Sunday, June 12, 2011

revisiting Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin and Huckleberry Finn should be taught together. Finn is the better book, but Cabin has great moments. It's important for anyone interested in US literature, race, and feminism, and it has a far more nuanced understanding of human relationships than its detractors are able to comprehend—they seem to want a blaxpoitation adventure about defying slavers at every turn, while Stowe's greatness is that she wrote a novel about people, drawn in broad strokes, but still people.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny how "Uncle Tom" is now a derogatory nickname for a weak, spineless black man--yet if you read the novel, Uncle Tom is actually a strong, muscular man in his forties who suffers death by torture rather than reveal the hiding place of two runaway slave women. In a way, he's the fictional embodiment of "passive resistance" that the anti-slavery Quakers, started, which carried on into the women's suffrage movement, and on into the modern civil rights marches.*

    More on UTC here.

    *Many of the Quaker anti-slavery passive resistance followers went on to lead the women's vote movement, like Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott. The method went overseas to the British women's suffrage movements; in fact, a young Indian lawyer watched British suffragettes employing passive resistance, which inspired him to use the technique in the civil rights struggle in his own homeland. Decades later, MLK read about Gandi's successful use of passive resistance, and brought the belief back to America.**

    **For which MLK was called an "Uncle Tom". Have a little irony, it's good for your blood.