This book literally is an artifact of American literary history. A provocative piece of work, it depicts slavery in pre-Civil war America. The novel opens with the Shelby family selling off some of their slaves as they are debt-ridden. Uncle Tom is a middle-aged slave owned by the family who is sold off along with another slave, Eliza. The book then largely follows Tom, who is first sold to the St. Clare family and later to a vicious plantation owner, Simon Legree. Living with the St. Clares, Tom befriends Eva St. Clare, and they bond over their deep love of the Christian faith. But when Tom is sold again after St. Clare’s death, his new owner treats him cruelly. Eventually Tom is beaten to death, but even while dying, he finds the courage and love in his heart to forgive his murderers.
Published in 1852, the novel is set in America before the Civil War. The instant popularity that the novel achieved is said to have made it an “anti-slavery tool.” The novel depicts how slavery was widespread in the Southern states of the United States of America, while it was largely abolished in the Northern States. Stowe writers evocatively about the plight of slaves. They were mistreated by cruel and often violent masters; they were sold off and bought like property. It was almost as if they were not even considered humans. And while slavery is an ugly chapter in American history that most of us would like to turn our face away from, Stowe brings it out in the open, laying bare the atrocities that one had to endure as a black slave in pre-Civil War America.
Sentimental novels were extremely popular during the 19th century, and it is in this style that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is written. Stowe’s style is sentimental and almost melodramatic, aimed at eliciting strong feelings from her readers. Even though the book deals with a very wide and important issue such as slavery, Stowe has done this in a style which is gripping through its ability to arouse strong emotions in us. We relate with every little joy and sorrow of the characters, such is the power of the book.
Everyone should read this book, read it for the fact that at the time it was published, it became the second most widely read book after the Holy Bible. One might find the writing style cumbersome, but there is much that commends the book. It is a piece of literature like none other. It is beautifully written and some parts of it will pull at your heartstrings and bring tears to your eyes.
Book Reviewed by Prerna Gupta
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