Despite heartbreaking family separations and struggles for antislavery Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) erupted into "one of the greatest triumphs recorded in literary history" (Downs 228), inspiring plays, pictures, poems, songs, souvenirs, and statues (Claybaugh 519). As Uncle Tom's Cabin was being published in the National Era newspaper in forty weekly installments (x), it was received by southerners as yet another political and ethical attack on slavery (Crozier 4), which was not uncommon in the 1850s. As for some northerners, Uncle Tom's Cabin was accepted very warmly due to their increasing dislike of slavery, and its strongly feministic idealism seen throughout the story were popular among women of the time. But, even some northerners who disliked slavery condemned the book because they feared it would stir up civil altercation (Downs 235). The heated disputes between the North and the South over slavery caused both sides to divide farther apart until the breaking point in 1865 with the beginning of the Civil War. Clearly, the first half of the nineteenth century in America influenced the writing of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In the opening scene, Stowe introduces Arthur Shelby, a typical southern slaveholding gentleman, and he is discussing his debt with Mr. Haley, a rather insidious slave trader. Because he is in debt, Shelby fastidiously sells his most valuable slave, Tom, an extremely "steady, honest, capable" (Stowe 4) and dedicated middle-aged man who was "united with much kindliness and benevolence" (26), along with Harry Harris, a young slave boy. A sub plot includes Harry and his mother, Eliza Harris, appalled by the sudden dealing, hastily flees with her child in hope of escaping to Canada, taking refuge in a Quaker settlement, which, after reuniting Eliza with her stouthearted husband George, assists her on the road to freedom by way... [continues]
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