Harriet Beecher Stowe’s
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Cecilia H. C. Liu
American Literature I
 Introduction to
Harriet Beecher Stowe
 Before the Civil War and After: History of the
Slaves in the U.S.
 Summary of the Novel
 Themes and Motifs in the Novel
Harriet Beecher Stowe
 Born
in 1811 Litchfield, Connecticut.
 Studied at Sarah Pierce’s girls’
academy during her adolescence.
 Began writing short stories and got
married in 1836.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
1849, the death of Samuel, her baby boy,
and Passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in
1850 had influenced her writing
 Turned to write the culture and history of
New England in her later days due to the
approaching of the Civil War.
 Passed away in 1886.
Before the Civil War
― History of the Slavery in the United States
1619 The first slaves were imported to
Jamestown, Virginia from Africa
 The slaves were most useful in the growing
of indigo, rice, and tobacco;
cotton was only a side crop.
Slaves were most economically viable in
plantation-style agriculture.
This poster depicts the
horrific conditions on slave ships was
influential in mobilizing public opinion
against slavery in Great Britain
and the United States.
About the Slave Ship Capacity
An estimated 15 million Africans were transported to the Americas
between 1540 and 1850. To maximize their profits slave merchants
carried as many slaves as was physically possible on their ships. A
House of Commons committee in 1788 discovered that one slave-ship,
The Brookes, was originally built to to carry 451 people, but carried 600+
Chained together by their hands and feet, the slaves had little room to
move. It has been estimated that only about ½ of the slaves taken from
Africa became effective workers in America, while a large number of
them died on the journey from diseases such as smallpox and dysentery.
Many of the slaves become crippled for life as a consequence of the
way they were chained up on the ship.
By the 17th century slaves could be purchased in Africa for about $25.
After the slave-trade was declared illegal, prices went much higher.
Even with a death-rate of 50 per cent, merchants could still make
tremendous profit.
History of Racism in America (2)
America was a former colonial plantation society,
characterized by immigration, forced or voluntary.
Ex: Slavery and foreign labor & Indians banished to
European immigrants protected their interests,
forcing exclusion of Blacks Ex: Radicalized
discrimination on the Blacks in the most
disadvantaged sections of the society & the
segregation in 1960s.
Peter, a slave from Baton
Rouge, Louisiana, 1863.
The scars came from the
result of severe whipping
by the overseer, who was
subsequently discharged.
It actaully takes several
months to recover from
the beating.
The Road to the Freedom of Slaves
 1787
The United States
Constitution was adopted
 1793 Eli Whitney invented the
cotton gin
 1808 The United States
Constitution banned the import of
The First Half of the 19th Century
movement to end slavery called
“abolitionism”, grew in strength
throughout the U.S.
A scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin,
history's most famous abolitionist novel.
(Uncle Tom & Simon Legree)
The Road to the Freedom of Slaves
 1821
 1854
Missouri Compromise
Kansas-Nebraska Act, which
led to the opening of the battale
between Kansas and Nebraska—
often referred as "Bleeding Kansas".
The Election of Abraham Lincoln
Many in the South also wanted to see the
end of slavery, but in a more measured
 The combination of these factors
 Led the South to secede from the
 Those remaining states refused to allow
southern states to leave
 The American Civil War began
Brief Time Line of the Civil War
February 1861
-The South formed a Government.
 February 1861
-The South Seized Federal Forts.
 April 1861
-Attack on Fort Sumter.
 July 1861
-First Battle of Bull Run.
-General McDowell Is Replaced
Brief Time Line of the Civil War
In January, Lincoln took Action.
In April, The Battle of Shiloh broke out
In August, Pope's Campaign.
January 1863
-Lincoln issued the Emancipation
Proclamation, which freed all slaves in
the Confederate States of America.
Brief Time Line of the Civil War
March—The First Conscription Act
 June-July—The Gettysburg Campaign.
 November—The Battle of Chattanooga
May—Grant's Wilderness Campaign.
 July—Confederate Troops Approach Washington,
 In November, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected.
Brief Time Line of the Civil War
January 1865
-The Fall of the Confederacy
 April 1865
-Surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.
April 1865
-The Assassination of President Lincoln
After the War
Although blacks after the Civil War enjoyed
freedoms and privileges that their slave
ancestors could only dream of, they faced
increasing discrimination during the end of the
19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
 Alexix de Tocquevile, a French historian,
predicted that changing the law to abolish
slavery would be easy compared to changing
people’s minds about slavery. Over 30 years
after the Civil Rights Act, there are still problems
that could be traced back to the days of slavery
(Newman and E. Newman Layfield, 77).
History of Racism in America (3)
In the 1980s, economic fortunes of the
Blacks have gone to extremes, but still
can’t be compared with the Whites.
 Blacks account for only 4% with assets of
$50,000 or more. While Black income is
roughly 60% of the whites, the median net
worth of black households in 1988 was
merely 1/10 of the whites (Small, 40-50).
Racism in America-- Jobs
70% of Black men (16+ in work force),
compared with 77% of White men.
15% of Black men and 30% of the white
worked in professional specialties in the
1980s, while women was 19% and 26%.
Unemployment: 11.8% for Black men, 4.8
Black labor grow to 20% in 2000, and the
greatest fear is US economy become 2-tier.
Racism in America– Schools
Occurrences of segregation, inferior
faculties & limited resources. Ex:
Washington D.C., Detroit and NYC at
the end of 1980s.
 The performance of Blacks, in schools, is
relatively problematic.
