Sei sulla pagina 1di 46

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

American Literature I
 Introduction to Harriet Beecher Stowe
 Before the Civil War and After: History of the
Slaves in the U.S.
 Summary of the Novel
 Themes and Motifs in the Novel
Harriet Beecher Stowe

 Born in 1811 Litchfield, Connecticut.

 Studied at Sarah Pierce’s girls’
academy during her adolescence.
 Began writing short stories and got
married in 1836.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
 1849, the death of Samuel, her baby boy,
and Passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in
1850 had influenced her writing
 Turned to write the culture and history of
New England in her later days due to the
approaching of the Civil War.
 Died in 1886.
Before the Civil War
― History of the Slavery in the United States
 1619 The first slaves were imported to
Jamestown, Virginia from Africa
 The slaves were most useful in the growing
of indigo, rice, and tobacco;
cotton was only a side crop.
Slaves were most economically viable in
plantation-style agriculture.
This poster depicts the
horrific conditions on slave ships was
influential in mobilizing public opinion
against slavery in Great Britain
and the United States.
About the Slave Ship Capacity
 An estimated 15 million Africans were transported to the Americas
between 1540 and 1850. To maximize their profits slave merchants
carried as many slaves as was physically possible on their ships. A
House of Commons committee in 1788 discovered that one slave-ship,
The Brookes, was originally built to to carry 451 people, but carried 600+

 Chained together by their hands and feet, the slaves had little room to
move. It has been estimated that only about ½ of the slaves taken from
Africa became effective workers in America, while a large number of
them died on the journey from diseases such as smallpox and dysentery.
Many of the slaves become crippled for life as a consequence of the
way they were chained up on the ship.

 By the 17th century slaves could be purchased in Africa for about $25.
After the slave-trade was declared illegal, prices went much higher.
Even with a death-rate of 50 per cent, merchants could still make
tremendous profit.
History of Racism in America (2)
 America was a former colonial plantation society,
characterized by immigration, forced or voluntary.
Ex: Slavery and foreign labor & Indians banished to
 European immigrants protected their interests,
forcing exclusion of Blacks Ex: Radicalized
discrimination on the Blacks in the most
disadvantaged sections of the society & the
segregation in 1960s.

Peter, a slave from Baton

Rouge, Louisiana, 1863.
The scars came from the
result of severe whipping
by the overseer, who was
subsequently discharged.
It actaully takes several
months to recover from
the beating.
The Road to the Freedom of Slaves

 1787 The United States

Constitution was adopted
 1793 Eli Whitney invented the
cotton gin
 1808 The United States
Constitution banned the import of
The First Half of the 19th Century

A movement to end slavery called

“abolitionism”, grew in strength
throughout the U.S.

A scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin,

history's most famous abolitionist novel.

(Uncle Tom & Simon Legree)

Brief Time Line of the Civil War

 February 1861
-The South formed a Government.
 February 1861
-The South Seized Federal Forts.
 April 1861
-Attack on Fort Sumter.
 July 1861
-First Battle of Bull Run.
-General McDowell Is Replaced
Brief Time Line of the Civil War
 In January, Lincoln took Action.
 In April, The Battle of Shiloh broke out
 In August, Pope's Campaign.

 January 1863
-Lincoln issued the Emancipation
Proclamation, which freed all slaves in
the Confederate States of America.
Brief Time Line of the Civil War
 March—The First Conscription Act
 June-July—The Gettysburg Campaign.
 November—The Battle of Chattanooga

 May—Grant's Wilderness Campaign.
 July—Confederate Troops Approach Washington,
 In November, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected.
Brief Time Line of the Civil War

 January 1865
-The Fall of the Confederacy
 April 1865
-Surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.
 April 1865
-The Assassination of President Lincoln
After the War

 Although blacks after the Civil War enjoyed

freedoms and privileges that their slave
ancestors could only dream of, they faced
increasing discrimination during the end of the
19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
 Alexix de Tocquevile, a French historian,
predicted that changing the law to abolish
slavery would be easy compared to changing
people’s minds about slavery. Over 30 years
after the Civil Rights Act, there are still problems
that could be traced back to the days of slavery
(Newman and E. Newman Layfield, 77).
History of Racism in America (3)
 In the 1980s, economic fortunes of the
Blacks had gone to extremes, but still
could not be compared with the Whites.
 Blacks accounted for only 4% with assets
of $50,000 or more. While Black income
was roughly 60% of the whites, the
median net worth of black households in
1988 was merely 1/10 of the whites (Small,
Racism in America-- Jobs
 70% of Black men (16+ in work force),
compared with 77% of White men.
 15% of Black men and 30% of the white
worked in professional specialties in the
1980s, while women were 19% and 26%.
 Unemployment: 11.8% for Black men, 4.8
 Black labor grew to 20% in 2000, and the
greatest fear was US economy became 2-tier.
Racism in America– Schools
 Occurrences of segregation, inferior
faculties & limited resources. Ex:
Washington D.C., Detroit and NYC at
the end of 1980s.
 The performance of Blacks, in schools, is
relatively problematic.
Situation in the 1980s

In 1986, 27.5% of black school children, and

30% Hispanic school children enrolled in
25 largest central city school districts.
However, only 3.3% of all whites attended
these schools (Small, 54).
Racism in America– Health Care
 2 studies show that treatment varies with
the race of patients and not the insurance
coverage of the patient. Ex: Dr.
Katherine L. Kahn.
 Or, the Veteran Administration
Dr. Kahn. ‘s Quote

