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In January 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe received a welcome inspiration fromher brother Henry Ward Beecher who had come for a visit. One particularnight, the two stayed up until the early hours of dawn talking of their plansto fight slavery. It was this night that Stowe confided in her brother thatshe had begun a story that would set forth the sufferings and wrongs ofslaves. Henry encouraged his sister that she had to finish it.

It was thefollowing month that a powerful scene for the end of her book came to her inchurch. As she sat on the pew she envisioned a vivid picture of an old blackman being beaten to death by two slaves at the orders of their white master. From then on, the words poured out of her. She felt as if it were not shewho was writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but the hand of God. Stowe offered thisstory to The National Era who agreed to publish the book. In the North,Stowe’s novel raised an outcry against slavery.

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In the South, it provokedanger and hatred. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was not by any means the sole incidentthat forced the nation to address the issue of slavery. It was however, aninspiring and persuasive novel that helped change the mind of a nation. Infact, when Abraham Lincoln met with Stowe in the White House in 1863 hegreeted her by saying, “So this is the little lady that made this big war. “{Harriet Beecher Stowe by Cecelia Bland; pg. 15} The story opens with an intense conversation between Mr.

Shelby and a Negrotrader called Haley. Haley holds Mr. Shelby’s IOU for a considerable amountwhich he is unable to settle. Haley, being a cruel businessman, or inwords more suiting, a human hunter, takes full advantage as to compel Mr.

Shelby to part with two of his most loved slaves–Uncle Tom, his generalmanager, and a little boy, the child of Eliza Harris. Eliza is Mrs. Shelby’sloved maid and the wife of George Harris. Being determined not to have herchild sold down the river, Eliza runs off with the boy in the night. Beforefollowing her, we must take in to consideration two points in the story.

The first is the conduct of Mrs. Shelby aiding at Eliza’s escape. Conductwhich is held up to the reader as commendable, and with the highest respects. Mr. Shelby has told his wife of the deal and that nothing could change whathad to be done and what is done.

The reputation and good faith of Mr. Shelbyis now on the line and Mrs. Shelby knows this. Although the trade waspainful and hard for Mrs. Shelby, her loyalty and obedience to her husbandwould force her to go along with the ordeal.

But this didn’t stop her fromputting several obstacles in Haley’s way. It is in this part of the bookthat Stowe brings out what is considered a higher law to bear upon Mrs. Shelby’s line of duty, as obedience to one’s husband was not recognized bythe new notion of woman’s rights. Perhaps there is no separation within fromethical consistency.

The second part which we will discuss is the indifference many believe tothe fact and probability displayed in a conversation between the men whobecome engaged in the pursuit of Eliza. Haley, having given chase after somedelay, catches up with Eliza just in time to see her, child clutched to herarms, brave the dangers of the ice-bound Ohio River and gain the oppositebank in safety. This was one of the most dramatic and well-known scenes inthe book that will forever leave its mark within me. Frustrated by failure,Haley goes to a nearby tavern where he runs across two old acquaintances asevil as himself and who are also Negro traders. Haley gets them to assisthim in capturing Eliza.

The matter is debated and a deal with the devil isstruck. The parties agree that in the case of recapture, the child is to besurrendered to Haley and the other two will take possession of Eliza. Haleypays fifty dollars in advance in case of failure. Here is a little dialoguethat takes place between them:I’d manager that ar; they’s young in the business and must spect to workcheap,” said Marks, as he continued to read, “Ther’s three on em easy casescause all you’ve got to do is shoot em or swear they is shot; they couldn’tof cours charge much for that. ” {Page 89}Some think this conversation between the men is unbelievable using the basisthat a man would not pay for lost, or in this case, dead property. George F.

Holmes put it this way, “What man in Vermont, having an ox or an ass that hadgone astray, would forthwith offer half the full value of the animal, notfor the carcass which might be turned to some useful purpose, but theunavailing satisfaction of it’s head?” {The Southern Literary Messenger, 18(October 1852), pg. 634} I find that statement from Mr. Holmes utterlyclosed minded and verging on the edge of uneducated and naive. We havelearned what a cruel and devilish man Haley and other slave traders were. Mr. Holmes would try to have us believe that men who would rip a child fromtheir mother’s arms or beat a man to death without an ounce of compassion isnot capable of having one of his runaway slaves killed just for the solepurpose of knowing the nigger got what he deserved.