Situation in the 1980s
In 1986, 27.5% of black school children, and
30% Hispanic school children enrolled in
25 largest central city school districts.
However, only 3.3% of all whites attend
these schools (Small, 54).
Racism in America– Health Care
2 studies show that treatment vary with the
race of patients and not the insurance
coverage of the patient. Ex: Dr.
Katherine L. Kahn.
 Or, the Veteran Administration
Dr. Kahn. ‘s Quote
Within each type of hospital, patients who
were black or from poor neighborhoods
got less care (Newman and Eleanor
Newman Layfield, 76).
Dr. Eric Peterson
Dr. Eric Peterson, a cardiologist, helped to
conduct the studies, suggest that evidence
seems to be that the disparity in
treatment points to racism as a factor
when patients have the same health
coverage and socioeconomic
backgrounds (Newman and E. Newman
Layfield, 76).
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Story Summary
Arthur Shelby VS. Emily Shelby
Mr. Haley, slave trader
Uncle Tom
Harry, (Eliza)
Uncle Tom Leaving Home
Eliza’s Escape
(chased by Loker and his gang)
(saved by the Quakers)
& Augustine St. Clare
St. Clare’s cousin, Ophelia,
holds prejudice against blacks.
Eva’s Death
Tom sold by Marie to
 Legree’s Plantation
Simon Legree
Sex Slave: Cassy  Emmeline
Cassy & Emmeline  George Harris’s sister
 Canada  Eliza
Cassy  France
 Liberia (American slaves)
George Shelby  Kentucky farm
Sets all the slaves free in honour of
Tom’s memory..
Themes & Motifs
Eliza’s Leap
The Evil of Slavery
The Incompatibility of
Slavery & Christian Values
Christ Figures
The Supernatural
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The Moral Power of Women
․Eliza and George’s flight to freedom—escape
narrative (northward)
– “She had often been [ . . . ] and the Canan of liberty on the
other side” 794-795 (B1677-1678).
․Uncle Tom’s fall—slavery narrative (southward)
– “On the lover part of a small, mean boat, [ . . . ] you’ve got
to be as I say!” B1735-1736.
There is a wide gap between freedom and slavery; as
well as its parallelism and contrast in the making of
political points.
Eliza’s Leap
A symbol of the dramatic moment in
leaving slavery—heading for freedom
– “When horses and vehicles [ . . . ] many a
half mile (794, B1678).
It is legally recognized as a division
between the North and South
Risk and heroism is as well involved
in the slave’s journey to freedom
– “On this presumption, [ . . . ] she found
herself both weary and hungry (795
The Evil of Slavery
Fugitive Slave Act 1850
 It shows the contrast of the
disadvantage of slavery even in
best situation
– Eg. The slaves at St. Clare’s
 “Catch me ever buying one of St.
Clare’s people! Spoilt niggers [ . . . ]”
– Eg. The slaves at Shelby’s
 “It is impossible [ . . . ] as she went
rapidly forward (793-794 B 1676-1677).
The Incompatibility of
Slavery & Christian Values
“The system of slavery” and “the moral code of
Christianity” oppose each other
 Christianity rests on the principle of
universal love, as shown in the example of Uncle
Tom “love thine enemy.”
– “Something within the silent black man answered, “No!
and, as if repeated by an invisible voice, came the words
of an old prophetic scroll, as Eva had often read them to
him—”Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called
thee by name. Thou art MINE!” (B1736)
The Moral Power of Women
Early feminism
Strength of the one oppressed
group in helping to lessen the
oppression of the other
– “But stronger than all was maternal
love [ . . .] and string the sines like steel,
so that the weak become so mighty”
(793-794 B1677).
The traits of the idealized
womanhood include strong, brave
and capable
Christ Figures
Sacrificial death linked to Christ’s
– Eg. Eva’s death
– Tom’s death
The narrator depicts Tom as someone
carrying his cross behind Jesus.
Tom’s death leads to Emmeline and
Cassy’s escape and the freedom of all
slaves on the Shelby farm. Eva’s leads to St.
Clare’s deathbed conversion and Ophelia’s
recognition of her own prejudice towards
the Blacks.
The Supernatural
higher order  oppose slavery
– “Sublime is the dominion of the mind
of the body [ . . . ] becomes so mighty”
(794 B1677).
 Resist
/fight against slavery
 Disturbs the practices of slavery
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Suggest the audience to lead a Christian
life like Uncle Tom’s
 Persistent reminder of the sufferings
Tom experienced as a slave
 The cabin becomes a metaphor for Uncle
Tom’s willingness to suffer and sacrifice
rather than harming or betraying against
Christian values or his fellow slaves.
 Destructive power of slavery and
Christian love
The Meaning of “Uncle Tom”
 Its
term is often used to huiliate those who
humiliatingly subordinates to the Whites
 Raises related issues of racism in the U.S.
 The term is also used to refer to an
inspiring feminist
 Reveals the idea of personal tragedies
caused by the system of slavery
Purpose of the Novel
Stowe’s purpose in writing this novel is
to inspire a strong emotional reaction of
righteous anger  the ending of slavery
The novel of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
emphasizes the importance of Christian
love in eliminating oppression.
Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin
 History overview
 Uncle Tom’s Cabin
 Stowe
 Civil War
Slave Ships
Small, Stephen. Racialised Barriers. London: Routledge,
Newman, Gerald and Eleanor Newman Layfield. Racism:
Divided by Color. Springfield: Enslow Publishers Inc, 1995.
Summary of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.