What's Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe about?
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the most controversial novels of the last century, with it’s sentimental portrayal of the anti-slavery movement in the USA. Written in 1852, the novel instantly rose to fame and split Americans up and down the country. Stowe was a passionate abolitionist and was inspired to write Uncle Tom when she spent time in Cincinnati in the early part of the 18th century. She met many slaves who had escaped from Kentucky and was touched by the friendships she built. It was with this sentiment that the novel was born and the deep empathy Stowe had for slaves is evident throughout.
As you would expect, the book was hugely provocative with pro-slavery supporters outraged by the negative portrayal of masters within the slave trade. It was said to be so incendiary that Abraham Lincoln claimed Stowe to be "the little lady who started this great war". It is not clear if that quote is genuine but the hype Stowe created both before and after the civil war is definitely real. The novel follows the story of long suffering slave Tom and mother and son duo Eliza and Harry. Whilst Tom is sold down the river by his master, Eliza and her son manage to escape the clutches of slavery.
There is no doubt in the genuineness of Howe’s wish to uncover the slave trade for all of its sins. Pleasingly the book ends with an optimistic outlook, one that shook the government at the time and one sure to shake you.