Book Review: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Stowe)

Have I read this before: Yes! This was actually one of the few books on my list that we were “required” to read in school. I think we had to read this one in 10th grade.

Review: So there are two things I know about this book that I didn’t know when I read it the first time: 1) Harriet Beecher Stowe was white (am I dumb? I’m dumb) and 2) a lot of the characters and characters’ stories were based on real people and events. And while the book played a large role in fueling the abolitionist movement in the mid-1800s, there is criticism that a lot of stereotypes about black people were popularized by it. I can see that, especially in the character of Tom. There’s also criticism that Stowe did a lot of her reading/research after publishing the book.

But even with these (valid) criticisms in mind, I think it still can be acknowledged that this book had a profound cultural impact when it was published (and that it still does today). I feel like this “good story, bad stereotypes, but common stereotypes of the time” is going to be a theme with a lot of these classics (I’m looking at you, Gone with the Wind), where there is obvious mistreatment or misrepresentation of some race/nationality/ethnicity, but it “fits” with the story in that it reflects common stereotypes or beliefs that were held at the time the book was written. That obviously doesn’t mean such things should be ignored or glossed over; rather, they should be acknowledged and actively considered both in the context of the book itself and in the impact they have. Hopefully that makes sense!

Rating: 5/10

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