Tag Archives: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Spring Cleaning

My house needs sprucing up.  I missed spring cleaning, and I need some motivation to declutter, organize, and deep-clean.

I know!  I’ll invite two literary characters over for tea.  They will have lots of advice that will inspire me in my tasks.

Who’s coming to my “Tidy-up Tea”?  Why Mrs. Peniston from The House of Mirth and Miss Ophelia  from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, of course!   Between Mrs. Peniston’s enthusiasm for going through every closet and cabinet in chapter 9  of her book and Miss Ophelia’s ideas for Dinah’s kitchen organization in her book, I’ll be set.

Can you think of anyone else I should invite?  Because I think Peniston and Ophelia could easily have a cleaning/organizing television show on TLC.


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Rereading Uncle Tom

Here’s a book I wish I’d found a few months ago.

The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Edited with an introduction and notes by
Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Hollis Robbins

It’s a hefty tome packed full of notes, explanations, and even questions about the text.  It also contains artwork: lithographs, posters, paintings, product labels and more.

Go ahead over to Amazon and click on “Search inside this book“.  I’ll wait…

It’s wonderful, isn’t it!  I would love to reread UTC using this version, but after a quick perusal, I will have to return it to the library and get back to Dostoyevsky.

But!  Readers, keep this in mind…  W.W. Norton & Co. has not only published this title, but they’ve published The Annotated Huckleberry Finn!  I’m putting it on my library hold list immediately!

The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin… it’s one of the books on my nightstand.

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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Children and Uncle Tom’s Cabin

At our wrap-up discussion, Jeannette brought up the topic of children’s versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  For previous novels I have delighted in scouring my library’s database for abridged and annotated children’s copies of our current book.  Jeannette said that she had seen children’s books adapted from Stowe’s classic: some versions focus on one part of the novel such as Topsy.  I promised myself that I would do some research now that summer is here.

I have found nothing.  Countless editions of the unabridged book but nothing specifically written for children.

I searched the Great Illustrated Classics: sixty-six books including such WEM titles as The Red Badge of Courage, Jane Eyre, and Moby-Dick, but no Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  There are over forty titles in the Classic Starts series but still no UTC.

My local library has a couple of children’s biographies about Stowe but nothing else.

Why?  In our wrap-up we discussed the writer’s style.  Stowe the abolitionist wanted to make sure that everyone who read her book understood everything she was saying.  While it took me a bit to “get into” reading the slave dialect, I relied very little on my kindle’s dictionary feature.  My children would be able to handle the vocabulary.

Why am I not finding this classic for children?

Is it the content?  Truthfully, I’ve debated about whether or not I should encourage my children to share in my classical experience; especially as we start Madame Bovary.  Book about adultery?  ummm not sure I want that on their summer reading list.  But a book about slavery?  I can’t imagine Mrs. Beecher Stowe shielded her children from this topic.

Help me out, blog friends.
Have you seen versions of Stowe’s book geared for children?


Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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It’s not bird food.

It’s seed cake!  Little Harry Harris eats seed cake.  Just like Jane Eyre!  Did you catch it, fellow readers?  Harry actually enjoys the treat a few times.

In chapter XXII Quaker Ruth brings gifts for the Harris family as they prepare to depart the settlement,

“Does thee keep up good courage, Eliza?” she added, tripping round to Eliza’s sie of the table, and shaking her warmly by the hand, and slipping a seed-cake into Harry’s hand.  “I brought a little parcel of these for him,” she said, tugging at her pocket to get out the package.  “Children, thee knows, will always be eating.”

In chapter XXXVII, Mrs. Smyth cares for Harry, so that they would appear more natural on their travels by boat where she will pretend to be his aunt.

…and, in order to attach him to her, he had been allowed to remain, the two last days, under her sole charge; and an extra amount of petting, jointed to an indefinite amount of seed-cakes and candy, had cemented a very close attachment on the part of the young gentleman.”

So there you have it.

Seed cake.  It’s not just for boarding school orphans.


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


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Whatever happend to…

Has anyone else missed George and Eliza Harris?  Oh, and little Harry too!

Remember way back in chapter XVII?  They were being aided by Quakers.  We left them holed up with guns, pursued by slave hunters, fleeing for the north.  Now, twenty chapters later, we finally find out what happened to the runaway family.

Excuse me. Mrs. Stowe?  I was beginning to wonder what had happened to your book’s characters.  Thanks for finally filling me in.  So why did you take such a long break from this storyline?

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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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One Tom isn’t enough?

Uncle Tom the slave
Tom Loker the slave hunter

In chapter XXXVII, the narrator starts calling Loker “Tom”.  I don’t think that was the case earlier in the novel.  For a heartbeat, I was confused.  The Quaker Aunt Dorcas is caring for ill and injured Tom Loker, but for just one instance, I thought she was caring for our bruised and beaten Uncle Tom.  Perhaps the switch in calling Loker, Tom, is to show he’s had a change of heart and now is going to trap animals instead of people.

