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Friday, April 1, 2011

The Impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe
The way in which Stowe wrote the story, dramatically presenting the evil of the system of slavery, ensured that the novel could not be ignored as just another piece of anti-slavery propaganda.  The novel solicited a reaction from both sides and guaranteed that pro- and anti-slavery factions could not co-exist in the United States.  There was no compromise possible between the two groups, either secession would take place or the South would have to accept the economic devastation of the end of slavery. 

Therefore, Lincoln's statement about Stowe being responsible for the Civil War has some validity.  The country was already on the slippery slope towards war, but the publication of Stowe's novel signified that the country was past the point of no return.  Stowe's work successfully presented the case against slavery and encouraged other nations that the time was right to end slavery in America.  Northerners who may have been timid before could no longer be timid.  This war literally put brother against brother and caused rifts that still were not healed 100 years later.

Nevertheless, the novel has come under criticism of racism and the term "Uncle Tom" has adopted a negative connotation.  Some even view the book as children's literature.  Ultimately, however, the novel will be judged for the significant impact it had during one of this country's most critical periods in its history.

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