The Effect of Slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin
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This essay will establish the effect of slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. During the 1850s, slavery was widespread in the United States. During the abolitionists’ fight against slavery, the usage of anti-slavery writings was particularly extensive. Abolitionists spread their message though newspapers, pamphlets, books, published sermons, poetry and the other forms of literature. Among the most famous abolitionists’ writings were David Walker’s Appeal and Frederick Douglass’ The North Star. Also, there were slave narratives which were composed of personal accounts of people suffering from slavery. These slavery narratives gave the Northerners a closer look at slavery. This triggered an undisputable counter to idyllic pictures describing slavery and pro-slavery arguments (Slave Narratives 35).
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a novel that was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. She passed an anti-slavery message through her novel. Although slave narratives were immensely popular, she was able to reach the largest audience. Her novel was easily accessible to many people. Although she was not an active abolitionist, she had solid anti-slavery feelings. Having grown up in an abolitionist home, she had experienced the pain felt by the victims of slavery. She had also spent valuable time visiting slave victims in Kentucky.
In 1850, she decided to make a strong statement against slavery. As a freelance journalist, Stowe had earned some skills in writing informative materials. Hence, in June 1885, she began publishing Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a serialised form. She got an amazing response from people who were lucky enough to see her work. They pressured her to release the anti-slavery document in a book form. Although it was a risky business selling novels those days, Stowe sold over 5000 copies of her book. It was later translated into different languages.
The book relates to anti-slavery message really well. The character Tom is an African American who chooses to retain his integrity instead of betraying his fellow slaves (Reynolds 21). He was a hero to the whites as he was able to uphold his Christian principles even when faced with such brutality. This was in contrast to the Northerner slave-dealer, Simon Legree who enraged the whites with his level of cruelty. Through her novel, Stowe was able to convince readers that slavery was evil, because it braced cruel people such as Legree and confined innocent people like Uncle Tom. She was able to rally thousands of people to the anti-slavery cause because of her informative work.
Northerners recognized Stowe’s work, but it was protested by Southerners. The southerners were extremely outraged and declared her novel malicious, falsely and criminal. Subsequently, a bookseller in Alabama was chased away from town because of selling copies of Stowe’s work. To add salt to injury, she received intimidating letters from the irate Southerners. Also, the southerners wrote their own novels which depicted that the slaves were living a happy life as compared to the miserable lives of Northern white workers.
The Effects of Slavery
Throughout the novel, slavery is portrayed as hurtful to the slaves (Stowe et al. 32). Stowe ensured that the novel had a wrenching passionate effect upon the readers. Some of the examples in the novel showing the pain gotten from slavery include Tom’s broken-hearted farewell to his family, the cruel thrashings endured by Prue, Tom and George, and George being forced by Harris to kill his own dog. All these incidences pass the message that slavery indeed creates pain to the victims.
Stowe manages to clearly show the role of slavery in the creation of moral injury. For example, the morality of black Sam is compromised by his need to endorse himself as a darling to his master. Stowe evidently shows that whatever happens to slaves damages their moral and spiritual soundness. Although Tom tries to help Lucy on the steamboat, she fruitfully commits suicide. Old Prue dies in despair after articulating her frustration to Tom, telling him how she would rather go to hell rather than heaven where she would meet her tormentors, the white people. Also, another slave by the name Cassy is in dejection. Already she has tried murder and wants to kill Legree. A good number of slaves who have been exploited sexually or sold into sexual slavery are in severe moral danger (Reynolds 26).
Slavery does not primarily affect only slaves. For example, Marie St. Clare, a slave owner, suffers from narcissism as a result of the institution of slavery. She has been raised from childhood believing that she is a superior kind of human being. Her melancholy and sadism is a natural result of her condition. In the novel, Marie is quoted telling herself “if these people are not real as I am real, then I may hurt them without guilt”. However, she knows well that the slaves are real and not visionary elements. This self-contradiction is the source of her imaginary pain.
Despite St. Clare being among the novel’s leading spokesmen against slavery, she had been morally injured by slavery. He finds it easier to accept slavery than fight it. As a result, he discards spirituality for both himself and his slaves.
On the other side, slavery has changed other people to be cold-hearted and merciless. For example, Legree is portrayed as the personification of slavery. It has encouraged and permitted him to become truly evil and inhumane. Also, a 12-year-old Henrique, presented to be a potential kid, is turning out to be as worthless to himself as the other people like Marie.
Slavery tries to turn people into objects that have no feelings to the other human beings. As a result of being emotionally affected, Cassy despairs and wants to kill Legree. Although Legree has been inhuman to slaves, it would not be good to revenge by killing him as this will complicate the scenario. Also, George shows no mercy to the dog and kills it after being instructed to do so by Harris. Evidently, slavery had robbed George of his humane feelings, and he no longer felt sympathy to anyone else.
Stowe was able to clearly explain the deplorable living conditions of slaves. For example, Legree wanted his slaves to sleep in an insecure place where they could be attacked by anything or anyone. Slavery allowed masters such as Simon Legree to harass their clients and offer them inhumane conditions of living. Although Legree was rich and slept in a comfortable place, he did not care how or where his slaves slept. It was essentially none of his business. The only thing that concerned him was whether slaves performed their tough tasks or not.
Nonetheless, Stowe was able to show that Christian humility can stand even in the presence of slavery. Uncle Tom saves his fellow slaves by defying the white authority. This was a sign of Christian humility. Tom is willing to forgive even in the face of cruelty he has suffered on the hands of his masters. He forgives and learns to love Simon Legree.
Also, slavery seemed to be overpowered by Christianity. For example, Tom is the only person who loves Legree. Tom believes that Christian love is stronger and believes that Christian dictates someone to love the sinner but abhor the sin. Through the guidance of Christ’s love, he distinguishes between the institution of slavery and the personal identity of Legree. Tom is able to forgive someone who represents evil and loves him. This personal triumph of Tom over Legree showed that Christianity is more powerful than slavery.
The Impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the Modern Slavery
Stowe provided a platform for modern readers to be aware of the effect of slavery on both the slaves and their masters. She has been able to depict the physical and emotional harm brought about by slavery (Stowe 15). According to Stowe, the impact of slavery was among its dominant evils. Hence, to object slavery was not the moral responsibility of slaves but of masters. Nevertheless, they were not able to make critical decisions concerning slavery when it mattered most. This made it hard for slaves to make their own personal choices as they were inhibited by their own selfish masters who treated them not like human beings.
Through the novel, the author advocated for respect of spiritual and moral matters. She argued that slavery contributed to disrespect for the spirituality of victims and immoral standings by them. Slavery made the slaves question the spirituality of their masters and wonder if they were actually human beings. The amount of harassment and cruelty showed to the slaves by their masters did not go well with them. They started even questioning their personal beliefs as displayed by Tom. At one time, he asks himself if Christ’s love is discriminatory or not. Nonetheless, he does not lose his spiritual standing and forgives Legree for his inhuman actions towards the salves.
In conclusion, I have been able to realise the effects of slavery through Stowe’s novel. She has clearly demonstrated the impact of slavery on both the masters and slaves. Hence, it is evident that slavery should be fought against at all cost.
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