Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

To learn why it is so influential during this time, read Stowe's novel. Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century, and arguably played a major role in fueling antislavery commitments in the North. Drawing on sentimental tropes and the emotional fervor of nineteenth-century American Protestantism, it combines its antislavery arguments with idealized portraits of motherhood and stereotypes of African-Americans. While it is often lauded for its abolitionist agenda, the stereotypical portrayals of gender and race have cultivated sharp criticism. Ask yourself these questions as you read:

  • How does the author portray differences between women and men?
  • How is power distributed between genders in this book?
  • What role does fate or chance play in the circumstances of the book?
  • How does Stowe answer the question of slavery?
  • Do you see a link between religion and slavery in this text?
  • Can a text be antislavery if its representations of African-Americans are stereotypical?