Saturday, May 31, 2008

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Title: Uncle Tom's Cabin
Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe
ISBN: 1840224029
Publisher: Wordsworth Classics/1995
Pages: 415

I had first read this book some twenty five years back. After reading Roots, I needed to re-read this. Both are on slave trade and there ends the similarity. Roots was written and published in 1976 tracing out the African roots of Alex Haley. Stowe's book was written in 1850 when slave trade was very much there and it was an instant success.

This spoke out for the slaves and Stowe was denounced by those who perpetuated it. This book is a breakthrough and supposedly helped abolishing the practice. President Lincoln half-joking said that Stowe is "the little lady" who started the great civil war.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is about slaves and also reflects about how christianity advocated slavery, or maybe I should say that it was interpreted that way by those who wished for the trade to continue. What I felt was religion was one way of subdueing them. Why was it said that it is their lot to suffer. Why? How can any religion preach that one is born to rule and others to serve and be oppressed just because they speak different language, have a different skin colour and are said to be primitive. Who decides that? One and only answer is GREED.

Uncle Tom, a gentle soul stands for his principles and ultimately dies for those. This book speaks of the atrocities along with some masters who deeply care for their slaves. It has some happy endings although none must have existed at that time. Still it makes us think. Maybe that was the reason it sold million of copies in a year's time. It struck a chord and might have helped hastening abolition of the abhored practice.

What we really need to advocate is humanity. Not any religion. Nothing is above humanity. Equality is what matters. Nothing else does. One person can make a difference. Stowe showed that. Being a woman in those times did not deter her from speaking her mind. And where there is still differences with respect of races, caste, colour, creed, gender, religion, continents, countries etc etc there is a need to read this book. By each and every human being.
Preachy or not, it is timeless.

Also reviewed by

CB James
Finding Dulcinea