First Impressions

08 May

About a month ago, my husband surprised me with the gift of a kindle.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the first WEM novel that I have begun reading using my new e-reader (and only an e-reader).  This is exciting!  I can look up definitions to words by touching the screen.  I can carry my lightweight “book” everywhere.  For now I’m still journaling in a separate notebook, but when I learn to fully use the kindle, I’ll be able to take notes on the screen!

But this also means…

I downloaded a free version of UTC, and I have no illustrated cover to enjoy: no artwork to consider.  I have no back cover where I might read an interesting paragraph about the novel or snippet of information about the author.  There are no reviews from other important authors telling me how this novel is one of America’s greatest.  I can’t “flip” through a paperback copy to see how long the chapters are.

So this also means…

that my very first impressions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin were made by reading the first chapter.  Remember the whole point of following the WEM plan is to learn to form my own ideas about great works of literature, so I haven’t read any prefaces or synopsis of the book.

About a week ago, I touched the screen and began the story.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life among the Lowly
Volume 1
Chapter 1: In Which the Reader is Introduced to a Man of Humanity

First Impressions on the First Chapter:  I was immediately drawn in by Stowe’s style of writing; it’s easy, familiar, descriptive and clever.  Occasionally, the narrator will pull back the curtain to address me as the reader directly.  I always enjoy this. (Jane Eyre— “Reader, I married him.”)  My knowledge of the history of slavery in the south is limited, but like Uncle Tom, I am a Christian and like Eliza, I am a mother.  I could easily and immediately relate to characters.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, I know we just met, but I like you.  I like your book, even though I suspect it may be the first WEM novel that causes me to shed tears.

Reader, what was your first impression of Uncle Tom’s Cabin?


Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


Tags: , , ,

12 responses to “First Impressions

  1. Jeannette

    May 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Well, my copy is so old it smells, the pages keep falling out and I have no notes or commentary. That all made for a rough first impression – sigh – why am I so cheap? 🙂 In regards to content, I agree that it has been a pleasure to read so far. I know I’ve read it before, but I’m enjoying the nuances.

    • Christine

      May 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      Well, there’s one pro for the kindle: no smell.

  2. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    May 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    HBS didn’t beat around the bush: she wrote a sermon. I love how she explored so many perspectives. I imagine readers at the time needed to see how slavery was evil from every angle — how it was morally corrosive to society as a whole. I’ve already written “AMEN!” in my margins several times — and I’m on chapter seven.

    I think Kindle is great for quick weekend reads like NY Times bestsellers; however, after using it with TSL, I decided to go back to paperback for WEM books. The dictionary feature is wonderful, but the note-taking takes too long and it is too easy for me to get lost. (Esp.with a free version w/o a table of contents.) A few times my baby tapped her little toe on the screen while I was nursing and I found myself ten chapters ahead of myself.

    I did treat myself to an Audible subscription and I LOVE listening to the books on my Kindle while I read along and take notes with a pencil. My Kindle is also loaded with samples of books from Amazon that I’m considering for future reading.

    • Christine

      May 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      I will no think “Amen” when I agree with HBS.

      I don’t have baby toes to help me lose my place. I’ve been doing that all on my own. Suddenly yesterday, my free version of UTC has chapters marked in the go-to section. Hooray! At least that will help when I accidentally jump six pages ahead.

  3. Sandy B.

    May 9, 2012 at 12:21 am

    This is my second time reading it, but it has been over 25 years. I’m enjoying it immensely! Like Adriana, I have a lot of Amens written in my book! : ) It’s interesting to see the notes and underlinings I made back in college.

    I got a Kindle for my birthday, but I’ve only read one book on it so far. I really do like to hold an actual book and turn pages and underline and write notes in it. I’m thinking I may use the Kindle more when I travel.

    • Christine

      May 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      I didn’t think I’d read UTC before, but parts seem so familiar. Perhaps it’s part of our culture now and that’s how I know parts already? Or maybe HBS wants us to know where she’s going with the story?

  4. Christina Joy

    May 9, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Jerry read MD and now he’s in the middle of UTC with the Kindle. The same things that you mentioned (no table of contents, not knowing when the chapters will end) bother him, but I’ve loved having access to it after we’ve finished a book and I’m trying to locate a quote or word. He told me the other day that your daughter has been giving him Kindle tutorials as they do walking club at recess :-).

    I think I read this back in 6th grade in some vain attempt at attempting vain things. I remember NOTHING, except never understanding any of the slave dialog at all. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what an easy, enjoyable (in that sad and shocking way) it has been. And yes, there are a few “Amen!s” written in my margins, too.

    • Christine

      May 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Perhaps I should abandon class with my primogeniture and have you teach me kindle skills: looking for quotes? I should be so happy. I bookmark and then can’t find what I marked.

      I too am enjoying not having to work so hard on the reading (Moby-Dick) and instead follow characters and plot.

  5. Elizabeth Johnson

    June 4, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I know I’m a little late to the party – I just started UTC this past weekend – but I’m reading it on the Kindle (because it’s free) and wanted to add a couple thoughts. First, if you hit the “go to” button, you can see a version of the TOC, or at least how long each chapter is. That’s a huge thing for me, as I always flip ahead to see how many pages are in whatever chapter I’m reading.

    I agree that the note taking feature would take forever to use, at least for WEM-style reading. I’m going old school and just using a regular notebook along with my kindle, and just using the “highlight” feature to mark good sentences (I’m crazy about unique descriptions of people and places). Although I must admit, I’m having a hard time remembering to take notes… any tips for that? 🙂

    • Christine

      June 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      When I first started UTC on the kindle, there was no TOC. Then I got a kindle update and it included one. Hoorah! Those volunteers who do the free versions must have added one. I’m grateful.

      Notetaking: I just write up a little at the end of each chapter. (I probably write too much.) For one of our books (I think it was Jane Eyre), I was just so eager to finish that I skipped notetaking about halfway through the novel. I paid for it after the fact, trying to go back and write a synopsis for each chapter. I ended up rereading lots. For fantastic examples of notetaking check out Ruth at She’s on our “Other WEM-ers” sidebar as “An Experiment with the Well-Educated Mind.”

  6. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    June 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Welcome to the party Elizabeth!! Yes, do check out Ruth. Her summaries are stellar! Looking forward to getting to know you better 🙂


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