Uncle Tom's Cabin: Ignatius Critical Editions

Uncle Tom's Cabin: Ignatius Critical Editions

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Overview

Uncle Tom's Cabin: Ignatius Critical Editions by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe was appalled by slavery, and she took one of the few options open to nineteenth century women who wanted to affect public opinion: she wrote a novel, a huge, enthralling narrative that claimed the heart, soul, and politics of millions of her contemporaries. Uncle Tom's Cabin paints pictures of three plantations, each worse than the other, where even the best plantation leaves a slave at the mercy of fate or debt. Her questions remain penetrating even today: Can man ever be trusted with wholly irresponsible power? First published more than 150 years ago, this monumental work is today being reexamined by critics, scholars, and students. Though Uncle Tom has become a synonym for a fawning black yes-man, Stowe's Tom is actually American literature's first black hero, a man who suffers for refusing to obey his oppressors. Uncle Tom's Cabin is a living, relevant story, passionate in its vivid depiction of the cruelest forms of injustice and inhumanity-and the courage it takes to fight against them.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781586173340
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Publication date: 10/01/2009
Series: Ignatius Critical Editions: Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 525
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) depicted life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the U.S. and Britain and made the political issues of the 1850s regarding slavery tangible to millions.

Elizabeth Ammons is the Harriet H. Fay Professor of Literature at Tufts University. She is the author of Conflicting Stories: American Women Writers at the Turn into the Twentieth Century, Edith Wharton’s Argument with America, and Brave New Worlds: How Literature Will Save the Planet. She is the editor or co-editor of many books, including Tricksterism in Turn-of-the-Century American Literature: A Multi-Cultural Perspective, Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Casebook, American Color Writing, 1880-1920, Short Fiction by Black Women, 1900–1920, and the Norton Critical Edition of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.

Date of Birth:

June 14, 1811

Date of Death:

July 1, 1896

Place of Birth:

Litchfield, Connecticut

Place of Death:

Hartford, Connecticut

Education:

Homeschooled

Read an Excerpt

Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone
over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P—, in Kentucky.
There were no servants present, and the gentlemen, with chairs closely
approaching, seemed to be discussing some subject with great earnestness.

For convenience sake, we have said, hitherto, two gentlemen. One of the parties,
however, when critically examined, did not seem, strictly speaking, to come under
the species. He was a short, thick-set man, with coarse, commonplace features, and
that swaggering air of pretension which marks a low man who is trying to elbow his
way upward in the world. He was much over-dressed, in a gaudy vest of many
colors, a blue neckerchief, bedropped gayly with yellow spots, and arranged with a
flaunting tie, quite in keeping with the general air of the man. His hands, large and
coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings; and he wore a heavy gold
watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous size, and a great variety of colors,
attached to it,—which, in the ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of
flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction. His conversation was in free and
easy defiance of Murray's Grammar, and was garnished at convenient intervals with
various profane expressions, which not eventhe desire to be graphic in our account
shall induce us to transcribe.

His companion, Mr. Shelby, had the appearance of a gentleman; and the
arrangements of the house, and the general air of the housekeeping, indicated easy,
and even opulent circumstances. As we before stated, the two were in the midst of
an earnest conversation.

'That is the way I should arrange the matter,' said Mr. Shelby.

'I can't make trade that way—I positively can't, Mr. Shelby,' said the other, holding
up a glass of wine between his eye and the light.

'Why, the fact is, Haley, Tom is an uncommon fellow; he is certainly worth that sum
anywhere—steady, honest, capable, manages my whole farm like a clock.'

'You mean honest, as niggers go,' said Haley, helping himself to a glass of brandy.

'No; I mean, really, Tom is a good, steady, sensible, pious fellow. He got religion at
a camp-meeting, four years ago; and I believe he really did get it. I've trusted him,
since then, with everything I have,—money, house, horses,—and let him come and
go round the country; and I always found him true and square in everything.'

'Some folks don't believe there is pious niggers, Shelby,' said Haley, with a candid
flourish of his hand, 'but I do. I had a fellow, now, in this yer last lot I took to
Orleans—'twas as good as a meetin', now, really, to hear that critter pray; and he was
quite gentle and quiet like. He fetched me a good sum, too, for I bought him cheap
of a man that was 'bliged to sell out; so I realized six hundred on him. Yes, I consider
religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it's the genuine article, and no mistake.'

'Well, Tom's got the real article, if ever a fellow had,' rejoined the other. 'Why, last
fall, I let him go to Cincinnati alone, to do business for me, and bring home five
hundred dollars. 'Tom,' says I to him, 'I trust you, because I think you're a
Christian—'I know you wouldn't cheat.' Tom comes back, sure enough; I knew he
would. Some low fellows, they say, said to him—'Tom, why don't you make tracks
for Canada?' 'Ah, master trusted me, and I couldn't'—they told me about it. I am sorry
to part with Tom, I must say. You ought to let him cover the whole balance of the
debt; and you would, Haley, if you had any conscience.'

