a pair of shoes a year, with enough food shelter to keep him in working order!”
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This novel must be read in the context of its own time. Looking at the book from present-day eyes, it seems to contain, not characters, but caricatures. The characters in this book became larger than life through time and collected a series of emotion attached to them that were not intended in the
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Beautiful and poignant, it changed history:

Upon meeting the author Abraham Lincoln said, "So you're the little lady who wrote the book that made this great war." She replied, "I did not write it. God wrote it. I merely did his dictation."

While most of the book is painful to read, it is a sprawling story full of amazing characters and horrific events. It is a true "slice-of-life" that we, as modern readers, can never truly understand. This book makes a huge gesture in that direction and it is well worth the uncomfortable reading, in order to honor those that lived it.
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Original language


Original publication date

1943-11: Classic Comics #15 (USA)
1948-11: Classics Illustrated #15 (USA)

Physical description

688 p.; 5.18 inches


0375756930 / 9780375756931
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