An Emotional Rollercoaster
Different authors use different methods to keep readers turning pages of their books. Some authors may use illustrations, some may use humor, some may use mystery or action, but some authors create an emotional attachment between readers and characters – a bond so great a reader can’t put the book down. The latter of methods mentioned, is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s method in her famous slave narrative, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By introducing sentimentalism into her piece, Stowe creates a deep emotional bond that connects readers to each of her characters and makes them want to know what happens. Whether readers feel empathy for Eliza, anger towards slave catchers and slave holders, sadness for Eva and Tom, or hopelessness for St. Claire, readers feel as though they must know what happens and will keep flipping pages until they find their answer. This is the beauty of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is not just a slave narrative, it’s an emotional roller coaster. At any moment, readers can feel a different emotion – these emotions can also vary due to the diversity of the reader, especially when the book was first published. One of the first characters readers are introduced to in Uncle Tom’s Cabin is Eliza Harris. Eliza is a slave, and is responsible for the house cleaner duties of Mrs. Shelby, the wife of her owner. She is smart, brave, and a loving mother. These traits are tested when Eliza learns that her son, George, will be sold to another owner. She knows that a life without her beloved son would be a life not worth living. She decides to leave. Her harrowing escape from slavery is one of the most well known scenes from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, due to her dramatic leap into an icy river in order to save her child. Unfortunately, due to the passage of the fugitive slave act, Eliza is not free when she crosses the Ohio River; rather she faces further danger in the North. Readers quickly sympathize for Eliza. A description of her in the begging of chapter seven which states, “It is impossible to conceive of a human creature more wholly desolate and forlorn than Eliza,” truly pulls at the heart of every reader (Stowe, 105). Stowe continues describing Eliza’s decrepit life and epitomizes it as the sum of a” suffering” husband and a child in “danger” of being sold. These fears also were partnered with the fear of risking her life by escaping and the pain of leaving “every familiar object, -- the place where she had grown up, the trees under which she had played, the groves where she had walked many an evening in happier days, by the side of her young husband, -- everything” (Stowe, 105). Those reading the novel easily empathize and feel for Eliza. They know she is woman struggling with so much, a point in her life when everything was difficult – ever decision a difficult one. As stated before, she is “desolate” and “forlorn”, for her decision to leave and run for freedom is truly a double-edged sword. If she does leave, her son will not be sold and there is a chance for freedom, but if she flees, her and her son will risk being caught by slave catchers and she will be forced to leave the place she once loved. The readers are lifted in their spirits, however, as they realize the beauty of Eliza’s struggle, for it shows the love she has for her child that she is willing to put her life on the line.
Along with the sympathy for Eliza, comes the anger towards the slave-owners and slave-catchers that control not only Eliza, but also all slaves. Eliza’s slave-owner, Mr. Shelby, upon grows angry at the news of the departure of one of his slaves. He sets out, but is too late, as he arrives on the heels of Eliza as she leaps across the river. He runs into two slave-catchers, Loker and Marks, and quickly convinces them to find Eliza and her son. Stowe describes these two as such devilish people, which readers cannot help but hate them. For instance, Tom Loker is almost described with the likeness of a wolf when Stowe states,...
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