Quest for Freedom in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Stowe
Slavery has a long history in America and dates back to more than three centuries ago. Slavery would not pick until the 19th century, marked by many occurrences across different parts of the world. Slow development was experienced worldwide, and technology had not as highly industrialized as it is today. As a result, most works needed a workforce and skillfulness of another level, yet very few machines could help make the job easier.
From farms to industries and all other workstations, offices needed physical human resources to complete all tasks. These factors increased the need for slavery which peaked in the 1850s. Accordingly, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel is set against this backdrop. Through the main protagonist, Eliza Harris, the paper details how adverse slavery experiences influenced the quest for freedom. Although it was a dangerous choice, it was the only way to prevent separation from family ties.
In the late twentieth century, most countries and international societies and associations invested significantly in technological improvement. As a result, the kind of slavery experienced in the 19th century has been taken over by the liberation of human lives and machines. This picture contrasted the situation in the 1850s when human labor was based on slavery, particularly in the American south. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Eliza’s employer appears to have handled her decently, as she is depicted as wearing clothing of the tidiest imaginable cut and having a finely shaped hand (Stowe 1852, p.9). Additionally, the reader learns that her mistress had raised Eliza as a cherished and spoiled beloved since she was a child.
She is also in matrimony with George Harris, a union sanctioned by her mistress, who likewise schooled her on family obligations, parent-child relationships, and husband-wife relationships (Stowe 1852). Thus, one may argue that Eliza assimilated the four attributes of genuine femininity due to her upbringing in a relatively affluent environment for a slave.
Eliza eventually succumbs to the institution of slavery since her kid is destined to be sold. At this point, it is evident that the kid is Eliza’s owner’s asset, and as a result, she is deprived of parenthood. In this way, Uncle Tom’s Cabin begins with women and men set against one another. This unfolds in a manner that shows white males dismantling the family, the novel’s fundamental society unit (Parfait, 2016).
Eliza resolves to flee her master and lady to avoid the imminent separation of her family. She also sends her lady a parting message, stating that she is trying to save the boy (Stowe 1852). The author describes Eliza’s escape as a generous gesture of maternal love that any mother, irrespective of race, can relate to. Uncle Tom echoes this sentiment when he defends Eliza’s decision to flee since “tan’t nature for her to stay” (Stowe 1852, p.50). This expression implies that no mother would permit such an event to occur to her kid.
The novel shows the emotional toll that slavery caused on individuals hence the need to run. Stowe emphasizes Eliza’s grief, which becomes evident as she anxiously attempts to communicate her predicament to Mrs. Bird. She informs her that there is a plot to separate her from her child and sell him to slavery, with her primary concern being that the kid has always been by her side. In this case, Eliza is worried that the child might not survive alone down south, which those plotting this heinous act cannot see. Furthermore, Stowe makes a veiled plea to all mothers with Eliza’s query, “Have you ever lost a child?” (Stowe 1852, p.104).
Compelling readers to empathize with Eliza and experience her suffering should illuminate the unfairness of servitude and its devastation on defenseless humans. Undoubtedly, the patriarchal form of servitude is horrible, as it destroys entire families and trades fellow humans as property (Parfait, 2016). To this end, Eliza is crafted as an outspoken opponent of this atrocious institution.
Self-emancipated slaves also experienced violence and abuse that shaped the quest for freedom. For example, Arthur Shelby labors and toils, yet the money one is supposed to earn is used to pay for another person’s debt. When he has problems raising his debts, he opts to sell part of his family members and laborers (Stowe, 1852). Such things only happen when there is no value for humanity. Likewise, being married to an enslaver, Emily Shelby was also unhappy that her husband was immoral. Nevertheless, she insisted on maintaining morale and moral sanity through all these happening and never wanted to be part of this immoral activity (Parfait, 2016).
Two other women also sold into sex slavery were Cassy and Emmaline. These two ladies told Tom their stories, and through their narrations, one could see how deeply women were affected by slavery. Cassy had escaped then Emmaline was brought in in replacement of Cassy. These cycles of abuse and suffering among slaves, regardless of their status in society, echoed a loud call for liberation.
Consistently, the author uses the theme of family separation to show the gendered dimension of slavery. Women in the slave era were responsible for ensuring that the family unit remained intact, while men were responsible for providence. The result was that men increasingly became detached from the family. A classic example is George Harris, whose departure is more self-centered because he abandons his family to free himself. As a man, George likely felt that escaping with his family would slow him down and possibly foil his plan, so abandoning them was the best decision. The novel emphasizes Eliza’s motherly obligation to protect her family at all costs, irrespective of the dangers that she faces. While she laments that she must abandon her family, Stowe stresses that “stronger than all was maternal love” (Stowe 1852, p.63), which prompted her to flee.
Stowe also suggests that having Caucasian features and motherly qualities was one way of escaping from or reducing the impacts of slavery. She portrays Eliza as a slave with far more likable qualities than the typical slave. For instance, she appears so white that no trace of colored ancestry is visible, demonstrating further shared characteristics and making Eliza increasingly familiar to readers (Stowe 1852, p. 65). In other words, Stowe correctly picked Eliza’s Caucasian characteristics, such as her complexion and maternal sentiments, for the nineteenth-century readers to empathize with her. As Eliza runs through the forests, the author addresses the females and mothers reading her work, imploring, “How fast could you go if it were your Harry, mother, or Willie that were about to be snatched from you by a savage trader?” (Stowe 1852, p.63).
This appeal to moms would extend to all other females who value the values of authentic femininity. Undeniably, this shows the novel’s outright attempt to debunk the widely held belief that women of color were incapable of maternal instincts and demonstrate the evils of slavery (Parfait, 2016). Additionally, it aims to inspire white mothers’ empathy for black slave women, demonstrating that they experience similar maternal love sentiments
Ultimately, most people succumbed to slavery, suffering, and hopelessness. Mothers lost their children to slavery as they ran away, while some families kept bonding and breaking along the way. Slavery in the history of the USA in the 1850s remains a problematic issue (Parfait, 2016). Most blacks sent to America worked as slaves, and the novel looks at Tom’s dedication through his faith to ensure the victims are liberated. His strength is highly elevated through Christian belief, and he invested in divine service for human nature. Unlike Tom, Eliza showed that she would not succumb to the system whatsoever, even if it meant losing her life. Above all, it shows to what extent male individuals easily succumbed to the institution of slavery compared to their female counterparts (Parfait, 2016). Ultimately, the only way slavery would end was to either run away or remain in the slave land and organize a protest hoping for a revolution.
Slavery reached its peak in the 1850s, whereby human life was utterly devalued. Thus, Uncle Tom’s Cabin symbolizes liberty and freedom from the slave trade and dehumanization in America when this book was written. Everywhere he had been sold exposed him to different challenges. He even sunk into salvation and Christian doctrines to maintain moral uprightness. He persevered through all the suffering without giving up but eventually lost his life to the system.
Overall, this book was a significant call for deliverance out of slavery in America. Most people who read it realized how deep slavery had affected most families and various communities. It even caused a rift between races since the whites viewed black Americans as laborers and not as humans. The piece also indicated that women were more selfless and humane compared to males during the slavery era. The character of Eliza proves this point as she risks everything to ensure that her family is not separated b her master.
Parfait, C. (2016). The publishing history of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1852–2002. Routledge.
Stowe, H. B. (1852). Uncle Tom’s Cabin: 1852. Tauchnitz.