Part of my journey of 52 books this year is to read some of the great classics I should have read while in high school. With that in mind, I decided to read perhaps the most influential American novel ever written – Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Published in 1852, the book became the #1 selling novel of the 19th century. This anti-slavery novel,”helped lay the groundwork for the civil war”, according to Will Kaufman. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, along with Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, demonstrate the power of fiction in the shaping of a collective consciousness and social change.
The novel follows the the life of the slave named ‘Uncle Tom’ as well as the characters and slave masters surrounding his life. Stowe did an excellent job of painting a picture of the plight of slavery in the 1850’s. She draws the reader into the horrors of having human beings, created in God’s image, being treated as property to be used and abused however the slave master sees fit. She also does a good job showing the complexities of slavery for both the north and the south.
One of the most powerful aspects of Stowe’s writing is the way she portrayed the faith and the gospel in light of slavery. She showed how southern preachers and slave owners would twist the Scriptures to make them fit their agenda. She also showed, particularly through the Christian character of Uncle Tom what it looks like to see Jesus as the treasure and savior that He is, in spite of the struggle and persecutions of this life. I was very moved by the faith of Uncle Tom and his perseverance in the face of his cruel slave master.
Though a novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is more than a story. It is a tour de force argument for the abolition of slavery. Though the characters are fictional, the realities and even specific stories are not. At the end of the book Stowe shows how each story and each character found their way into the book via real life examples.
Anyone who would claim even a rudimentary knowledge of American history should be well versed in this book.
*You can read Uncle Tom’s Cabin for free via the kindle download (As I did)