.. er before considered such an ideal. A theme that Stowe impresses strongly upon the reader is the degenerative effects of slavery upon both the slave and the master. Frequently in the novel the issue is raised. Even Mrs.
Shelby recognizes the depravity and admits that slavery, is a bitter, bitter, most accursed thing- a curse to the master and a curse to the slave!(45). The injustices of slavery are frequently identified in the novel but, of course, the practice is continued. Many of those involved in holding slaves are sensitive to the problem. Mr. Shelby, for instance, is not contented by the idea but enjoys the benefits out of what he deems necessity.
The inherent problem of slavery is again stated when John Van Trompe is being described. His worn appearance is attributed to the workings of a system equally bad for oppressor and oppressed,(Stowe 105). The novel also demonstrates the absurdities and contradictions of slavery. For instance, Mr. Shelby’s actions are strongly contradictory to his statements. He believes himself to be a Christian man with a genuine respect for his slaves.
Yet the fact that he holds slaves opposes all that he says and although his treatment of slaves is better than most master’s, he still is not respectful of them. For example, in the first chapter when Shelby and Haley are discussing the ensuing trade, Harry enters the room and Shelby has him dance around like a clown and then tosses raisins at him. Also, Mr. Harris, a slave owner, in defense of his relocating George asserts that, it’s a free country sir; the man’s mine,(Stowe 24). It is also ironic that after George invents a machine to clean hemp the employer congratulates not George, but George’s master for owning such a fine slave. Another example that effectively illustrates the strong contradictions and absurdities of slavery and slave owners is the philosophy of Haley concerning the proper treatment of slaves.
Haley, whose practice is to buy and sell people asserts that, its always best to do the humane thing, (Stowe 16) and that it is good to have a conscience, just a little, you know, to swear by,(Stowe 13). Another topic often addressed in the novel is exclusion of blacks in the law and the injustice of the entire condition. It is noted several times that in the eye of the law, blacks are not considered men, but things. But much to the credit of the slaves it is demonstrated that, the man could not become a thing,(Stowe 23). Even after the constant forcing to subservience the slaves continue to show hope by questioning the legitimacy of the situation.
George identifies the inequality and asks, Who made this man my master?(Stowe 27). And again, later in the novel, George denies the fact that the country’s laws are his. He refuses to include himself as a part of the white man’s country and asks only to be allowed to leave peaceably so that he can be a part of another country; one whose laws he will consider his own and does so in an honest manner. The preposterousness of such practice is clearly identified by the reader and illustrated well by Stowe. Stowe also discerningly demonstrates the disheartening fact that, slavery always ends in misery(Stowe 130). Stowe uses Eva St.
Clare in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin to symbolize the idealism of a free society. Eva believes in everything equal, and her heart aches for slaves to be free and independent. She wants them to be educated and enlightened to the workings of God. Eva’s idealism is so great that she would never have been able to survive happily in nineteenth-century America. While Eva’s dreams are too progressive for the nineteenth century, they subtly influence people in the novel, such as Mr. St.
Clare and Miss Ophelia, to change for the better. In the same way, Stowe aspires for people reading her novel to evaluate their personal view of blacks and hopefully make societal improvements. Eva’s innocence makes her ideas persuasive. Stowe glorifies Eva so that her vision seems even more magnificent. While still retaining all a child’s fanciful graces, [Eva] often dropped, unconsciously, words of such a reach of thought, and strange unworldly wisdom, that they seemed to be an inspiration(Stowe 384).
Although her caretakers pamper and coddle Eva, she never seems spoiled, because her dreams are so pure. She accepts people as they are, imparting no judgement. Eva assimilates everyone equally into her world. Although people recognize the rare attitude of Eva, they do not know how to respond to her ideals. They cannot see why she should involve herself so greatly in the plight of others when she could seemingly have everything.
They do not realize that what Eva desires most, a free and equal society, remains elusive. The childish side of Eva believes that her father can make everything right in the world. She asks him, Papa isn’t there any way to have all the slaves made free?(Stowe 403). Though St. Clare feels powerless to aid both Eva’s torment and the plight of society, her questions deeply affect him, and he begins to evaluate his past deeds.
On a larger scale, Stowe uses Eva’s questioning as a way to inspire people to do their own soul-searching. Although he does not initiate radical change, St. Clare slowly alters his life. Eva’s persistence makes St. Clare finally realize that apathy is an evil equal to active abuse. With this in mind, St. Clare makes movements to emancipate Tom after Eva’s death. In contrast, Eva’s mother, Marie St. Clare, represents the stubborn people of society who refute all change(Donovan 82).
She is the opposition and people such as she enflame the Civil War and make it a bloody battleground. People such as Marie cannot reconcile themselves to the idea that God made everyone equal. When Eva asks her mother whether Topsy could be an angel too, Marie dismisses the question as a ridiculous idea(Stowe 415), saying that worrying about such matters does no good. Despite her mother’s ambivalence, Eva continues to worry. She believes that Jesus loves all alike(Stowe 410), and in another respect, she serves as a Jesus-figure on Earth. On her death-bed Eva plays the role of a savior to the black slaves, just as her ideas, transmitted through the novel, will serve as their savior in the real world.
Eva tells Tom, I would be glad to die, if my dying could stop all the misery. I would die for them(Stowe 401), the slaves. Eva dies for the sins of her parents, and she dies to create a hope in the future. Eva has no regrets for herself in dying(Stowe 400). She has served her purpose in the St.
Clare family by persuading her father to alter his attitude about life and negroes. She serves her purpose in Uncle Tom’s Cabin by enlightening the readers as to the way society should be. Stowe says of Eva’s death, Thine is the victory without the battle,–the crown without conflict(Stowe 429). Stowe realizes that the change of which Eva dreamed could never come so easily, but through Eva, she tries to wage her own battle. Eva serenely fades into death, but her presence and her dreams survive in her father and in the reader of the novel.
It is doubtful if a book was ever written that attained such popularity in so short a time as did Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The thrilling story was eagerly read by rich and poor, by the educated and uneducated, eliciting from one and all heartfelt sympathy for the poor and abused negro of the south,(Donovan 74). It was, indeed, a veritable bombshell to slaveholders, who felt that such a work should be dangerous to the existence of slavery. They had a good cause to fear it too, for its timely appearance was undoubtedly the means of turning the tide of public feeling against the abominable curse of slavery(Donovan 35). Bibliography Works Cited Donovan, Josephine. Uncle Toms Cabin: evil, affliction, and redemptive love.
Boston: Twayne, 1991 Gossett, Thomas F. Uncle Toms Cabin and American Culture. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press. 1985. Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Toms Cabin.
John P. Jewett & Company. Boston, 1852. Wilson, Edmond. Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the Civil War. New York: Oxford UP, 1962. American History.