How Uncle Tom’s Cabin Influenced America

“I won’t be taken Eliza; I’ll die first! I’ll be free, or I’ll die! (George 36). With the intention of awakening sympathy for the oppressed slaves, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, has played a significant role on not just Americans, but as well as the generations to come, since it became published in 1852. Harriet Beecher Stowe, born into a prominent family, in Litchfield, Connecticut. She grew up with twelve siblings, many were social reformers and involved in the abolitionist movement. In 1851, the loss of Stowe’s 18-month old son helped her understand the heartbreak that many slave mothers went through as their children were taken from their arms and sold. After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, and the tragedy that Stowe faced it led her to write about the difficult situation that many slaves faced. Due to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s strong Christian message, it reflected Stowe’s belief that the Christine Doctrine and slavery were at odds with one another. Stowe seemed to view slavery as a sin. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin was influential to many generations because it influenced those who were hostile, and uninterested to blacks and abolitionists to become more open towards antislavery views.

In the book, a Kentucky farmer named Arthur Shelby faced the prospect of losing everything that he owned. Even though he and his wife, Emily Shelby share a kindhearted and loving relationship with their slaves. Shelby decides to raise money by selling two of his slaves to Mr. Haley, a coarse slave trader. The two slaves are Uncle Tom, whom is a middle-aged man with a wife and children on the farm, but also Harry, the young son of Mrs. Shelby’s maid Eliza. Eliza overhears the conversation between Shelby and his wife and warns Uncle Tom and his wife. She takes her son and heads to the North, hoping she will find freedom with her husband George. As the book progresses, Uncle Tom is bought from Haley by, Augustine St. Clare. George and Eliza remain on the run. Tom lives with the St. Clare’s for two years, before he is sold by St. Clare’s wife to a vicious plantation owner by the name of Simon Legree. Legree immediately has a strong dislike towards Tom, when Tom refused to whip a fellow slave as ordered. He received a severe beating, while Legree attempts to crush his faith in God. Tom’s faith is tested by his deprivation, and he starts to slowly lose his beliefs. He has two visions-one of God and of Eva- which renews his spirt and gave him the courage to handle Legree. Near the end of the book, Tom gets severely beaten by Legree’s overseers. Near death Tom forgives Legree. George Shelby eventually arrives to buy Tom’s freedom but realizes he is too late. Tom dies. There were many ups and downs in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but due to Tom’s sacrifice it urged others to lead a Christian life, as Tom did. The book had a huge impact. “The character Uncle Tom is an African American who retains his integrity and refuses to betray his fellow slaves at the cost of his life. His firm Christian principles in the face of his brutal treatment made him a hero to whites (PBS Part 4).

The biggest influence this story had was the importance it played with helping shape public opinion against slavery. According to William Delaney “The novel was influential in Europe, and eventually was translated into every modern language, including Chinese. It has been credited with starting the American Civil War which led to the emancipation of all the Southern Slaves. Uncle Tom’s Cabin played a role other than just in the United States. During the time this book was published, many didn’t see a problem with slavery. But after the release of Uncle Tom’s Cabin it caused people in the North to become more opposed to slavery. Many southerners became outraged, and felt the book was the work to be criminal, and false. Many southerners reacted by writing their own novels. Which depicted the happy lives of slaves. Fredrick Douglas praised the book in many of his writings. Many black abolitionists saw it as a help to their cause. But there was also some who opposed the book. Many saw Tom’s character as being overly submissive. Even though Uncle Tom defied the white authority to save his fellow slaves, he also modeled Christian humility. The influence greatly had to do with helping others see slavery was not okay but due to the complex characters and plots. The book outraged the south, which is what made it so significant.

Regardless of the many opinions on the book. It still made an impact. Stowe wrote to a friend regarding the book. “The effects of the book so far have been these: 1st to soften and moderate the bitterness of feeling in extreme abolitionists. 2nd to convert to abolitionist views many whom the same bitterness had repelled. 3rd to inspire the free colored people with self-respect, hope, and confidence. 4th to inspire the country a kindlier feeling toward the negro race (Stowe). According to one journalist she states “The book is doing a magnificent work on the public mind. Wherever it goes, prejudice is disarmed, opposition is removed, and the hearts of all are touched with a new strange feeling, to which they before were strangers. Uncle Tom’s Cabin impacted many to simply open their mind and think. One review in the Ohio Newspaper stated, “He who can read this thrilling narrative without a heaving heart, a moistened eye, and a tear-bedewed cheek, can boast of sensibilities less susceptible than ours (Reynolds, p. 88). The book made a lasting impact on many, those who read it were touched one way or another.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a novel that has had a long-lasting influence on many generations throughout the history of our country. Harriett Beecher Stowe had a deliberate goal when writing the book. She wanted to show the evils of slavery in a way that would make the American public relate to the issue. Though the book was fictional, it represents a lot of truths, and made many thinks. Stowe was able to draw readers in by her dialogue, and by her determination to get the truth out that it not only made an impact on many Northerners, and some Southerners but it also slightly contributed to the Civil War. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s involvement in the abolitionist movement, is what allowed her to see the portrayal of how slavery truly corrupted society. While living in Southern Ohio in the 1830’s and 1840’s, she had encountered former slaves and abolitionists. She heard numerous stories about life in slavery and escape stories. Her ability to including characters that general readers could relate to whom were sympathetic and wicked. Harriet Beecher Stowe was able to create a story involving suspense and drama, to keep readers engaged. This all allowed her to deliver an extremely powerful message. January 1st, 1863, Stowe attended a concert in Boston which celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation, which President Lincoln signed that night. The crowd in Boston that night believed Harriet Beecher Stowe had a major role with ending the battle of slavery in America. Uncle Tom’s Cabin will continue to be an influential book. It’s one that will never be forgotten.

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