am 27. Juli 2000
I too was surprised by "Uncle Tom's Cabin." I'd expected a poorly written melodrama with (at best) a tepid commitment to abolition and a strong undercurrent of racism. I was wrong. As a novel, I consider it to be better than many of its rough contemporaries (including "A Tale of Two Cities," "Vanity Fair," and "Sartor Resartus"). As an attack on slavery, it is uncompromising, well informed, logically sophisticated, and morally unassailable. It's also exciting, educational, and often funny.
The book has flaws, of course. The quality of the writing is variable, as it is in the works of many greater talents than Stowe. Herman Melville is one of my favorite writers, but I'd be hard-pressed to defend some of his sentences--or even some of his books--on purely literary grounds! There are indeed sentimental passages in "UTC." So what? There are plenty in Hawthorne, Dickens, Ruskin, and the Brontes, too...and lord knows our age has its own garish pieties. There are also a couple (only a couple!) of unfortunate remarks on the "childlike" character of slaves, but nothing so offensive as to render suspect Stowe's passionate belief that blacks are equal to whites in the eyes of God and must not be enslaved. (She also says that differences between blacks and whites do not result from a difference in innate ability, and argues that a white person raised to be a slave would show all the characteristics of one). By contrast, Plato wrote reams in defense of slavery and racialism, and yet people who point this out are considered spoilsports, if not philistines.
The reviewer who claimed to have learned from Stowe that "slavery is no worse than capitalism" has totally misunderstood Stowe, who says that slavery is AS terrible as capitalism. To be precise, Stowe equates the horrors of wage slavery under Victorian Britain's capitalist system of production with those of chattel slavery in the American South. Her definition of capitalism agrees perfectly with that of Karl Marx, who was a pro-abolitionist correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune (and was familiar enough with Stowe to have written a piece on her). Marx said that true capitalism is defined by "the annihilation of self-earned private property; in other words, the expropriation of the labourer." Marx did not consider America a capitalist state, because American workers had at least theoretical upward mobility and could acquire property. This was not at all true of the British working class when "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written, as Stowe well knew. And there was nothing idiosyncratic about her opinion; contemporaneous books such as "The White Slaves of England" made the same connection between American chattel slavery and British wage slavery. The cruelty of both systems is what led Stowe to claim in an essay that the Civil War was not merely a war against slavery, but "a war for the rights of the working class of society as against the usurpation of privileged aristocracies."
As for the claim that Stowe says Christianity justifies slavery, this is either willful misreading or wishful thinking...she says the opposite so many times, and at such length, that to remove every expression of it would probably shorten the book by half (to the delight, apparently, of most of our nation's English students).
Not sure who to believe? If you're interested enough in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" to have slogged through this meandering review, why not read it and see for yourself what Stowe does, and doesn't, say?
am 3. April 2005
I read this book the first time in High School in California, but it was 3 times more moving now that I have a family of my own. I recommend this book for everyone. Slavery in America was the cruelest and most inhumane acts of society in the last few centuries. For me the American Slavery was as bad as what Hilter did to the Jews.
It should be read and reread by everyone.
am 28. Februar 2005
Uncle Tom's Cabin is a very melodramatic book. I have read it several times over the past twenty years and must say that it has something new for every decade or even for every generation. When considered for our time, Uncle Tom's stands out as a classic prose that hits directly at those turbulent times before the Civil War, and reflects issues of war and principles today. Harriet Beecher Stowe had a great cause to write about and wrote a work that still is as relevant today as it was during his time.
The author's masterful story summarizes the conflicting attitudes of a nation on the brink of civil war. Melodramatic though it is, it was written in the style of the times and for a situation that required it. This is a highly recommended book.
Also recommended: DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, WAR AND PEACE, THE USURPER AND OTHERS
am 24. September 2011
Erst einmal ein paar Worte zu dieser Ausgabe: Ich habe (bisher) 7 Bände aus der Collector's Library; sie sind mit Goldschnitt, Lesebändchen und dem stabilen Umschlag schon ästhetisch ansprechend, handlich, gut gedruckt und optisch gut lesbar. Für knapp 10 Euro ein Schnäppchen! Sehr informativ auch nach das (knappe) Nachwort zur Autorin wie zum Werk.
