Uncle Tom's Cabin: Global Best Seller, Anti-slave Narrative, Imperialist Agenda

By Kenneth DiMaggio.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

DOI: 10.18848/1835-4432/CGP/46892

Known in its day for being the second best selling of a book after "The Bible," Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has had a global presence ever since. While it may not have the wide readership it did in the 19th century, it continues to be one of those books that many people still "know" about without ever having read it. Stowe's book is known for its position against slavery, often depicting the harsh, cruel conditions that slaves had undergone in the Plantation south. Stowe's anti-slave narrative is even credited with helping to start the American Civil War. Widely cited (and most likely apocryphal) President Abraham Lincoln supposedly said to Mrs. Stowe during her invited visit to the White House, "So this is the little woman whose book started the Civil War." Yet does Stowe's book harbor another, perhaps hidden thesis? In the anti-slavery, abolitionist characters such as Miss Ophelia, Stowe voices a post-reconstructionist narrative, one that seems to anticipate (and support) the industrialization of the newly united American republic. Ten years after the publication of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," slavery might have ended in most of the Western world, but as Karl Marx would note, not the enslavement-like conditions. "He learns to control himself," writes Marx about the new industrial worker, "in contrast to the slave, who needs a master." And while admirable in its aim to end slavery, does Stowe's tome help to support an Imperialist agenda of the new industrial era?

Keywords: Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Uncle Tom's Cabin", Slavery, Imperialism, Nineteenth-century Industrialism, Marx

Global Studies Journal, Volume 7, Issue 1, May 2014, pp.15-23. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 476.763KB).

Kenneth DiMaggio

Professor of Humanities, Humanities, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA

I am a Professor of Humanities at Capital Community College in Hartford Connecticut. CCC is an urban community college where students are often reading at a level that is below traditional college course work, thus making literacy a prime issue that constantly needs to be addressed. As a teacher of Literature and Writing, I am constantly looking for texts, topics, and new pedagogies to help address the above issue.

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