Harriet Beecher Stowe carefully planned her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to change the mindset of her readers that would in turn change culture. She accomplished this feat by capturing the reader’s sympathy toward the characters, both black and white, and evoking compassion with the dramatic story line. The readers become witnesses to the suffering in the novel and they feel the emotions that the characters feel. One of the ways Stowe uses to win the compassion of the reader is by getting them to relate to the characters.
Back in the day the novel was written, many people thought of blacks as a commodity, with no more feelings than a bale of hay. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, there is a representative mixture of characters who held that opinion, and those that had mercy on them and thought of them as equals. In a few parts of the book, she writes of cruel whites who own good compliant slaves, and the reader cannot help but side with the blacks. This happens with the St. Clare family. After Eva and Augustine die, there is nobody left except Marie to care for the household and the slaves.
The fact that she treats the slaves as people who are less than human, and doesn’t care about selling and splitting up families makes the readers see the pain they go through. Another example of this is with Simon Legree. He is the only white person on the plantation, and he is an evil, unchristian man. Obviously, readers will see him with disgust and sympathize with the blacks. Stowe uses common emotions to bring readers to understand her standpoint. There are many scenes in the book where there are common tears being shed between blacks and white, showing that they are equal human beings.
It shows that all people have the same types of feelings no matter what color of flesh that they have. One excerpt of the book, Eliza tells the Bird family of her life story and all of them unite with their tears. “The two little boys…they were sobbing…Mrs. Bird had her face fairly hidden in her pocket-handkerchief; and old Dinah, with tears streaming down her black, honest face…Our senator was a statesman…and so he turned his back to the company, and looked out of the window, and seemed particularly busy in clearing his throat and wiping his spectacle glasses (150).
Everyone was affected by Eliza’s story of losing a child and the threat of losing another, because the Bird’s had recently lost a child themselves. Another instance of tears and emotions uniting black and white takes place when St. Clare gets stabbed. “Tom did pray…It was literally prayer offered with strong crying and tears…He (St. Clare) closed his eyes, but still retained his hold; for, in the gates of eternity, the black hand and the white hold each other with an equal clasp (456). ” Emotions are found in people no matter what color, class, or creed.
Stowe uses climactic events to get the reader to rid themselves of their prejudices. Stowe uses Christianity as means of bonding two peoples together. In the novel, the majority of the women and the slaves are Christian. The Christians are also usually the ones that are good hearted, and the ones that are not Christian yet but are kind get converted. One thing that shows Stowe trying to change the prejudices of her time, is that in she shows black converting whites as well as whites converting blacks. One of these examples is shown above, with Tom and St. Clare.
In God’s sight, blacks and whites are equal. Another incident is when Topsy is shown the love of Christ through Evangeline. “…a ray of heavenly love, had penetrated the darkness of her heathen soul! She laid her head down between her knees, and wept and sobbed,- while the beautiful child bending over her, looked like the picture of some bright angel stooping to reclaim a sinner (410). ” Eva saw all people the same, and wanted to share her outlook on life with everyone she came into contact with. She tells Topsy, “don’t you know that Jesus loves all alike?
He is just as willing to love you, as me…you can go to Heaven at last, and be an angel forever, just as much as if you were white (410). ” God loves everyone the same, and Stowe wants everyone to feel and demonstrate the love of God on all people. Harriet Beecher Stowe uses writing as a medium to change culture in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She shows that blacks and whites are the same through emotions, tears, and faith. Dramatic, touching incidents are used to depict these things in this sentimental novel and change the mindset of her readers.