'Well, I've got just as much conscience as any man in business can afford to
keep,—just a little, you know, to swear by, as 'twere,' said the trader, jocularly; 'and
then, I'm ready to do anything in reason to 'blige friends; but this yer, you see, is a
leetle too hard on a fellow—a leetle too hard.' The trader sighed contemplatively, and

Table of Contents

Vol. I
IIn Which the Reader Is Introduced to a Man of Humanity7
IIThe Mother17
IIIThe Husband and Father20
IVAn Evening in Uncle Tom's Cabin25
VShowing the Feelings of Living Property on Changing Owners37
VIDiscovery45
VIIThe Mother's Struggle54
VIIIEliza's Escape67
IXIn Which It Appears That a Senator Is But a Man82
XThe Property Is Carried Off99
XIIn Which Property Gets into an Improper State of Mind108
XIISelect Incident of Lawful Trade122
XIIIThe Quaker Settlement139
XIVEvangeline148
XVOf Tom's New Master, and Various Other Matters158
XVITom's Mistress and Her Opinions174
XVIIThe Freeman's Defence193
XVIIIMiss Ophelia's Experiences and Opinions209
Vol. II
XIXMiss Ophelia's Experiences and Opinions, Continued226
XXTopsy245
XXIKentuck260
XXII"The Grass Withereth--the Flower Fadeth"265
XXIIIHenrique272
XXIVForeshadowings280
XXVThe Little Evangelist286
XXVIDeath291
XXVII"This Is the Last of Earth"304
XXVIIIReunion312
XXIXThe Unprotected326
XXXThe Slave Warehouse334
XXXIThe Middle Passage344
XXXIIDark Places350
XXXIIICassy359
XXXIVThe Quadroon's Story366
XXXVThe Tokens377
XXXVIEmmeline and Cassy383
XXXVIILiberty390
XXXVIIIThe Victory396
XXXIXThe Stratagem406
XLThe Martyr416
XLIThe Young Master423
XLIIAn Authentic Ghost Story429
XLIIIResults436
XLIVThe Liberator444
XLVConcluding Remarks447

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Allen masterfully elicits an array of Southern dialects for Stowe's variety of characters. His thoughtful, engaged performance creates a memorable audio experience." —-AudioFile

Reading Group Guide

Uncle Tom, Topsy, Sambo, Simon Legree, little Eva: their names are American bywords, and all of them are characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe's remarkable novel of the pre-Civil War South. 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. Labeled racist and condescending by some contemporary critics, it remains a shocking, controversial, and powerful work -- exposing the attitudes of white nineteenth-century society toward "the peculiar institution" and documenting, in heartrending detail, the tragic breakup of black Kentucky families "sold down the river." An immediate international sensation, Uncle Tom's Cabin sold 300,000 copies in the first year, was translated into thirty-seven languages, and has never gone out of print: its political impact was immense, its emotional influence immeasurable.


From the Paperback edition.

Introduction

A Reading Group Guide for Uncle Tom's Cabin

About the Book

Arthur Shelby is a good man — kind and fair — but he has fallen into financial difficulties. The only way he can set things right is by selling two of his slaves: the strong and faithful Tom, and Eliza's charming young son. Shelby's decision sets in motion two series of events that are as different as night and day, as both Tom and Eliza are forced to leave the Shelby estate. The journeys they take, and the people they meet along the way, lie at the heart of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a story that served as a searing indictment of the slave system that existed at the time.

Discussion Topics

  • How do the other people on the Shelby estate react to news of the sale of Tom and Harry? What is Mrs. Shelby's objection? How does young "Mas'r George" deal with the news of his friend's departure? How do the other slaves react?

  • Many different people help Eliza during her flight — Mr. Symmes, the Bird family, the community of Quakers. What similarities and differences are there among all these people? What reasons does each of them give for helping Eliza?

  • Much of the dialogue in the book is given over to a debate on the morality of slavery. Most of the slave owners feel that they are "above" the slave traders. Is this true? Why do you think that so many members of the clergy defended slavery?

  • Discuss the author's attitude toward her black characters. Do you think this was an acceptable point of view at the time? What do you think would have to be changed if the story were being told today?

  • Miss Ophelia's presence in the story allows the author to addressNorthern attitudes toward blacks. As St. Clare tells her, "You loathe them as you would a snake or a toad, yet you are indignant at their wrongs. You would not have them abused; but you don't want to have anything to do with them yourselves." Is this a fair assessment of Miss Ophelia's feelings? What happens to change her attitude?

  • Discuss the death scenes of both Eva and Uncle Tom. In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different? Why do you think that the author devoted so much time to these death scenes?

  • Children play a large part in the story of Uncle Tom's Cabin. What do Eva, Topsy, George Shelby, Harry, and Henrique each symbolize? Would the story have been the same if their characters had been adult?

Activities

  • Trace the route of the Underground Railroad. Find information about some of the major stops, as well as some of the famous "conductors" that helped slaves escape. Also, research what the punishment was for helping the slaves.

  • Eliza's escape across the river has always been popular with dramatists and actors. See if you can find examples of this scene being acted out (hint: it figures prominently in the movie The King and I). Perform this scene yourself, and any other scenes you think lend themselves well to performance.

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin was very controversial when it was first published, and it's often said to be a contributing factor to the Civil War. Research reactions to the book throughout its history.

    1. Investigate the institution of slavery. What were the economic factors that supported it? Could slavery have ended without a war?

    2. Quakers played an important role in the abolitionist movement. How did their beliefs make them particularly well suited for the abolitionist cause?

    3. A great deal of attention is given in the book to descriptions of food. Find some traditional Southern recipes and try them out.

    4. Find other books and writings that were important in the fight for civil rights. Compare them to Uncle Tom's Cabin, both in terms of style and historical context.

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