bup's Reviews > Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
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's review
Apr 04, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 2008, 1001, librivox, audiobook, novel, oh-so-subtle
Recommended for: all Americans

This is a very subtle novel. On the one hand, it speaks of the psychological torture of...

I'm just kidding. This thing is about as subtle as a brick slammed in your face by Chuck Norris, as that scene would be described in one of those "Left Behind" novels, and while you're reading the words are turning into flames. Also the words are screaming themselves out in Nathan Lane's voice.

Still, it turns out to be an interesting book, after the first few chapters of slave traders being monsters and explicitly talking about slaves as not capable of human feeling and an evil slave owner kills a slave's dog. No, really, he does kill a dog, and, really, the book turns out to be interesting.

Uncle Tom (the character, not the novel) has gotten a bad rap for being too easy on Whitey, and too submissive, but the Christ analogy is intentional, explicit, and you can't very well have your Christ figure striking Whitey down. Uncle Tom is much more respectable and noble than his stereotype has become.

Also, there are other surprisingly interesting characters (I was expecting all good slaves, all bad slave owners, and all good northerners).
To wit:

Augustine St. Clare: a well-intentioned slave owner who can't figure out how to fix the problem of slavery but doesn't respect the institution.

Augustine's daughter Eva: a miraculously not-prejudiced, angelic kid.

Augustine's cousin Ophelia: a New Englander against slavery, but who, when Augustine forces to confront her overly-simplistic views, discovers her own dislike of blacks, and her own refusal of responsibility in fixing the problem. I guess the modern equivalent would be people who want to outlaw abortion and think that would make abortion go away, and who wouldn't be willing to support unwanted children.

Augustine's wife Marie: pretty much a monster, but wow it's - um, fun? - to watch her twist every situation into one where she's the victim, and the slaves don't know how good they've got it. Honestly, if you can be detached, it's a fun character. Like Cruella de Vil is a fun character.

Other characters have very little nuance, but make for a rocking good plot. Stowe claims in the final chapter that every character is based on real people-types she has seen, and I believe her.

The reason it's called "Uncle Tom's Cabin," when all of one half of one chapter occurs there, is ham-handed, and explained in the penultimate chapter, and who cares? By that time you're enjoying the melodrama of it all too much to care about forced symbolism.

Get yourself in the right mood, and you'll really enjoy this book, and also believe this little lady REALLY MIGHT HAVE been the one to start all that trouble.
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