Surely Mr. Holmes doesnot expect his readers to be as naive as he. Going back to Eliza and her child, we follow them to the house of Senatorand Mrs. Byrd, where they are welcomed and cared for.

Before the twoarrived, the Byrd’s had been in a heated conversation about lending aid torunaway slaves. We learn that Mr. Byrd is against helping runaway Negroesand has recently helped passed a bill in the legislature of Ohio to forbidit. Mrs. Stowe, in this part of the book, takes great pride in showing ushow strong convictions of duty are melted away as the Senator hears Eliza’sstory.

The worthy Senator proceeds to help Eliza to safety by smuggling herat night down dark and dangerous roads quite some distance to a nearby Quakervillage. The reader who will reflect upon the matter a single moment willsee that the Senator is applauded for what in his day was considered one ofthe worse offenses–the violation of his oath. Now we will turn back to George Harris, a remarkable black man who isconsidered a genius. George was hired by a large bagging factory where he isconsidered in charge of things. It is this factory in which he invents amachine for cleaning hemp that is considered as talented as Whitney’s cottongin. After the invention, his master comes for a visit to the factory.

Outraged and embarrassed at the fact that George is more intelligent and abetter businessman than himself, he takes George away from the factory andseeks to humble his proud spirit. George is put to tasks that are oftendegrading and when he does well he is beaten. After enduring all he can, hesays goodbye to Eliza and the boy who are still at the Shelby estate. Hethen disguises himself and with two pistols and a bowie knife, he runs off tothe border of the free states. Eliza and George are later reunited at theQuaker village by a lucky accident. But they are not out of danger, for theyare still being hunted.

It is necessary for them to continue to push on toCanada. On the way they are overtaken and a struggle ensues between the twoparties in which one hunter, Loker, is shot by George Harris. The rest ofthe pursuers flee and the heroic three proceed to the Canadian shore of LakeErie. Their struggle was tremendous and hard and now they can rest knowingthey are free at last. Now we go back to see what fate came to Uncle Tom, who was also sold but didnot run.

When Haley comes back from the pursuit of Eliza to take Uncle Tom,the master Shelby is overcome with emotions and leaves the plantation inorder to avoid the sadness of goodbye. But the others, including Mrs. Shelby, weep tears of sorrow for what is about to happen. The only two whoseem unaffected are in fact Uncle Tom and Haley. It is qualities like thesein Uncle Tom that lead the critics of the book to view it as a bad novel. Baldwin, the literary critic writes, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a bad novel,having in it self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality much in common withLittle Women.

Sentimentality, the ostentatious parting of excessive andspurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel. . . Tom hasbeen robbed of his humanity and divested of his sex. ” {Leslie A.

Fiedler, TheInadvertent Epic; pg. 15} I however, believe that Stowe was trying to show apicture of a man, who being beaten down by society, was only trying to holdfast in his belief of a mightier law, the law of God. A mile from the house, Haley and Tom meet with young George Shelby, the sonof Uncle Tom’s former master, who has been absent for a few days. After atouching goodbye, George promises to redeem Tom at some future point. Haleyreaches the Mississippi and heads to New Orleans.

Before they arrive, afortunate event happens that will forever alter Tom’s future. Among thepassengers on board the steamer is Mr. St. Clare, a rich planter, and hisdaughter, Eva, and one Mrs.

Ophelia, his cousin. One day the little girlfalls overboard just as the boat is leaving a landing. Tom, who has beenreading the Bible nearby, jumps in immediately and saves the young girl fromdrowning. A friendship between the two develops. It is this friendship thatleads to the purchase of Uncle Tom by Mr.

St. Clare, whose plantation in NewOrleans becomes our hero’s new home. His duties here consist mainly ofkeeping little Eva happy. They played together and often Eva would readstories to Tom.

For two years they enjoyed peaceful, playful days. But soonlittle Eva becomes fatally ill. Day by day, the charming bright little facethat Uncle Tom so enjoyed was vanishing away. Tom spends much time at thedying girl’s bedside.

