3/15/2012

Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Harriet Beecher Stowes novel, Uncle Toms Cabin, was one of the most influential yet controversial books of her time and the same holds true for today. Slavery in the United States continuously brings up strong beliefs and heated disscussions. Stowe used her novel to express her opinions of slavery and the African American race, and her views were way ahead of her time. She depicts both the unending kindness and the horrible cruelty of human beings. The novel draws the reader in and enables him/her to see the harsh realities of life. Many important themes appear throughout the novel, but the one that prevails is the effectiveness of the Bible and the hope that it stands for. All through the novel, Uncle Tom kept his Bible by his side during lifes struggles. Incredibly, specific verses from the Bible had profound effects on many characters and Toms use of the Bible verses deeply touched Eva and St. Clare during death, Legrees slaves during hardship, and Tom himself during life.


Uncle Tom and the Bible provided great insight and meaning to the lives of both Eva and Augustine St. Clare. As Evas time on earth faded, she sat with time and read from the Bible. When Tom sang about angels and bright lights, Eva said she had seen them; when they talked about heaven, Eva claimed she was going there. Eva would read the Bible to Uncle Tom and he would explain what it meant. Miss Ophelia even said that Tom was a hero to Eva. As she became physically weaker, her spirit grew more divine. During Evas last days on earth, she reached out with love to those around her and tried to help them see the light that was so clear to her. I can understand why Jesus wanted to die for us(Stowe 74). Eva told Tom this because she had felt the same way and this deep, spiritual feeling came to her because of her faith. Through reading scripture and believing the words of the Bible, Eva accepted the fact that she would die and even welcomed it. Her only concerns were for those whom she would have to leave behind. The Bible effected both her life and her death and Tom helped her understand the meaning. St. Clare, another person Tom helped gain a greater understanding, struggled within himself in the novel. He knew his strengths and weaknesses and thought he would always be lazy. I am one of the sort that lives by throwing stones at other peoples glass houses, but I never mean to put up one for them to stone(Stowe 181). St. Clare simply meant that he did not mind criticizing other people, but he would never do anything that allowed them to criticize him. St. Clare believed slavery to be morally wrong and that the church twisted the words of the Bible and he talked about his views often, but he never did anything about it. When Eva died, St. Clare started to read her Bible with Tom. He could not comprehend how Tom could believe in the Bible so completely. I want to believe this Bible,--and I cant(Stowe 00). St. Clare continued to read scripture and remembered his mother, who he thought was the embodiment and personification of the New Testament, more often. As he reflected on life and the meaning of the Bible, St. Clare became closer to his mother and Eva. One passage he read with Tom struck him very deeply. Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me(Stowe 0). This means that what a person does not do for another human being, he/she does not do for Jesus. St. Clare saw these verses in his own life and the rest of the evening remained absent and thoughtful. He realized that it was not enough to live a good life but do nothing to help his brethren. Later that night, while trying to break up a knife fight, he got stabbed and died. As he was dying he claimed he was coming home at last, a sudden light filled his eyes, and he said Mother! Tom and the Bible helped St. Clare deal with Evas death and his own life. Tom had a major impact on the lives of both Eva and St. Clare, and his interpretations of the Bible gave them both new meaning in life as well as death.


