The book that was once said to have been the cause of the civil war, has become one of the most important historical books in its time and for many reasons rightfully. It brought light to a very controversial topic at that point in time known as slavery. Throughout the book, one can see slavery portrayed as one of the worst things to ever come in touch in humanity. It made people wonder how it was possible to treat other human beings as horribly as they were treated. The conditions that slaves had to live in day in and day out were unbearable, and no matter what they had to live with this, it was their destiny all because of a factor they could not change, the color of their skin. From the very beginning of the book, the reader can see examples of how slaves were treated poorly. The harsh treatment of slaves included, but was not limited to, being forcefully removed from their families, working for little or no pay, being worked to a point past exhaustion, and harsh punishments. In the book, scenarios, where slave owners are kind to their workers, are present but things do change, and one comes to the realization that having a caring owner was something scarce.
When the book first begins, readers were introduced to the main characters, and they were given some background information. The book consists of one central family that has slaves on their land, but these slave owners are not like most, this family is uncommonly kind and treat their slaves with some dignity. Readers then find out about a major problem with Mr. Shelby and are heartbroken along with Mrs. Shelby when the master is forced to sell two of his salves. Mr. Shelby tried his hardest, and we can see this in page 10, to keep the slaves the trader wanted, and this is evident when he says, “I would rather not sell him the fact is sir, I’m a humane man, and I hate to take the boy from his mother sir.” The master had some sympathy that other slaves owners might not have dared to show, for they saw their slaves as nothing but property, and on page 10 Haley says to Mr. Shelby ” this kind o’ trade is hardening to the feelings; but I never found it so,” but by showing the attachment that the master and his wife had to most of their slaves, the reader cannot help but be devastated when the deal is done and signed.
Although the family that owns the slaves that were already introduced in the first few chapters seemed like the ideal family to be bought into, things quickly take a turn for the worse. By writing about a scenario such as this one, Harriet Beecher Stowe made sure to let all the readers know that there is no way slavery could be right. No matter how good the slaves were being treated by their masters, there was nothing that could justify the laws of slavery. Harriet Beecher Stowe made this very clear when she used Mrs. Shelby to express this on page 51, “This is Gods curse on slavery! I was a fool to think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil. It is a sin to hold a slave under laws like ours” It was evident from as early as chapter five that Beecher Stowe did not believe that any part of slavery was right or could ever work out. She knew that something had to be done and whether she meant to or not she caused a revolution by shining such a bright light on an issue affecting the nation as a whole.
As a reader, it is very shocking to see that such a young character such as Eva can make such an impact. By putting in the child and her point of view, the readers perspective is introduced to something not often heard about. Eva had been raised with servants her whole life practically, and her family was wealthy enough to buy some of the best slaves in the market, and she had also been brought up getting anything she wanted, and when she lost something, it was quickly replaced. Regardless of every privilege she had, Eva remained such a humble character, and it was easily seen when she was felt love for all of the servants in her home. “She felt, too, for those fond, faithful servantsthe things she had witnesses of the evils of the system under which they were living had fallen not the depths of her thoughtful, pondering heart. She had vague longings to do something for them, – to bless and save not only them, but all in their condition” (Beecher Stowe, pg. 407). In the same chapter, Miss Eva talks about the inhumane things she saw on the boat. Clearly, the things she saw were horrifying to her as a child that she was willing to die if she could put an end to the suffering the servants everywhere were dealing with. She knows that not every slave owner is as kind as her and treats their people with how her family treats her slaves. She sees that ” other poor creatures have nothing but pain and sorrow, all their lives; -it seems selfish” (Beecher Stowe, pg. 410). It troubles Eva not to know how to end the epidemic she had seen. She longs for a solution to the brutal treatment of the human beings of different skin color.
Lastly, Tom is sold to one more slave owner who is not as kind as two of his previous masters. The new man in possession of Tom did not hesitate to discipline his slaves and saw them as nothing more than a piece of property. The sad reality though, was that most slave owners were not much different than Legree. The majority of slave masters would not hesitate for one second to end the life of a disobedient slave. Legree’s way of handling his people was very atrocious and cold-blooded. However, at that point in history, all of it was acceptable. “Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart. What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear And yet, oh my country! These things are done under the shadow of thy laws!” (Beecher Stowe, pg. 613).
The casualties caused by slavery affected hundreds of families. Slavery created the separation of families, the abuse of women and children; men were overworked with little to no pay and severe punishments. Harriet Beecher Stowe did a fantastic job by creating such a touching storyline. The readers get attached to the characters in the story hoping that they get the freedom they long for. Stowe was able to display the unfortunate events that were part of slavery in such a vivid way, and I believe this was what inspired Americans nationwide to take a stand and defend what was right. People living in the north might have had no idea of the cruel life’s slaves were living but when this book was published the truths became revealed, and this caused outrage and for an excellent cause. After reading this book, a reader feels inspired to make a change for the sakes of the characters in this book which would have given anything to make the United States a free nation.
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