It is scenes like these in Mrs. Stowe’s novel that leaves the reader full ofemotion. At last the inevitable happens and little Eva slips away. UncleTom is engulfed with grief. This by far was one my favorite parts, writtenso eloquently that one can almost feel the sorrow that overcomes Uncle Tom.

Soon after the death of little Eva, Mr. St. Clare determines to emancipateTom and takes the first steps to do so. But a cruel twist of fate leaves St.

Clare stabbed and dead before his wishes for Tom are carried out. Tom findshimself at the mercy of his master’s widow Marie St. Clare, a ruthless andproud selfish woman. In a greedy and cruel manner, Marie sells Tom. UncleTom now becomes the property of Simon Legree a Red River planter.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is entitled praise for this remarkable character bygiving the world assurance of a devilish villain. Legree carries Uncle Tomin fetters to his plantation. Here Tom endures such cruelty that it seemsalmost impossible to bare. He is beaten daily for the sole reason that hedoesn’t deserve it. And when he does not cry during the beatings, it isconsidered cause to intensify the pain.

He does more than his share of thework and is flogged for it. One day, in a frenzy of rage, Legree scourgesTom beyond the point of human endurance and the hero falls, never to get upagain. While Uncle Tom is dying, young George Shelby comes to redeem hispromise. One can almost feel the emotions that rage out of control in theyoung George Shelby as he sees his long tried Negro servant and friend die. The following scene was the only slightly disappointing scene.

Stowe getsour blood pumping for revenge and we long to see Legree pay for his crimes. Instead, the reader’s only justice is when “with one indignant blow,” heknocks Legree “flat on his face!” The reader expects much more from anauthor who had us on the edge of our seats as we watch Eliza dash across theriver, made our hearts break as we watched little Eva die and our hatred forLegree boil in our blood as we slowly watched him murder our hero. One mustquestion why Stowe would set us up for the anticipation of a justifiablehomicide only to deprive us of it later. Before Tom’s death and when he came to the plantation, he came across awoman named Cassy, another of Legree’s slaves. Her life was a hard one fullof great suffering.

She was a child of a slave woman and a wealthy whiteman. She lived a life of luxury and at the proper age was sent to a conventwhere she learned many things. Her father had died of cholera when she wasjust fourteen and Cassy was listed as part of his property. The lawyer thatcame to settle the property was intrigued by her beauty and in turn Cassyfell in love with him. He bought Cassy and for years she lived the life of afairy tale.

He furnished her with servants, carriages, dresses and muchmore. The two had two lovely children. But the dream soon turned into anightmare. Cassy was sold with her two children to pay off gambling debtsand Simon Legree came in to possession of her. Her children were sent off toa fate unknown to Cassy.

She devised a plan of escape with another servant. It was in connection with their disappearance that Uncle Tom suffered. Cassy, disguised as a Spanish Donna and the other woman as her servant,took Legree’s money and escaped. They reached safety on a Mississippisteamboat. It was on this boat that they came across George Shelby on hisreturn to Kentucky. George, struck by the beauty of Cassy, observes herrather closely.

Cassy becomes a little uneasy and confides in him her story. Mr. Shelby assures her of his protection. Occupying the room next to Cassy is Madame de Thoux. The Madame begins tomake inquiries of Shelby concerning George Harris who we find out is herbrother.

It is during this conversation that Shelby mentions Harris’marriage to Eliza. Now we learn that Eliza is Cassy’s child. We are soonrewarded with a grand family reunion in Montreal where George Harris isliving five to six years after the beginning of the story. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a remarkable book that changed the mind of a nation.

Reading the book was an eye opening experience that portrayed the pains andsufferings of black slaves. Mrs. Stowe should be commended for writing sucha moving novel when it was considered unpopular for a woman to voice herviews and opinions on political matters. I applaud Mrs. Stowe for herintegrity and courage.

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In January 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe received a welcome inspiration fromher brother Henry Ward Beecher who had come for a visit. One particularnight, the two stayed up until the early hours of dawn talking of their plansto fight slavery. It was this night that Stowe confided in her brother thatshe had begun a story that would set forth the sufferings and wrongs ofslaves. Henry encouraged his sister that she had to finish it. It was thefollowing month that a powerful scene for the
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