Title: Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a historically significant fictional work that raised awareness on the tragedy of slavery. Depicting the lives of the multidimensional slaves and slave owners, this rich story brings to life a time period preceding the Civil War (with the novel being credited as spurning some of the seeds leading to war!).
I was captivated by the strong characterizations and the initial plot promised to be an exciting tale. Unfortunately, the novel fell short due to glossed over details, too many characters, and contrived/convenient plot devices. The characters, with distinct voices, were far more interesting and well-fleshed out than the situations they found themselves in. I really enjoyed the way Stowe presented both sides of the slavery debate. By the novel’s end, however, it sadly became propaganda for Stowe’s beliefs. The ending was terribly unrealistic and overly simplistic. In this case, the sum of the parts (so many moving, insightful, and humorous storytelling) is better than the whole.
Powerful characterization. Moving language. While the narratives were captivating in the beginning, the novel soon suffered a plague of characters that simply could not tell all their stories within the short span of 300+ pages. While each character’s plight was distinct, most reached a similar (if not identical) conclusion that was convenient and contrived. For example, I was very drawn into George’s and Eliza’s journey. I stood by their ideals and feared for their lives. Then suddenly, their planning was interrupted with the narratives of many more characters. When we resumed their journey, we found they arrived at safety. Just like that. Despite these shortcomings, Stowe’s work is a true classic and should be taught in schools.
While poised to be a literary classic, the novel does not live up to its fullest potential. However, the degree of clarity and insight in which Stowe presents such a controversial topic of her time is astounding and worth reading.