Within each type of hospital, patients who

were black or from poor neighborhoods
got less care (Newman and Eleanor
Newman Layfield, 76).
Dr. Eric Peterson
Dr. Eric Peterson, a cardiologist, helped to
conduct the studies, suggests that evidence
seems to be that the disparity in
treatment points to racism as a factor
when patients have the same health
coverage and socioeconomic
backgrounds (Newman and E. Newman
Layfield, 76).
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Story Summary

Arthur Shelby VS. Emily Shelby

Mr. Haley, slave trader
/ \
Uncle Tom Harry, (Eliza)

Uncle Tom Leaving Home

Eliza’s Escape
(chased by Loker and his gang)
(saved by the Quakers)

& Augustine St. Clare

St. Clare’s cousin, Ophelia,
holds prejudice against blacks.

Eva’s Death

Tom sold by Marie to

 Legree’s Plantation
Simon Legree

Sex Slave: Cassy  Emmeline

Cassy & Emmeline  George Harris’s sister

 Canada  Eliza Cassy  France

 Liberia (American slaves)
George Shelby  Kentucky farm

 Sets all the slaves free in honour of

Tom’s memory
Themes & Motifs
 Geography
 Eliza’s Leap
 The Evil of Slavery
 The Incompatibility of
Slavery & Christian Values
 Christ Figures
 The Supernatural
 Uncle Tom’s Cabin
 The Moral Power of Women
 ․Eliza and George’s flight to freedom—escape
narrative (northward)
– “She had often been [ . . . ] and the Canan of liberty on the
other side” 794-795 (B1677-1678).
․Uncle Tom’s fall—slavery narrative (southward)
– “On the lover part of a small, mean boat, [ . . . ] you’ve got
to be as I say!” (B1735-1736).
 There is a wide gap between freedom and slavery; as
well as its parallelism and contrast in the making of
political points.
Eliza’s Leap

 A symbol of the dramatic moment in

leaving slavery—heading for freedom
– “When horses and vehicles [ . . . ] many a
half mile (794, B 1678).
 It is legally recognized as a division
between the North and South
 Risk and heroism is as well involved
in the slave’s journey to freedom
– “On this presumption, [ . . . ] she found
herself both weary and hungry (795,
The Evil of Slavery

 Fugitive Slave Act 1850

 It shows the contrast of the
disadvantage of slavery even in
best situation
– Eg. The slaves at St. Clare’s
 “Catch me ever buying one of St.
Clare’s people! Spoilt niggers [ . . . ]”
– Eg. The slaves at Shelby’s
 “It is impossible [ . . . ] as she went
rapidly forward (793-794, B 1676-
The Incompatibility of
Slavery & Christian Values

 “The system of slavery” and “the moral code of

Christianity” oppose each other
 Christianity rests on the principle of
universal love, as shown in the example of Uncle
Tom “love thine enemy.”
– “Something within the silent black man answered, “No!
and, as if repeated by an invisible voice, came the words
of an old prophetic scroll, as Eva had often read them to
him—”Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called
thee by name. Thou art MINE!” (B1736)
The Moral Power of Women

 Early feminism
 Strength of the one oppressed
group in helping to lessen the
oppression of the other
– “But stronger than all was maternal
love [ . . .] and string the sines like steel,
so that the weak become so mighty”
(793-794 B1677).
 The traits of the idealized
womanhood include strong, brave
and capable
Christ Figures
 Sacrificial death linked to Christ’s
– Eg. Eva’s death
– Tom’s death
 The narrator depicts Tom as someone
carrying his cross behind Jesus.
 Tom’s death leads to Emmeline and
Cassy’s escape and the freedom of all
slaves on the Shelby farm. Eva’s leads to St.
Clare’s deathbed conversion and Ophelia’s
recognition of her own prejudice towards
the Blacks.
The Supernatural

A higher order  oppose slavery

– “Sublime is the dominion of the mind
of the body [ . . . ] becomes so mighty”
(794 B1677).
 Resist/fight against slavery
 Disturbs the practices of slavery
Uncle Tom’s Cabin

 Suggest the reader to lead a Christian life

like Uncle Tom’s
 Persistent reminder of the sufferings Tom
experienced as a slave
 The cabin becomes a metaphor for Uncle
Tom’s willingness to suffer and sacrifice
rather than harming or betraying against
Christian values or his fellow slaves.
 Destructive power of slavery and Christian
The Meaning of “Uncle Tom”

 Itsterm is often used to humiliate those

who humiliatingly subordinate to the
 Raises related issues of racism in the U.S.
 The term is also used to refer to an
inspiring feminist
 Reveals the idea of personal tragedies
caused by the system of slavery
Purpose of the Novel

 Stowe’s purpose in writing this novel is

to inspire a strong emotional reaction of
righteous anger  the ending of slavery

 The novel of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

emphasizes the importance of Christian
love in eliminating oppression.

 Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin

 History overview
 Uncle Tom’s Cabin
 Stowe
 Civil War


 Slave Ships
 Small, Stephen. Racialised Barriers. London: Routledge,
 Newman, Gerald and Eleanor Newman Layfield. Racism:
Divided by Color. Springfield: Enslow Publishers Inc, 1995.
 Summary of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.