Tom and his Bible also brought some comfort and strength to the beaten down slaves on Legrees plantation. The conditions on the plantation were so harsh and horrible that many of them had become low and cruel themselves and only looked out for themselves. The first thing Tom did was to make two womens supper before his own. He shocked them with his kindness and read from his Bible. Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest(Stowe 47). Out of all of the passages in the Bible this one they probably needed to hear most. It applied to their circumstances and went straight to their hearts. Tom helped fill others baskets and refused to whip his fellow man. Actions certainly speak louder than words, and Tom continued to practice what he preached. He got his strength from his Bible and showed the desolate slaves what it meant to care for other human beings. Even Sambo and Quimbo, two slaves who had become so cruel they were compared to bull dogs, ended up crying when Tom died. They realized that their brutality had been wrong and wanted to learn about Jesus. Tom saved many souls of the men and women who had almost lost their humanity due to the cruelty of Legree. Out of all of the slaves on that plantation Tom helped Cassy the most. When she came to give him water after he had been beaten, he asked her to read some from his Bible. Cassy sobbed aloud when she read the following verse. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,(Stowe 5). She told Tom about losing her children and the barbarous masters she had had. Cassy did not believe that God could let these things happen and that God could not be here. Many people claimed she had the devil in her. Cassy told Tom to give up; that Legree would win. Through Toms courage and ability to fight Legree, Cassy slowly realized the power of God. She offered Tom the chance to run away but he refused it, only telling her to remember to love our enemies. Legree beat Tom to death because he would not tell him about Emmeline and Cassys plan to escape. Through Toms martyrdom, Cassy saw the strength and victory that God can grant. After being reunited with her daughter, Cassy became a Christian. Toms work to help other people and his death to save and protect other human lives, made possible by his belief in the Bible, made him comparable to Jesus Christ. Again, Tom and his Bible are able to change people lives for the better and deeply affect the emotions of those who most need help.


Uncle Tom had the ability to touch many people through the words of the Bible only because the Bible touched his own soul so completely. He continuously found his strength and hope in the Bible and when he had nothing else in the world he still had this faith. At the beginning of the novel in Uncle Toms cabin, they would meet often to sing and read scripture. He excelled in prayer and had a lot of respect in religious matters. They would read in Revelation about the coming of Christ and his kingdom in which the faithful would be redeemed, and the scripture would bring joy to everyone. When Tom got sold he said, Pray for them that spitefully use you, the good book says(Stowe 5). Even when bad things happened to him, he could turn to the Bible do what it said. Tom read only the New Testament and his innocence and ignorance prevented him from allowing other peoples views from affecting his own. While Tom traveled on the boat to the south, he would study over his Bible. He remembered how God would come out of his place to save all the poor of the earth(Stowe 140)! Tears dropped on his Bible as he read that Jesus went to prepare a place for him at Gods house. Tom never even thought to question the Bible because if it were not true, he could not live. To be so trusting and believing of things he had never seen amazed many people, but to Tom it seemed to be all of life. He quoted scripture to even the poorest, most lonely people. Tom had an uncanny ability to always have the person listen to or read just what they needed to hear at that exact moment. His understanding of the Bible went beyond that of any minister because of its simplicity and truth. Through scripture Tom learned to be content with whatever state he happened to be in. During his most difficult struggles at the hands of Legree, he stood by his beliefs. Tom realizes that while his body may belong to Legree, his soul will always belong to God. After Tom had been beaten, Jesus words came to him, He that overcame shall sit down with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father on his throne(Stowe 8). The courage Tom received from God and the Bible allowed him to have victory over Legree and let go of the physical being. --who shall separate us from the lobe of Christ(Stowe 417)! Toms suffering changed an instrument of degradation into a symbol of glory. The words and meaning of the Bible had such a profound effect on Uncle Toms life that it enabled him to alter the lives of many human beings.


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The Bible verses used at just the right times added a dramatic and touching aspect to Tom and the world around him. Without the references to the scripture death could never have seemed so peaceful and enlightening and the slaves who were almost completely lost to cruelty could not have been saved. Stowe used Bible verses to effectively make both serious and complex points. When someone picked up a Bible to read to Tom, the verses they read always related directly to them and their experiences. The Bible contains so many pages that if this were merely a coincidence than it is extraordinary. But because Tom was compared to Christ through his death, maybe, Tom knew the words that would touch each persons soul and they had not been coincidences. Stowe wanted to show how important religion was for both slaves and their masters. Stowes novel, published in 1851, contained ideas that in that time were both inconceivable and on many peoples minds. Uncle Toms Cabin, a pre-Civil War novel, infuriated many Southerners and some Northerners as well. Some of the ideas were far ahead of the time and some of the stereotypes were offensive and the book angered many Yankees. Stowe may even have contributed to the start of the Civil War with her revolutionary book about slavery. The novel still has a huge impact today and contains highly debatable issues. Uncle Toms Cabin is a famous American novel that has just as much relevance now as it did over a hundred years ago. Slavery has been a major part of both American history and culture and Stowe had the ability to present it in a very moving way.





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