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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sentimental novel that acted as a catalyst for the American Civil War, 4 Dec. 2007
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This review is from: Uncle Tom's Cabin (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
Uncle Tom's Cabin is one of the most important and popular novels in literary history. One hundred and fifty years on it remains as controversial as it was at the time of its publication and has spawned the term Uncle Tom to describe black people who are excessively meek and submissive in the face of racial abuse and prejudice. The debate today though is not about the morality of slavery, which is universally reviled, but instead focuses on whether or not the author inadvertently demeans and degrades the very people for whom she sought both dignity and liberation.
The novel begins in relatively liberal Kentucky in the home of a `liberal' slave owner and his wife who are reluctantly forced to sell two of their slaves to an unscrupulous dealer due to severe financial difficulties. On hearing that her son is about to be sold, mulatto Eliza flees across a frozen river with her little boy and heads for free Canada with the aid of sympathetic Quakers, meeting up with her bitter, estranged husband along the way. In contrast, pious Tom accepts severance from his family and his fate at the slave auction with resigned docility and is fortunate at first to be reassigned to a family headed by another liberal-inclined slaver. It is here that we meet the golden-haired (of course) little angel Eva, daughter of Tom's new master and his unsympathetic wife. Eva has bottomless compassion for Tom and the other slaves and servants and is adored in turn until she dies in one of the most saccharine death scenes in literature, reminiscent of the death of Bambi's mother. Eva's father promises his daughter on her deathbed that he would grant Tom his liberty but this promise is ignored by Eva's mother after his death and Tom is resold to the theatrically evil dealer Legree.
If Uncle Tom's Cabin did not contain scenes of emotional power and lyrical writing it would have been long-since forgotten. Despite Tom's cringing servility and all the black characters being apparently trapped in some kind of evolutionary stasis, a moving sincerity flows throughout the book and the effect it had on the conscience of nineteenth century America cannot be overstated. However, the world has moved on (allegedly) and in the end, the cloying sentimentality and the disturbing notion that Congregationalist Christianity is the only means available for gaining the freedom and dignity of the gentle, saintly slaves and redeeming the souls of their corrupt masters become overwhelming.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Feb 2016, 20:44:14 GMT
The death of Bambi's mother is WAY less saccharine than the death of Eva!!!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Feb 2016, 07:58:07 GMT
Trevor Coote says:
Agreed. Actually, the death of Bambi's mother is not saccharine, just moving.
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