But I’m still wondering. ..Why do you think Harriet Beecher Stowe chose to name two of her characters Tom?
Wasn’t one enough?


Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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Moby-Dick in Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would read about whaling in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  DId you catch the reference in chapter XXXVI?

Poor Tom has been beaten and tossed in the waste-room of the gin-house.  Simon Legree goes to see if Tom has been “broken-in” and is ready to obey his master’s every order.

     “Well, my boy,” said Legree, with a contemptuous kick, “how do you find yourself?  Didn’t I tell yer I could larn yer a thing or tow?  How do yer like it–eh?  How did yer whaling agree with yer, Tom?  An’t quite so crank as ye was last night.  Ye couldn’t treat a poor sinner, now, to a bit of sermon, could ye, –eh?”

How did yer whaling agree with yer, Tom?
Tom is the whale?

What a terrible image!

PS–Did you make a note that Legree spent time on a ship in his youth?  The plantation owner has some monomaniacal tendencies, like Ahab, don’t you think?


Posted by on June 5, 2012 in Moby-Dick, Uncle Tom's Cabin


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Hints of a Hymn

Earlier in Uncle Tom’s Cabin I was reminded of a hymn.  Remember?

It happened again.

Chapter XXXIII– Legree knows that Miss Cassy and Tom helped to fill Lucy’s basket of cotton.  Legree lies about the weight in Lucy’s basket, and he wants Tom to flog her as punishment.  Tom refuses and is repeatedly beaten for it.  Again and again Tom is struck.  Again and again the slave rightly refuses his master.  Legree asks Tom if he didn’t pay for him and thus own him body and soul.

     In the very depth of physical suffering, bowed by brutal oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through Tom’s soul.  He suddenly stretched himself up, and, looking earnestly to heaven, while the tears and blood that flowed down his face mingled, he exclaimed,

This is where I started humming a Lenten hymn.  Do you hear it?
“tears and blood that flowed down his face mingled”
Doesn’t that sound a little like “Sorrow and love flow mingled down“?

See, from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” stanza 3
Lutheran Service Book, hymn 425
text: Isaac Watts,  1674-1748

Here’s the rest of the quote that contains Tom’s response to Legree:

     “No!  no!  no!  my soul an’t yours, Mas’r!  You haven’t bought it, –ye can’t buy it!  It’s been bought and paid for, by one that is able to keep it;–no mater, no matter, you can’t harm me!”

I really wonder if Harriet Beecher Stowe was familiar with this hymn because the “body and soul” talk seems to reflect stanza four.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a tribute far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all!

More and more I’m seeing Tom as a Christ-like figure.




Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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It Could Be Worse

Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart.  What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear.  What brother-man and brother-Christian must suffer cannot be told us, even in our secret chamber, it so harrows up the soul.  And yet, O my country, these things are done under the shadow of thy laws!   O Christ, thy church sees them almost in silence!

How true!  I know that I often prefer to be the ostrich – hiding my head in the sand – rather than face up to the awful truths of injustice and problems in society.   I think that, although Harriet included many awful things in this novel, things that even made us cry, she probably shielded the reader from the worst of the cruelty.   She wanted her novel to be widely read, so often she just alluded to the worst of the problems.   Take the story of Emmaline and Cassie, for example.   Although Stowe alludes to their treatment at the hands of Legree, she lets the reader imagine most of it, sparing us the excruciating details.   Although the book is shocking at times, I really think it could have been worse.

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Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin



He said, “No!” (okay, he might not have said it, but he thought it)

In chapter XXXI Tom is the possession of cruel plantation owner Simon Legree.  They are traveling by boat.  For his sale, Tom had been dressed in his best suit.  Legree uses the time on the boat to go through Tom’s truck of belongings and to mock and belittle the slave.  He forces Tom to change into ragged clothing.  Some of Tom’s items, Legree keeps.  Some items, he throws overboard.  Legree finds Tom’s hymnal and realizes that Tom is a religious man.

Well, I’ll soon have that out of you.  I have non o’yer bawling, praying, singing niggers on my place; so remember.  No mind yourself.” he said with a stamp and a fierce glance of his gray eye, directed at Tom, “I’m your church now!  You understand,–you’ve got to be as I say.”

Tom doesn’t respond out loud, but in his heart he answers his new master.

Something within the silent black man answered No!  and, as if repeated by an invisible voice, came the words of an old prophetic scroll, as Eva had often read them to him, –“Fear not!  for I have redeemed thee.  I have called thee by name.  Thou art MINE!”

Is this the first time Tom has rebelled against one of his masters?

If so… it’s because he’s following his one, true master… The Master.
The one who died and rose again for Tom.

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Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Uncle Tom's Cabin


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