Uncle Tom’s Cabin

By Harriet Beecher Stowe
Read by Mirron Willis

21.98 Hours 12/29/2009 unabridged
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Uncle Tom is a high-minded, devoutly Christian black slave to a kind family, the Shelbys. Beset by financial difficulties, the Shelbys sell Tom to a slave trader. Young George Shelby promises to someday redeem him. The story relates Uncle Tom’s trials, suffering, and religious fortitude. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was revolutionary in 1852 for its passionate indictment of slavery and for its presentation of Tom, “a man of humanity,” as the first black hero in American fiction. Upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln allegedly remarked, “So this is the little lady who started this new great war!” The novel became an overnight sensation and was hailed by Tolstoy as “one of the greatest productions of the human mind.” It remains a shocking, controversial, and powerful work, exposing the attitudes of white nineteenth-century society toward slavery and documenting in heart-rending detail the tragic breakup of black families.

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Summary

Summary

Uncle Tom is a high-minded, devoutly Christian black slave to a kind family, the Shelbys. Beset by financial difficulties, the Shelbys sell Tom to a slave trader. Young George Shelby promises to someday redeem him. The story relates Uncle Tom’s trials, suffering, and religious fortitude.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was revolutionary in 1852 for its passionate indictment of slavery and for its presentation of Tom, “a man of humanity,” as the first black hero in American fiction. Upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln allegedly remarked, “So this is the little lady who started this new great war!” The novel became an overnight sensation and was hailed by Tolstoy as “one of the greatest productions of the human mind.” It remains a shocking, controversial, and powerful work, exposing the attitudes of white nineteenth-century society toward slavery and documenting in heart-rending detail the tragic breakup of black families.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“One of the greatest productions of the human mind.” Leo Tolstoy
“Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin…demonstrates that one can write something that changes the world and makes it a better place. She reinforces the concept that the root of evil is the abuse of power, and it is important for all of us to remember that. It’s why people bully. It’s why they rape, torture, and murder.” Patricia Cornwell, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Belongs to the very short list of American books that helped create or consolidate a reform movement.” New York Times
“To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom’s Cabin may…prove a startling experience.” Edmund Wilson, New York Times bestselling author
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the most powerful and enduring work of art ever written about American slavery.” Alfred Kazin, American writer and award-winning literary critic

Reviews

Reviews

by Ash Ryan 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

Somewhat disappointing

Being very interested in the abolitionist movement, and knowing how influential Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel was, I was really looking forward to reading it. However, it turned out to be something of a disappointment.

The story is rather engaging, following two sets of slaves: Uncle Tom, and Eliza and her son Harry, all three owned by Arthur Shelby (as well as Eliza's husband George, owned by a neighboring planter). Shelby is a rather benevolent slave-holder, but when he's forced to sell Tom and Harry to cancel his debts, Eliza decides to take Harry and run away rather than be separated from her son. Meanwhile, Eliza's husband George also resolves to escape north to Canada because of the malevolent cruelty of his own master. But Tom decides to allow himself to be sold south down the river rather than betray his beloved master Shelby.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is half anti-slavery propaganda and half Christian allegory. As propaganda, it is quite well-done, and in the service of a good cause, but artistically it is somewhat lacking. The author breaks the narrative to address the reader directly, a common practice through the nineteenth century as the novel was still a relatively new art form, but with a frequency I've never encountered in other novels of the period. This has the effect of destroying the continuity of the story. Her method is to write about something horrible that happens to the slave characters in her story, then put it to the reader directly how they'd feel if such a thing were done to them--an effective propaganda technique, but not exactly subtle. This is especially prevalant during the first half of the novel, which focuses on the story of Eliza, George, and Harry.

The second half of the novel turns into Christian allegory, as Uncle Tom, our trusty Jesus figure, allows himself to be flogged to death rather than revenge or even defend himself by killing his cruel new master and escaping, for the purpose of redeeming his fellow slaves by covering for two who <i>are</i> trying to escape and setting a Christian example of love and forgiveness for the rest.

So the message basically seems to be for slaves, if they're to be fully Christian and virtuous, to let themselves be treated as horribly as their master whims, and take it meekly. How is this abolitionist? It was certainly a shock after being used to reading the much more intellectual and more passionate writings of Frederick Douglass, who advised his fellow slaves not only to escape, but to kill their masters in self-defense first if possible.

The most interesting character, Eliza's husband George, at first sets out for Canada with a brilliant and daring scheme and the full intention of defending himself if anyone tries to capture him and take him back. Luckily, he's taken in by the Quakers before he has to seriously hurt anyone, but Stowe's emphasis on Christian submission makes for less dramatic material, since she won't allow the conflict to be expressed in terms of physical violence, or rather, she will, but only one-sidedly. But perhaps all this is precisely what one might have expected from a sister of the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher.

Mirron Willis's narration here is decent, bringing some emotion to the characters through his rendering of their dialogue. If you want to read mid-nineteenth century abolitionist material, read Frederick Douglass, but if you do decide to read this too, this audiobook version will help it go down easier.

Author

Author Bio: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the daughter of an outspoken religious leader, who raised her on devotional tales of Christian charity and brotherhood. When her father moved the family to Cincinnati, she had her first exposure to slavery and abolitionism, witnessing race riots, hearing the stories of runaway slaves, and aiding fugitive slaves from the South.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Fiction/Classics
Runtime: 21.98
Audience: Adult
Language: English