Uncle Toms Cabin




Uncle Tom\'s Cabin
"So you\'re the lady whose book started this great war." Abraham Lincoln said this to Harriet Beecher Stowe upon meeting her in 1862. This quote shows the great influence the novel had on the minds of its readers and on a nation in turmoil. At the height of racial tension in nineteenth century America, Stowe revealed the sufferings and hardships the slave was forced to endure. Stowe used passionate and sometimes exaggerated thoughts and stories in the book in an effort to prompt abolitionist action. In the novel, Stowe used strong-minded women that sent a message to female readers that they also can take action against slavery. Although Stowe was on the side of the slave, she sometimes exhibited a paternalistic attitude that made her seem somewhat racist. Uncle Tom\'s Cabin is "profoundly feminist in its implications" because of the opinionated female characters that voiced their beliefs and showed moral superiority over their male counterparts. Stowe established that both women and slaves were victims of male domination, and she depicted women in the novel that were led to their abolitionist views by their moral and Christian beliefs.
Because of the stereotypes and paternalistic attitude she exhibited, Stowe sometimes seemed racist against the class she was fighting for. At times, Stowe took the viewpoint of the white and looked down on her race. By comparing whites to blacks, Stowe contradicted her main theme of the novel, equality. "It was rather natural; and the tears that fell, as he spoke, came as naturally as if he had been a white man (134)." Stowe referred to many stereotypes of blacks during the era through her descriptions of the slaves. Aunt Chloe was portrayed as the stereotypical slave-woman. "Her whole plump countenance beams with satisfaction and contentment from under her well-starched turban (25)." Topsy was portrayed as foolish because of Stowe\'s description of her song and dance. "…Spinning round, clapping her hands, knocking her knees together, in a wild, fantastic sort of time…and finally, turning a summerset or two, and giving a prolonged closing note, as odd and unearthly as that of a steam-whistle, she came suddenly down on the carpet (260)." Although to a small degree, Stowe appeared to be looking down on her race at times.
Because of the strong-minded and opinionated female characters Stowe portrayed, Uncle Tom\'s Cabin is "profoundly feminist in its implications." Through their devoted Christian beliefs, Mrs. Shelby and Mrs. Bird were portrayed as holding moral superiority over their husbands. During this era, women were often forced to withhold their true beliefs, but these women used their pious ways to confront and consult with their husbands. Mrs. Bird completely altered her husband\'s viewpoint of housing fugitive slaves by forcing him to look at the situation in a humane and religious way. "It\'s a shameful, wicked, abominable law, and I\'ll break it, for one, the first time I get a chance; and I hope I shall have a chance, I do! Things have got to a pretty pass, if a woman can\'t give a warm supper and a bed to poor, starving creatures. Just because they are slaves, and have been abuse and oppressed all their lives, poor things (89)." Women taking actions into their own hands also represented feminism. Aunt Chloe and Mrs. Shelby each decided to earn wages in order to buy back their beloved Tom. "Sam he said der was one of dese yer perfectioners, dey calls \'em, in Louisville, said he wanted a good hand at cake and pastry; and said he\'d give four dollars a week to one, he did (278)." Women of the era were expected to be homemakers, and the husband usually disallowed his wife to earn money. Stowe used Cassy, a slave, to show how a strong-woman can alter the behavior of a man. "Cassy had always kept over Legree the kind of influence that a strong, impassioned woman can ever keep over the most brutal man (401)." Women in the novel were used to ignite female readers to become feminists.
Stowe established that both women and slaves were victims of male domination, only to different degrees. In the novel, there are many examples cited that reveal the relationship between slaves and male domination. The most horrid is