Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An American Classic

'Uncle Tom's Cabin' is a book that is widely known but how many have taken the time to read it? Written in 1852, it was the best selling novel of the entire century and second best seller only to the Bible in the 19th century. A book this popular and influential is what is known a classic and is very much worth our time to read even today.
It caused quite a stir in its day and is noted by some historians to have been the groundwork for the American Civil War. That is quite a claim, but after having read it and having read the lengthy Wiki article, it is understandable.
It has met a lot of opposition over the years. Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author,  has been accused of writing an uninformed and disingenuous accounting of slavery in the Southern States. Many books were published in subsequent years to counter her images. The book is also accused of establishing and re-enforcing stereotypes. But without doubt, it is one of the most important publications in American History and gives testament to the idea that literature can strongly influence the direction of a nation and its people.
As for the story itself, it is written in a very romantic and sentimental style. There are lengthy dialogues of broken Negro/English that are difficult to comprehend, but after a while they can be translated by skimming more that by trying to figure out each and every word. There are many asides that remind the reader that they are indeed outside observers. There are sections that are overly long and sappy and the Christian sentiments are ever present and are the basic underpinning of the story and the cause for all resolution of conflict and dilemmas, so much so as to give it a lack of credibility. But, one must remember that most people of that age were indeed 'God fearing'.
It was satisfying for this reader to finally examine for himself what all the fuss has been over the years. Knowing ahead of time the historical significance of this piece of literature, it was quite interesting, and overall, I enjoyed it.
4  stars 

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