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Uncle Tom's Cabin- A Book Report
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Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is a novel discussing the then-common issue of slavery in the United States. It has left a huge impact on the slavery system, and even laid the foundation for the American Civil War. Although the widespread slavery that Stowe and her era knew is now a thing of the past, this book can still prove useful, as it also mentions the topics of religion, love, and racism.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a story following two slaves in the US State of Kentucky in the mid-1800’s: Uncle Tom and Eliza. The story begins when Arthur Shelby is forced to sell two of his slaves: the middle-aged Uncle Tom, who has a family, and the son of his wife’s maid, Harry, due to his debts, despite him and his wife’s good relationship with their slaves. When the maid, Eliza, hears this plan to sell her child, she decides to run away in order to save her son from slavery. She warns Uncle Tom of their plan to sell him, and asks him to run away with her. Uncle Tom, however, chooses to stay--him being the good, loyal Christian. Uncle Tom also stayed because he would hate to see his owner unable to pay his debt.
The story is then separated into two lines, one following Eliza’s narrow escapes and brushes with death, her reunion with her husband George (George had also escaped his master due to the abuses he suffered) and their eventual escape to Canada; the second line follows Uncle Tom’s life as a slave in the St. Clare household, as well as his friendship with the daughter of the house, Eva, and is the main storyline of the novel.
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Harriet Beecher used mainly religion in her arguments against slavery. This book mentions very often of the Christian love, and seeks to debunk the belief that the Bible supports the act of slavery. This book appeals to a Christian audience, using their faith in God as a means to awaken their compassion and love for the blacks. An interesting thing I was able to discover, was that the Southern States who fought to retain slavery during the civil war, was also known as the ‘Bible Belt’- a term used to indicate it’s higher than average church attendance. It is so ironic that the states most prominent in religion, are also the ones most prominent in slavery. Slaves were so important to their economy, that they twisted the Word of God in order to convince themselves that slavery was good, and turned a blind eye towards the truth. Harriet Beecher smashed this delusion by using many verses in the Bible, including “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and by pointing out that God loves each and everyone, and has ordered his disciples to do the same.
Another common misconception about the enslaved blacks at the time was that they didn’t share the same feelings of the white man, and they are simply like cattle. Harriet Beecher was able to portray the raw emotions that black people feel perfectly, bringing us into their minds and making us see their perspective. She was able to make people see black slaves as human beings, who are not that different from themselves. She was also able to reveal the abuses slave suffer to the public, some of which I wasn’t even aware of until I read this book.
A concept given in the book that I found most notable is that ‘if you see something wrong but refuse to change it, you are also doing wrong’. Was there not a single person who thought slavery was wrong? Of course not, yet they remained passive. They thought that as long as they treat their slaves right, and go with the flow, that they would be doing the right thing. I used to think like that myself; as long as I don’t do wrong myself, I don’t have to care about what other people do. Through the example of slavery, I realized that by remaining passive, I’m also an accomplice in the crime. If all the people who thought slavery was wrong fought for their belief, then slavery would probably be ended even earlier. Harriet Beecher has inspired me to speak out against injustices, and I hope that she has done the same for you.
Although slavery is no longer an issue, the world is still dealing with the problems of racism. Racism, like slavery, stems from misconceptions, intolerance, a lack of love and compassion, and prejudice. If you are a racist, it simply means that you lack the heart and the brain to accept something you are not familiar with. Why accept, when it is easier to reject? Instead of trying to understand their culture and see from their perspectives, it would be easier to just bash and be hateful towards it. Racism, much like the acceptance of slavery, is also often taught. Prejudices formed at a young age are very hard to change as a person gets older, and thus the hatred passes on. I’ve met many intelligent people who hate a particular race for no apparent reason, and most are sadly the result of hearing their parents’ bashful comments when they were young. If you do have some hatred towards a race, I encourage you to stop labeling them, and see them as human beings instead. Everyone deserves to be loved, and a little love does go a long way.
I haven’t written a summary of the plot because of two reasons. One, I believe you can find 20 summaries on the internet already written, and second, I highly recommend reading the actual story. Most summaries over-simplify the plot as well as the emotions Harriet Beecher tried so desperately to convey. So go ahead and read the book if you haven’t already! I promise you won’t regret it!