Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Historical and Cultural Context

Uncle Tom's Cabin is a novel written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1852. It played a significant role in the American abolitionist movement, precipitating the Civil War.

The novel draws on the grim realities of slavery in the United States, characterised by human rights abuses, racial discrimination, and economic exploitation.

Set in the Antebellum South, the novel presents a vivid picture of the inhumane treatment and oppressive conditions faced by African American slaves.

Stowe was a white, American, female author, deeply entrenched in the religious and abolitionist movements of the time, which largely influenced her depiction of slavery in the novel.

The character of Uncle Tom, a humble and virtuous slave, has been both lauded for his dignity and resilience, and criticised for his perceived subservience. His representation sparked widespread discussions about race and racial stereotypes in literature.

The novel was controversial for its time, causing uproar in the South and providing a rallying point for anti-slavery sentiment in the North.

In Britain, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" received extensive acclaim and had a significant impact, fuelling the country's abolitionist sentiments. It helped solidify British opposition to slavery, which had been abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833.

As a cultural artefact, the novel has influenced numerous adaptations, from plays and films to songs and visual arts, indicating its enduring significance and influence in American and global culture. Uncle Tom's Cabin is considered a crucial piece of literature in the canon of American realism, serving as a snapshot of a particular historical period and its sociopolitical dynamics.

The novel has sparked ongoing debates about its portrayal of African Americans and its role in perpetuating racial stereotypes, contributing to the dialogue about race and representation in literature.

A. Jane Austen

B. Harriet Tubman

C. Harriet Beecher Stowe

D. Emily Dickinson

A. The American Revolution

B. The abolition of slavery

C. Women's suffrage

D. The Civil Rights Movement

A. 1789

B. 1852

C. 1901

D. 1955

4. In which literary movement is Uncle Tom's Cabin considered a crucial piece?

A. Romanticism

B. Surrealism

C. American Realism

D. Postmodernism

DISCUSSION:  Uncle Tom's Cabin is an important work of literature that aimed to change people's perspectives about slavery. Can you think of a book or a film that has changed the way you think about a particular issue in society?

Further reading