Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is an anti-slavery novel that was written in 1850. Its purpose was to reveal and expose the brutality of slavery, which in turn, had a significant impact on many people. It laid the groundwork for the Civil War as it increased tension between abolitionists and slave owners, and affected the nation as a whole when abolitionists hardened their protests and slavery became less and less popular.
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Uncle Tom’s Cabin received much criticism from many other novelists and critics. James Arthur Baldwin, an American novelist and critic wrote an essay titled “Everybody’s Protest Novel” in which he negatively criticized Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He argued that it was “a very bad novel” because it was too sentimental and wasn’t centralized enough on the struggle of slaves. However, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is a great novel that relies on sentimentality to give an insight to the life and treatment of slaves, and to force readers to feel that slavery must be wrong rather than solely thinking it.
Stowe’s incorporation of sentimentality in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, allows the reader to see clearly the brutality with which slaves were treated and how they reacted to this treatment. This cruelty is depicted when Lucy’s child is taken away from her: “… she sprung to the side of the boat, in hopes that,… she might see her husband… the woman returned to her old seat. The trader was sitting there, the child was gone!” (Stowe 146). Mr. Haley quickly took the sleeping child when Lucy wasn’t looking, so that the child wouldn’t make a fuss and Lucy wouldn’t try to stop Haley from selling her son. Words cannot describe the look of horror on Lucy’s face as she processed what had happened, it was almost as though she had been shot directly through the heart. This
Moreover, Harriet Beecher Stowe convinces readers of Uncle Tom’s Cabin that slavery is wrong, by addressing them directly and playing to their emotions. When the slave Eliza runs away from her master and mistress in order to save her son from being sold, Stowe tries to put the reader in her shoes: “If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you… how fast could you walk?”
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