UNCLE TOM’S CABIN
By Harriet Beecher Stowe
First Bantam publishing 1981
Ms. Hen learned about UNCLE TOM’S CABIN when she was in elementary school. She was taught that this was the book that caused the Civil War, since it exposed slavery in the American South like never before. When Ms. Hen was a young hen, she loved the idea of a novel starting a war, or driving people to action. She thought she would like to write a novel to bring about social justice, but the fact is that no novel could ever start a revolution these days, because reading is not as prevalent as it was in the middle of the nineteenth century.
At first Ms. Hen was struck by the old-fashioned writing of the book. She didn’t like the way the narrative meanders, and takes a lot of time. She would have given up reading UNCLE TOM’S CABIN if it weren’t for the compelling stories that are within the book. She has read about slavery before: works by Frederick Douglas, Toni Morrison and others. But she could not help but think that this was the first book to show the truly dark side of slavery, with its horrors and debasement; families being split apart, women whose bodies were used to bear children, people whipped for not doing as told. Ms. Hen was horrified at the injustice, even though she knew the history.
The story is about Uncle Tom, who is a slave of a good master who loses him in a gambling match. He is made to leave his wife and children and eventually sold to a soft-hearted master in Louisiana who has a daughter, Eva, who Tom comes to adore. Ms. Hen thought the scenes with the little girl Eva were too melodramatic. It made Ms. Hen sad, but it seemed like the story is overblown. What becomes of the master is also dramatic, and it made Ms. Hen cringe. The ultimate part of the novel is tragic, and Ms. Hen knew what would happen in the end. These stories don’t usually end up as happy ones.
Another aspect of this novel Ms. Hen did not like was the Christianity. She did not like that Tom tried to teach the slaves about Jesus, and that if they were good, they would go to heaven in the end. In the concluding remarks, the author states that she believes that Christianity is what would abolish slavery, but Ms. Hen believes that one does not have to be a Christian to be a good person. She understands that this was the popular belief in the country in the nineteenth century, and even in some places today, but Ms. Hen thinks this is a narrow view of the world. Ms. Hen believes that a person does not have to be a Christian or belong to any religion to be a decent person and live a right life. She knows that some people need something to grasp onto because they do not have and education or a broader view of the world.
In the beginning of the novel, Tom and his family ate chicken when they were together. It made Ms. Hen happy that chickens were a part of his life when he was with his family. This novel is long and winding and difficult, but Ms. Hen thinks it’s worth the time to learn about slavery from the point of view when it was considered current events. We’re not there yet, and we still have room to grow, but Ms. Hen believes that the world can get better, even though it doesn’t seem that way in this moment in time. This country has come a long way, and we will not go down without a fight.