Zum Text selber: Ich gesteh's; dieser Band stand bei mir mehrere Jahre ungelesen im Regal. Erst als ich zum 200. Geburtstag von Harriet Beecher Stowe einige Hintergrundberichte zur Autorin wie zum Buch hörte, nahm ich mir die Lektüre vor. Eigentlich sollte man "Uncle Tom's Cabin" schon aus historischem Interesse lesen; schließlich ist es eines der wirkungsmächtigsten Bücher der Literaturgeschichte. Als seinerzeit Abraham Lincoln die Autorin empfing, soll er (sinngemäß) gesagt haben: "Also das ist die kleine Frau, der wir diesen großen Krieg verdanken." Gemeint war selbstverständlich der amerikanische Sezessionskrieg. Dieser wurde (zumindest teilweise) von der Auseinandersetzung über die Sklavenfrage ausgelöst, und die Diskussion über diese Frage wurde zum Gutteil eben von "Uncle Tom's Cabin" angestoßen.
Um Sklaven (und ihre Herren) geht es also in diesem Roman. Heute mag er einen schlechten Ruf haben; man mag ihm nachsagen, dass er Klischees v.a. über Schwarze verbreite, ja geprägt habe. Das kann ich nicht beurteilen; ich vermute aber, dass erst später aus den Archetypen, die die Autorin schuf, Klischee-Bilder wurden. Die Autorin aber wusste, worüber sie schrieb; sie schrieb über ihre Zeitgenossen, über ihr Land, und zehn Jahre vor dem Ausbruch des Bürgerkrieges sind in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" bereits die Bruchlinien sichtbar, die zu jenem blutigen Konflikt führen sollten. Mehr noch: Beecher Stowe sieht bereits sehr klar die Probleme voraus, mit denen sich Schwarz und Weiß NACH der Sklavenbefreiung konfrontiert sehen werden.
Dies deutet schon an: Es wird viel diskutiert in diesem Buch, und zwar auf erstaunlich differenzierte Weise; zum erstenmal ist mir hier klar geworden, wie verfahren die Situation in den USA vor 1861 war. Es wird freilich auch viel gepredigt; nicht umsonst stammte Beecher Stowe aus einer Prediger-Familie. Die Ethik der Autorin ist zweifellos christlich geprägt, aber sehr undogmatisch und mit bemerkenswert klarem Sinn auf die Lebens-Praxis gerichtet; da bekommen auch verlogene Geistliche ihr Fett weg, wenn sie die Sklaverei zu rechtfertigen versuchen. Denn dass die Autorin eine Gegnerin der Sklaverei ist, daraus macht sie nie einen Hehl.
Zu der Handlung brauche ich hier, glaube ich, nicht viel zu sagen. Die Charaktere sind erstaunlich differenziert gezeichnet, ungewöhnlich vielfältig und (soweit ich das beurteilen kann) weit entfernt von Klischee-Bildern. (Meine Lieblings-Figuren sind Miss Ophelia und Marie St Claire.) Ja, manchmal geht es recht sentimental zu, was mir normalerweise widerstrebt. Man merkt aber, dass man es hier nicht mit Gefühls-Duseligkeit zu tun hat, sondern mit höchst menschlichem Mitgefühl. Obwohl nicht gerade nahe am Wasser gebaut, hatte auch ich feuchte Augen bei der Sterbeszene von Evangeline (nomen est omen)! An vielen Stellen merkt man, dass Beecher Stowe eine Zeitgenossin von Dickens war; fast könnte man den Verdacht haben, dass sie bei "Little Dorrit" abgeschrieben hat. Der Band erschien freilich erst einige Jahre nach "Uncle Tom's Cabin"!
