Tim O’Brien and Harriet Beecher Stowe would agree that there is not much difference between a soldier and a slave. Drafted soldiers fighting in foreign countries in the interests of unknown authorities are the same as slaves toiling in fields for their master’s profits. Of course, there are some soldiers who join out of their own free will, just as there are slaves that choose to stay because they have nowhere else to go. However, for those that don’t want to be institutionalized, slaves can escape just as soldiers have the ability to desert – neither option being very pleasant.
Pleasantries are not common in either occupation, both consist of “blood and cruelty” that no one has the “nerve to hear” (Stowe) and these tragedies can not be simply regurgitated without influence from author. Consistently throughout Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Stowe explores the question of slavery in a fairly mild setting in which slaves and masters have seemingly positive relationships. At both the Shelbys’ and the St. Clares’ the slaves are shown compassion and sympathy, causing both families to contradict the norm in which slaves are treated as lesser beings.
Stowe does not offer hese settings in order to show slavery’s evil as conditional but instead she seeks to unveil the vices of slavery even in its optimal scenario. While Arthur Shelby and Augustine St. Clare do possess a sense of kindness and intelligence, their ability to tolerate slavery proves them to be hypocritical and morally weak. Even in the presence of a compassionate master however, slaves suffer, nonetheless, as by the actions of the financially struggling Arthur Shelby as he essentially destroys Tom’s family after selling him into to the Haley, the slave trader, as well as when St. Clare’s enormously selfish wife Marie emands and expects attention even after the death of the St. Clare’s daughter Eva, ultimately robbing them of their time to mourn and process the tragedy.
A common argument in the defense of slavery claims that the establishment of slavery benefited slaves as most masters acted in their slaves’ best interest, Stowe refutes this argument however insisting that the slave’s best interest was solely dependent on obtaining freedom, which in turn was not the intentions set out by slave owners.
Arriving at the end of the book, Stowe leaves behind the pleasant impression and mask of life at the Shelby’s and St. Clare’s and takes her reader into the Legree plantation, where the evil of slavery is presented in its most rigid fashion. The Legree plantation is the epitome of cruelty and the polar opposite of the Shelby’s and St. Clare’s in that the slaves suffer beatings, sexual abuse, and are even victims of murder. The contrast between the two forms of slavery pose a question to the readers and allow them to ponder upon the idea of just how awful slavery can be.
If slavery is wrong and unjust even in the best of cases, then in the worst of cases, it is nightmarish and inhuman. In the book’s structural progression between pleasant” and hellish plantations, the reader is able to see Stowe’s rhetorical methods. First she deflates the defense of the pro-slavery reader by showing the evil of the “best” kind of slavery. She then follows this by presenting her own case against slavery by showing the shocking wickedness of slavery at its worst.
Similarly in the Things They Carried, O’Brien shows the microscopic impact of war through the fictional but once real soldiers that O’Brien had fought with in Vietnam. By blurring the lines between fiction and reality, the author doesn’t just explain how the war affected gas prices or other national concerns, but ocuses on the soldier’s individual relationship with the reader – his storytelling. The authors is not attempting to write a history of the Vietnam War through his collections stories but rather to connect the audience with a soldier’s personal point of view on war.
The different storytellers in the Things They Carried such as Rat Kiley, Jimmy Cross, Mitchell Sanders, in addition to Tim O’Brien attempt to expose war’s ugly truths. They all have this sense of profound understanding that they do not need to elaborate, because they understand each other through a connection forged by war. Such bold statements such as, “This is true,” imply that there is no need for objective evidence as long as the soldiers can subjectively agree. The dates and facts surrounding any one event are less important than the overall perceptive truth of what war means the soldiers and how it can change them.
Harriet Stowe takes on a great burden to emphasize the fact that the system of slavery and the moral code of Christianity oppose each other. Christianity should not be able to tolerate slavery. Throughout the novel, the more religious a character is, the more he or she objects to slavery. The most perfect character in the novel, morally-speaking, does not comprehend the difference between a black or white man. In contrast Legree, the most despicable slave-owner practices slavery almost as a policy of deliberate blasphemy and evil. Stowe rests her argument on the christian principle of universal love.
Stowe advocates, that if those who truly claimed to be christian folk, should realize that under this principle it should be impossible to enslave any human being regardless of skin tone. Not only are Christianity and slavery incompatible, but Christianity should be used to rid the world of evil slavery. The slave hunter, named Tom Loker, learns this moral lesson after his life is spared by Eliza and George, the slaves he tried to capture, who urge the Quakers that they were staying with to help the man that had been trying to them harm.
Loker becomes a changed man after experiencing such kindness. Moreover, Uncle Tom adheres to Christ’s command to “love thine enemy” (qtd. In Stowe). He refuses to compromise his Christian faith, repeatedly, in the face of the many trials under Legree’s petty tyranny, which serves as an extended metaphor for the author’s depiction of Tom as Christ. When he is beaten to eath, he dies forgiving Legree and the men who beat him. In this depiction of Tom as a martyr, he becomes a model for the behavior of both races and elicits the sympathies of intended christian audience.
The story of his life both exposes the evil of slavery even in its best forms, as well as the hypocrisy that exists with the existence of slavery under those who practice christianity. The Things that O’Brien’s characters carry are both literal and figurative. While they all carry tangible loads, they also all carry abstract emotional loads, composed of grief, terror, love, and longing. Each man’s physical burden underscores his emotional burden. Ted Lavender carries his cigarettes and tranquilizers and, with them, the feelings of isolation and a desire to escape.
Similarly, Jimmy Cross carries directional equipment such as compasses and maps and, with them, the responsibility for his men and the pressure of getting them back home. Faced with the heavy burden of fear, the men also carry the weight of their reputations. As Tim O’Brien stood on the border to Canada, contemplating his escape from the draft from a war he doesn’t believe, the only thing that keeps im from running is how his family and his country would see him.
Although every member of the Alpha Company experiences fear at some point, showing fear will only reveal vulnerability to both the enemy and fellow soldiers. After the war, the traumatic experiences continued to define them. Those who survive carry guilt, grief, and confusion, and many of the stories in the collection are about these survivors’ attempts to come to terms with their experience. Many of them would say “I survived, but it’s not a happy ending” (O’Brien). Jimmy Cross still blames himself for lavenders deaths years after the war.
Norman Bowker deals with his post-traumatic-stress-order alone, as he ends up hanging himself in a YMCA. O’Brien shares the things he carries, the people he lost, with us. His collection of stories indebt the Vietnam War as part of the audience’s’ collective past. His words are symbols of his grief and mourning and “blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Stowe). By writing from a hindsight perspective, the author is further denying himself the accuracy of his own stories, making the reader question how much of it is really fact or fiction without depreciating their purpose.