Uncle’s Tom Cabin
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Slavery in the United States is a dark page of the American colonial history, as well as a significant reminder of the past mistakes, which reverberate through time and still affect the present day reality. Slavery is a sensitive issue for many Americans, as it has impacted racial prejudices and stereotypes that prevail in the contemporary society and separate the nation. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s celebrated novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin has stood the test of time, establishing emotional rapport with the readers through the plausibility and complexity of characters.
Uncle Tom, who is the central character of the novel, is often analyzed in terms of passiveness and submissiveness to slavery. The complexity of this character arises from his religious beliefs that underlie his actions and attitude towards slavery. He is a paragon of Christian virtues, loving his enemies and enduring various trials. He is morally superior to his white slave owners, transcending racial stereotypes. To some readers and critics, Uncle Tom is an embodiment of Jesus Christ, a selfless martyr that has set a high bar of moral integrity, becoming a hero to the readers of the nineteenth century.
Another character worthy of emulation and admiration is Uncle’s Tom wife, Aunt Chloe. She seems like a minor character, yet she has a tremendous impact on other characters in the novel. She represents a faithful and affectionate Christian woman, who finds pleasure in serving others, whether taking care of her children, running a household, cooking for the white masters or packing a parcel for her husband. She jumps at the offer to earn extra money working for a confectioner, and although she works assiduously for years, she will never be reunited with her beloved husband. As soon as she realizes this, Aunt Chloe is devastated, and we can only sympathize with her loss.
The most likable character of the novel is Eliza Harris, a beautiful and brave slave woman, who harmoniously combines traditional puritanical views with feministic aspirations. She is a lovin mother extremely attached to her child and she cannot bear the thought of being separated from her son. She is so to say a black version of Mrs. Shelby, trying to resemble her in all possible ways. Yet, what makes Eliza entirely different is her strength of spirit, as she is ready to risk her life and sacrifice everything in order to protect her child and be free. In my opinion, Liza like Uncle Tom is an ideal character, as she rarely complains about life and always trusts in God, whatever the hardships. Eliza is one of the most memorable characters that has inspired and still inspires millions of people worldwide to follow their dreams.
Some of the minor characters are also worthy of admiration. Sam and Andy, who are slaves on the Shelby farm, help to distract Mr. Haley in order to give Eliza chance to escape. Their deeds show that there is loyalty and commitment among the oppressed community. The two men demonstrate virtues, which characterize them as supporting and sympathetic, the virtues intrinsic to true Christians.
The greater controversy concerns the Shelby family. On the one hand, they are slave owners, who, whether they acknowledge it or not, perpetuate the spread of evil associated with the slavery. Arthur Shelby is one of the good-hearted white masters. As Beecher Stowe vividly demonstrates, there can be a substantial difference between white masters in the degree of their cruelty and kindness, yet as long as they perpetuate slavery, they are equally villainous. On the other hand, the example of George Shelby is very inspiring, as he acts on his principles and resolves to free the slaves that belong to their family. Shelby son is morally superior to his father, who may only argue about the slavery, but is unwilling to do anything to change the established order of things. Every new generation is more courageous and eager to change things for the better.
Mrs. Shelby like her son is a positive character. One can call her a pious woman, who feels that she is entrusted with the souls of her slaves, and, therefore, is sickened by the very thought of separatinng the members of the black people’s families from each other. She is also a smart woman, who can handle the household finances, if only she had such an opportunity, when her husband was alive. The writer wants to debunk the myth that women are less intelligent than men. On the contrary, they can show more prudence at spending money.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is not devoid of less noble and kind characters. One of the antagonists in the story is Mr. Haley, introduced as an unprincipled slave trader, who seeks profit in the first place, giving little or no thought to what his slaves may feel or think. His soul is not completely dark, yet good human virtues are almost invisible behind the “cloud” of greed and selfishness. Haley is involved in business that encourages greater and lesser evils on a daily basis. For him, black people are just a commodity, which can be exchanged, sold or disposed of. From time to time he feels light pangs of remorse for profiting from an immoral business, yet he knows how to lull his conscience.
Abhorrence of slavery is very strong after the encounter with Tom Locker, a cruel tracker who displays no mercy to the slaves. He is hired by Mr. Haley to bring back Eliza and her son Harry, but he has his own plan of sending Harry back to Mr. Haley and selling Eliza into sex slavery. Locker is not a static character propelled and consumed by brutality and inexorability. He is granted a second chance after a terrible wound to reconsider his attitude towards treating the slaves and life in general. As a result of redemption, Tom abandons his cruel ways.
The characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s renowned novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin combine positive and negative traits, which add to their believability and likability. Some of them are more realistic than others, yet all of them represent different Christians’ virtues, values and beliefs. With her characters, the writer wants to remind us to be even more united in times, when America is torn between various prejudices, stereotypes and idealizations of individualism.