Well this book by Harriet Beecher Stowe really needs no introduction: it is definitely one of the most (if not the most) influential books to carry the abolitionist message published before America formally abrogated its laws allowing slavery and slave trades. To this day, the book stands as a monument to the cause and calls for democracy and equality.
At the time Harriet wrote this book slavery was practiced widely especially in the South, where farmlands, cotton fields etc needed slave hands to work in order to make life easier for their White masters. It would therefore take nothing less than courage and conviction to pen such an anti-slavery book at that time – the mid 19th Century. Harriet was a lady with strong religious views and her belief in the Christian tenet that God created all human beings to be equal encouraged her to write such a book, based on what she observed and other indirect sources. As expected, when the book was published, there was a huge outcry of protests from slave-owners and encomiums from the abolitionist camp.
The central character of the novel is of course, Uncle Tom, a slave who was sold from one White master to another. He went through changes of fortunes, from temporary reprieve ( partial or almost complete freedom ) from slavery to heading a gang of slave plantation workers while still being treated as a slave by the chief villain, Simon Legree.
Harriet succeeded admirably in describing the characters – Uncle Tom, Eva ( a white girl who was saved by Uncle Tom), Topsy ( a typical slave-girl of the time ), the Shelby family and of course Simon Legree, the evil ‘slave-driver’ who constantly harassed Tom. His intention was to put it to the slaves that they were less than human and hence could not receive salvation, even from a Christian God. The book’s main theme is to put right this religious misconception.
It would be an understatement to say that this book is no more relevant in today’s world – a world in which democracy, freedom of expression and equality are the socio-political norms. There are still various forms of veiled inequality, racial discrimination and suppression of dissent. In fact, there are still countries and regions in the world where some form of slavery is still practiced, albeit covertly. The conclusion is that the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin serves as a timely reminder to us all that humanity should still strive to work towards actual equality regardless of color and creed.
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