K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
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's review
Aug 01, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: classics, 1001-core, race, apartheid, crime, drama, feminist, historical-fiction, saddest
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)

I decided to pick this 1852 book up because this was said to be the inspiration of our national hero, José Rizal (1861-1896) for writing his masterpiece novel, Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) (published in 1887). I thought I would like to compare this with Noli to see how original or unoriginal Rizal was.

My verdict: Noli and Uncle Tom's Cabin are totally different from each other except for one thing and that is the lowly's fight for freedom from slavery. Lowly in Noli are the indios or native Filipinos. Lowly in Uncle Tom's Cabin are the black African slaves.

The story is about Uncle Tom who is a principled and dutiful slave, a husband to Aunt Chloe. At the start of the story, his cabin, when he was still with the Shelby's, was where the black slaves gathered to pray and sing songs of praise to the Good Lord. Some say that this book is just a big glorified religious propaganda and the characters are nothing but caricatures. I do not agree to both of these. Maybe because I just read Noli and I was able to relate the sufferings of the illiterate Filipinos with the black pre-Civil War slaves as they only have God to cling unto in their desperation to have freedom.

Many of the characters cannot be caricatures because they practically leaped out from the pages to my brain while reading. Some of them transformed in the course of the novel particularly Ophelia who is an abolitionist but secretly despises the blacks. I think most of us can relate to her character because it is sometimes easy to say that we condone discrimination but deep inside we harbor prejudices against a certain race, religion, gender, age and even sexual preference. It is only when Ophelia is asked by St. Claire to take care of Topsy that Ophelia develops a caring attitude towards blacks. With her character, Stowe made us all realize that sometimes, unknowingly, we harbor some bias against some people and it is only when we reach out to them that we get to have a good appreciation of who they are.

The book is surprisingly quite easy to read. There are many poignant scenes but the ones that got permanently etched in my mind are: first, the scene when Eliza and her small son are crossing the river and the son who is hungry, thirsty and sleepy keeps himself awake because he fears that his momma will give him to a man if he falls asleep. The scene is short but I had to pause and close the book because I was so sad; and second, the scene when the wicked sex-maniac slaveowner Leglee is asking Uncle Tom to whip another black slave. Tom refuses. Insulted, Leglee whips Tom until Tom is almost dead. This scene broke my heart that I have to stop reading this book in a day or two because it was too sad I had to start reading Dag Hammarskjold and ask where was God when the black African slaves were treated as commodities in America. Truly a sad phase in that great nation's history.

Now I understand how our national hero Jose Rizal was moved by this novel that he decided to sit down and write his own novel. Our Rizal wrote about the sad flight of his own people. If Harriet Beecher Stowe was this little woman who started the Civil War, Jose Rizal (5'2") as this little man who started the Philippine Revolution in 1896 against the Spanish colonizers.

Two short people. But two great tall books. Books that launched and propelled races to take arms and fight for what they believed was right.

Bravo to all the shorties of this world!
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Reading Progress

August 1, 2009 – Shelved
August 15, 2012 – Started Reading
August 15, 2012 – Shelved as: classics
August 15, 2012 – Shelved as: 1001-core
August 15, 2012 – Shelved as: race
August 19, 2012 – Shelved as: apartheid
August 19, 2012 – Shelved as: crime
August 19, 2012 – Shelved as: drama
August 19, 2012 – Shelved as: feminist
August 19, 2012 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
August 19, 2012 – Shelved as: saddest
August 19, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly To whip who/what?

K.D. Absolutely I revised that part already. I typed directly on GR screen since today is a holiday and I am doing my reveiw at home hehe.

message 3: by L (new) - rated it 3 stars

L LOL about short people. I remember that there was controversy about the portrayal of the seemingly sexless Uncle Tom. I read this eons ago and I still remember Eliza's(?) escape quite vividly.

K.D. Absolutely Leah: I read in the Wiki that the term "Uncle Tom" has a negative connotation. Something like a person who lets everyone to dominate him/her. However, I don't agree with that connotation. Uncle Tom in the book allows people to do their way to him not because he is a coward but because of his strong faith on GOD.

Oh yes, that scene is really haunting. Eliza without slippers and almost with nothing holding her toddler boy crossing the river.

message 5: by Cathie (new)

Cathie K.D. I put this book down because it was so sad. because of your review I will pick it up again. Thanks.

K.D. Absolutely Cathie, it is indeed sad. Although there is a redeeming value in the end.

message 7: by Cameron (last edited May 01, 2014 09:10PM) (new) - added it

Cameron Nunez Stunning review you have here. I strongly agree with you on the development of Ophelia's charater throughout the book. I thought it was very interesting, as well as realistic, that we learn that even though Ophelia disapproves of racism, she still holds somewhat a disgust for blacks. This added a new interesting dynamic to the story that I don't think we as readers she often in slavery/civil war novels. Well said indeed. It was also quite intriguing that Tom Loker became a changed man after his defeat by the Quakers. This is an example of how Uncle Tom succeeds over slavery in converting his enemies. He refuses to give up his Christian faith in the face of the many obstacles. His life showed both samples of horrible slavery and Christian love.

K.D. Absolutely Cameron wrote: "Stunning review you have here. I strongly agree with you on the development of Ophelia's charater throughout the book. I thought it was very interesting, as well as realistic, that we learn that ev..."

Can't agree enough with you Cameron. Well said. Thanks!

message 9: by Henry (new) - added it

Henry Avila Brilliant review K.D. I too read this book before joining Gr, and see its power, to influence people back before the Civil War. And see why over a 160 years later,it is still read.

message 10: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Henry wrote: "Brilliant review K.D. I too read this book before joining Gr, and see its power, to influence people back before the Civil War. And see why over a 160 years later,it is still read."

A classic is an old book that is still in print. I just read this from Haruki Murakami's latest book: "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki"

message 11: by Henry (new) - added it

Henry Avila Very well said,K.D.about classics.

Ivonne Rovira I love this review, and I never would have thought of comparing it to Noli Me Tangere, but it makes sense when you tell it.

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