11 Jun

Remember the other day when Christine brought up that odd seed cake from Jane Eyre that showed up again in Uncle Tom’s Cabin?  Well, as appealing as that was, for our wrap-up I decided to try something new, yet thematic.  I found a recipe for Mississippi Mud Cake from a Taste of Kentucky’s website.  Despite the pound of butter, copious pecans, and a healthy share of cocoa, it was, well, uh, let’s just say there’s a reason I didn’t provide the link.

As we choked down our cake for our final wrap-up and answered SWB’s questions some of them seemed to be complete gimmees, for example:

Chronicle or Fable?  Chronicle, HBS only reminds us that she knew of actual situations like the ones she wrote about two or three hundred times.

What do the characters want and what stands in their way?  Uh . . . let’s see . . . this seems a bit like answering “Jesus” to every single Sunday School question, but “Freedom” and “Slavery” seem the obvious responses.  Even if you take the wants some of the white characters and boil them down long enough you get the same answers.  Maybe you could throw in “family” for Tom, but even that is tied up in his freedom.

Point of View?  Omnicient Royal We.  We’ve been over this, but we did add that we think that Harriet uses “we” to make us feel part of a greater community joining the battle against slavery.

Setting?  The deeper south the worse it gets, the farther north, the better.

Style?  Nothin’ fancy to see here folks, just a nice, plain, story designed to get your emotions in motion.

Beginnings and Endings?  See the answer to wants and obstacles and reverse the order.

Do we Sympathize with the characters?  Yup.

What techniques does the author use?  As the seventh of thirteen children, Harriet put on her Middlest Child hat and approached the argument against slavery from every possible angle.  There are stories with happy ending, stories with sad ending, good slave owners, bad slave owners, historical arguments, emotional arguments.  It seems she covered her bases.

Is the novel self-reflective?  We spent a good time talking about what this question even means (If you have great insight please help us out, we talked about it with Ruth and Adriana in the comments over here.  We think for this book the presence of the Word of God is important to the answer, as is the importance of slaves being able to read, and Mrs. Stowe’s appeal to educate the freed slaves as they came north.

Did her time affect her?  Oh yeah, just a little.

Is there an argument?   Undoubtedly

Do we agree?  How could we not.

See what I mean?  We did talk in great depth about some of them, but really, the surface answer was the bulk of our substance.  There were some nice answers to metaphors and images, but those will have to wait until tomorrow.  Today, it’s just the basics.  And they’re pretty basic.

Now, we don’t want you to get the wrong opinion, we loved this novel, and yet we found it difficult to discuss in depth.  We had a similar experience with Jane Eyre.  So we spent some time trying to identify a cause and effect relationship there, but I’m not sure we came up with anything more than dense, dry cakes.  What do you think?  The more we like a book the less we can analyze it?  True or false?  And if true, why?

You chew on that for awhile, you might need a swig or two of lemonade.



Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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12 responses to “Dense

  1. Tonia

    June 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Yes, analyzing Uncle Tom’s Cabin was pretty easy – Harriet pretty much laid it all out for us. Not too much digging needed!

  2. Adriana @ Classical Quest

    June 11, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I suppose if you are writing a book to move the masses, you cannot afford to be subtle with your message!

  3. Steph (@FABR_Steph)

    June 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I still have not read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is on my list of many. I did receive a first edition as a gift, but that one is too delicate to read. This is a wonderful way to present your thoughts. As for the cake, it was not too good then?

    • Christina Joy

      June 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Woah – first edition, that’s an amazing piece of literature! Which color is it (I read that it was first published in four or five different colors.)

      My husband did finish the cake, so I guess it was edible, just not the moist, fudgy goodness I anticipated. I guess you can’t win them all, but I do like to hedge my bets with a fair amount of butter.

  4. Elizabeth Johnson

    June 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Regarding the question of being self-reflective: I understand this question to ask whether the author add his/her own reflections within the book – vs. simply telling the story and letting us draw our own conclusions. For instance, when Harriet address the reader directly, it’s almost like she’s saying, “Here’s the point, make sure you get it.”

    I think the book/writing question also draws attention to the same thing – is the author backing up their major points with other well-known works, thus adding to the validity of the story? If they just write their own words, it could feel like an isolated story; but if they include quotes from classic literature and well-known orators, you start to see how everything relates with each other. It gives more of a whole picture, I guess, than just a single portion of it.

    Maybe I’m understanding that question totally wrong, I don’t know. Or maybe what I said was so obvious that it didn’t need stating… but then, this is the point of the rhetoric stage, right?

    • Christina Joy

      June 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Yes, I think I understand what you’re saying, and that seems to make a lot of sense. Okay, when it’s time for the MB self-reflective question I’m going to come back here and read your explanation a couple time over to make sure I’ve totally got it.

  5. Elizabeth Johnson

    June 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Oh by the way, that means I finished UTC 🙂 It was much more interesting than I expected!

    • Christine

      June 17, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Congrats! (It was for me too–I was a little nervous about this novel.)

  6. Elizabeth Johnson

    June 17, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Also, something else I noticed throughout UTC, which I didn’t see anywhere else on here, is all the parallels to today! Maybe we don’t have flat-out slavery today, but for example, we send missionaries overseas and yet refuse to love the people right around us, just like Ophelia and Topsy. Or like St.Clare- just because we aren’t the most wicked around, doesn’t give us the right to keep silent about right and wrong. Or even Tom- would we be willing to stop harm against another the risk of being harmed ourselves? Would we share the gospel with others, even with our dying breath, or would our only thought be for ourselves? The Bible was quoted so frequently, it was hard NOT to try to apply the book personally.

    • Christine

      June 17, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      At our wrap-up we did discuss that the issue of abortion seemed to parallel the issue of slavery. We pray that the Christian church would fight to protect the life of the unborn.


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