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Heart-Broken Mothers

17 May

And here we have it…. the first WEM book to make me cry.  I didn’t shed tears for Helen Burns in Jane Eyre.  I didn’t cry at Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice.  There was no wetness on my cheek for Oliver’s abuse and neglect in Oliver Twist.  The only tears I may have squeezed out for Don Quixote were in relief at having finished the novel.  I could go on and on with each title I’ve read the past year.

But Uncle Tom’s Cabin…  This book tugs at my heart as a mother.  Stowe does more than tug at my womanly heart… she left me sobbing over the kindle.

Do you remember meeting Senator Bird and his wife in chapter nine?  When Eliza shares her tale, the Birds understand about grief and loss because Mrs. Bird is still wearing mourning clothes for their child who died a month earlier.  The Birds help prepare Eliza for traveling to a safe house.  Sen. Bird haltingly suggests that they share some of their deceased son’s things for Eliza’s son to wear.

And oh! mother that reads this, has there never been in your house a drawer, or a closet, the opening of which has been to you like the opening again of a little grave? ah! happy mother that you are, if it has not been so.

The Bird children ask their mother if she intends to give their brother’s things away.

“My dear boys,” she said, softly and earnestly, “if our dear, loving little Henry looks down from heaven, he would be glad to have us do this.  I could not find it in my heart to give them away to any common person–to anybody that was happy; but I give them to a mother more heart-broken and sorrowful than I am; and I hope God will send his blessings with them!”

Harriet Beecher Stowe, I’m listening.  And friends, keep your tissues close, I’m afraid there’s more sorrow to come.

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6 Comments

Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin

 

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6 responses to “Heart-Broken Mothers

  1. Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective

    May 17, 2012 at 7:50 am

    This brought tears to my eyes, too.

     
  2. Ruth

    May 17, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Yes! I remember that feeling and putting myself in her place having to escape with (all of) my children. Horrifying. It really does pierce a mother’s heart.

     
  3. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    May 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Only a mother could have told this story so well. The more I learn about HBS, the more I appreciate her. She was the real deal.

    And yes, this book makes me cry too!

     
  4. Christina Joy

    May 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I’m not embarrassed to admit that I cried for Sancho’s loss of DQ and Helen’s death, but neither of those were like the gut-wrenching sobs I’ve experience so far in this book. I love it when she talks directly to us. It makes me feel like HBS and I are dear friends.

    This was the chapter that started the salty flow of tears, and despite the fact that I’m not yet finished, there have been three more instances of crying already, and I get this icky feeling that there is bound to be more.

     
  5. jeanlp

    May 18, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Well, that made me all weepy. *snif*

     
  6. dana

    October 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I didn’t know until preparing to teach this book again HBS’s own experience of losing a child: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijFy4RjYGbQ

    With that background, as I read the first 9 chapters this week, I was amazed at the number of times she refers to a mother losing a child, and appeals to the mother’s heart to hear her appeal about how awful this aspect of slavery is (not that there’s a “good” aspect–it’s just that this particular angle stood out dramatically as being one of the evils of slavery she felt most passionately).

     

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