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A powerful, important message in a weak novel.

  • Dec 18, 2009
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As a classic, Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" deserves its status as a powerful indictment against the history of black slavery in America. With courage and insight unprecedented in her time, Stowe uses moving family tales of a number of black and white families to pillory the violence and hatred to which blacks were subjected prior to the American Civil War and thrills the reader with convincing philosophical debates that reveal the astonishing hypocrisy and weak-willed rationalizations that the white population used to justify their actions.

But, as a novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is unsatisfying, overly long and poorly edited. Stowe's insistence on writing her dialogue in a faux black English dialect is unconvincing at best and is actually often irritating and distracting as it becomes more and more difficult to decipher what her characters are actually trying to say.

Her insistence on preaching and using Christian church teachings and the bible as the primary basis for criticizing prejudice, racism and slavery frankly grated my sensibilities. There is plenty enough wrong with slavery and its history in America from a purely humanist point of view without resorting to what would be categorized as "bible thumping" today. (That said, I will admit that it may have been an appropriate approach to convince what she saw as her potential audience at the time).

The white characters she uses to support and convey her message of understanding, compassion and her political agenda of abolition are so sugary sweet as to be positively cloying. A scene in which her primary white character, Evangeline St Clare, gathers her family and her family's slaves around her death bed in order to distribute locks of her hair to one and all was so melodramatic and pointless as to approach the level of bizarre.

I would never say to any potential future reader that I enjoyed "Uncle Tom's Cabin". I didn't! In fact, at times, it was even a struggle to finish it. But the message, the history, the overwhelming importance and the power of the arguments conveyed by the story are more than enough reason to read it anyway. If enough people take the message to heart then perhaps the world has a possibility of avoiding repetition of events like the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the rape of Nanking or the slaughter of the Muslims in Bosnia by the Serbs.

Paul Weiss

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Quick Tip by . June 26, 2010
This is one of those book's you moan about having to read it for school but when you read it you love it.
Quick Tip by . December 18, 2009
A powerful indictment against the history of black slavery in America. A weak novel, poorly edited but still worth the reading.
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Paul Weiss ()
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   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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