Movements | Timeline
Harriet Beecher Stowe 1811-1896
: Lecture Notes on Uncle Tom's Cabin
Stowe wrote for magazines; she created Yankee
character "Uncle Lot" and wrote Sam Lawson's Fireside Stories in
1872. Her The Pearl of Orr's Island (1862) was a huge influence
on Sarah Orne Jewett.
Stowe's father was a renowned clergyman; Henry
Ward and Edward were celebrated preachers; Catharine pioneered in women's
II. Uncle Tom's Cabin
Her attitude toward African Americans can best
be characterized as "romantic racialism"--a blend of philanthropic and
paternalistic attitudes towards blacks that implies white moral superiority.
Stowe had read the stories of Maria Edgeworth,
which had much use of dialect: Castle Rackrent, tales of oppressed
Stowe also drew on narratives of escaped slaves
"When the novel was put on stage, a hush fell
on the audience at the National Theatre in New York as Eliza escaped from
her pursuers and reached the northern side of the river. An observer who
turned to look was astonished to see that the entire audience, from the
gentlemen and ladies in the balconies to the rough-shirted men in the galleries,
was in tears."
Published March 20, 1852, the novel sold 10,000
copies in the first week and 300,000 by the end of the first year.
Within 2 years had sold 2,000,000 copies
The July 10, 1851 edition of National Era
carried the memorable episode of UTC: Eliza crossing the Ohio river.
"Crossing the river" a common metaphor for both
death and deliverance; crossing the River Jordan, a metaphor for deliverance
According to Joan Hedrick, Stowe's biographer,
Eliza's miraculous crossing of the river was part and parcel of the miracle
of crossing from this world to the next. Through this story Harriet accomplished
the grief work of carrying Charley (her much-beloved "golden child" who
died as a toddler) tenderly and lovingly to that short where his sufferings
Other antislavery novels had preceded this, including
The Slave, or the Memoirs of Archy Moore 1836
In the first 3 years after the publication of
UTC in 1851, 14 proslavery novels were written to contradict her.
Brief Summary: Innovation and Tradition in
Uncle Tom's Cabin
The documents that she and her brothers assembled
ultimately published as A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin 1853
1. The freedom narrative is primarily a male
story. The bondage narrative was preeminently a female plot. Stowe reversed
these, leaving UT as the (female) slave to die in bondage; to do this she
departed from her literary models.
2. The novel blends realism, high purpose,
3. Eric Sundquist argues that uniting the
secular and religious realms is what made Stowe's novel so radical.
4. Stowe offers the Protestant equivalent
of Roman Catholic mass, with Uncle Tom as the Christ figure offering himself
up for sacrifice.
5. Jane Tompkins comments that UTC offers
a classic example of the jeremiad in George's later speech.
to D. Campbell.