Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 19th century novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is distinct among the world’s most banned books. What makes it different is that both liberals and conservatives have wanted it pulled from libraries–and yet today, both sides regret that sentiment. Let’s take a look at this book and why it engendered such contrary feelings.
Stowe’s novel brought the evils of slavery to the consciences and hearts of the American people by its moving portrayal of slave experience. The author shows us in scenes of great dramatic power the human effects of an economic system in which slaves were property: the breakup of families, the struggles for freedom, and the horrors of plantation labor. She brings into fiction the different voices of the emerging American nation, the Southern slave-owning classes, Northern abolitionists, children, the sorrow songs and dialect of slaves, as well the language of political debate and religious zeal. The novel was, and is, controversial, abrasive in its demand for change, yet also brilliant in the deployment of dialogue, with great comic skill and a power of pathos that made it a runaway bestseller in its time that continues to move us today.
So why have so many sought to ban it? Those on the conservative side have objected to some of the vulgar language in the book. Those on the left, on the other side, protested the use of the word “nigger” to refer to African-Americans, as well as stereotyping the language and attitudes of blacks.
Most on both sides today, though, recognize this book for the great work of art it is. It celebrates the human spirit, using the offending language only to depict lie as it truly is. I urge you, if you’ve not already done so, to pick up a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and spend a weekend reading it. Without doubt, it will inspire you.