Kurzum: Nicht nur ein wichtiges, sondern auch ein gutes Buch! Man sollte es freilich an den Massstäben seiner Zeit messen; doch wer etwa Dickens schätzt, wird auch dieses Buch lieben!
am 15. Dezember 1999
The book Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was written for a purpose; it was not meant to be merely entertaining for its readers. Stowe wrote it in order to show its readers how awful and degrading slavery is to people and mankind. Harriet Beecher Stowe hated the "peculiar institution," and she wanted others to see why she hated it. It is an entertaining and exciting book that causes readers to feel as if they are a part of the story. The way it is written allows readers almost be able to relate to the slaves and feel the torture and pain that they felt in the story. The slave owners were portrayed as heartless devilish men, and the slaves were portrayed as their victims. Readers are able to feel emotions towards many of the characters. For instance, readers end up hating Simon Legree, the cruel slave owner. They feel pity and sadness when he treats Tom, the good, unfortunate slave, cruelly. Another example is of the feeling of love and pity that readers tend to feel towards the saintlike child, Eva. Though Stowe's writing came across as preachy at times, I found the book to be very well written with a clever plot. It is educational to its readers by helping them to see the way life was for different people in the time period in which the book took place. The book was a bestseller when it was first released to the public. It caused much conflict and uproar over the subject of slavery. In many cases Stowe's reason for writing the book served its purpose. Many people became supporters of abolition because of this book. It was interesting for me to read it knowing that it was one of the causes of our country's Civil War. I could understand why it caused so much controversy between the North and the South when I read it. Uncle Tom's Cabin is definately interesting and worth reading.
am 8. Juni 2000
I don't give this book five stars, only because of three things: 1)It is rather overtly preachy, which is understandable, given the subject matter, but is still a source of potential improvement; if there were fewer asides to the reader, overtly making the point that the story makes quite adequately on its own, it would have been better; 2)the typical nineteenth-century style is occasionally ponderous, although less extremely so than most novels from that era, and 3)the author does, occasionally, reveal herself to be a woman not unaffected by the prejudices of her time, in spite of her good intentions; there are occasional references, offensive to modern ears, to "inborn traits of the African race", which are actually the author's comment, not that of a character. Admittedly, the traits in question are never negative ones; still, any suggestion that there are personality traits inborn and shared by an entire race ought to be an idea of the past, even if it isn't.
In spite of all that, this is a very impressive work on many levels: purely as a story, it is a fine, compelling story peopled with many compelling characters, and if some of those characters are too one-dimensional to be true, either purely good or purely evil, that is understandable in a novel that intends to be a tale of good and evil, and at any rate, not all or even most of the characters can be said to be so. Most are surprisingly well-balanced for a novel of that time period, particularly one with the sole purpose of teaching a moral lesson.
Further, the novel is important as a historical piece; it is extremely worthwhile for everyone who is in any way affected by the "race issue" (which is to say, just about everyone) to be reminded of just WHY we still have a race issue in this country, 150 years later. Granted, no white person alive today has ever owned a slave (as a friend of mine comments, "You've obviously mistaken me for someone much older",) but it is useful to be reminded of just how much hatred was sown for white, mainstream society by the institution of slavery, and just how understandable it is that those who are still, generations later, at a disadvantage from the criminal treatment of their ancestors would be resentful and bitter. At the same time, while it would do little to lessen that bitterness for blacks to read this book and be reminded of just how brutal that institution was, it might be a worthwhile reminder for those who exaggerate the current level of racism as to just how much HAS changed in those 150 years. Society may be far from just, but it would be a mistake and an insult to those who suffered slavery to suggest that "nothing has really changed", an idea which the more vehement occasionally suggest.
All in all, this is a very important historical novel of a time that we as a country should never be allowed to forget, and the fact that it manages to do so while still being a remarkably readable book is merely icing on the cake.
am 2. Mai 1999
Uncle Tom's cabin is frequently criticized by people who have never read the work, myself included. I decided I finally needed to read it and judge it for myself. And I have to say, that for all its shortcomings (and it does have them), it is really a remarkable book. The standout characteristics of this book are the narrative drive (it's a very exciting, hard to put down book), the vivid characters (I don't know what other reviewers were reading, but I found the characters extremely vivid and mostly believable - exceptions to follow), the sprawling cast, the several completely different worlds that were masterfully portrayed, and the strong female characters in the book. The portrayal of slavery and its effects on families and on individuals is gut-wrenching - when Uncle Tom has to leave his family, and when Eliza may lose little Harry, one feels utterly desolate.
As for flaws, yes, Mrs. Stowe does sermonize a fair bit, and her sentences and pronouncements can be smug. Yes, if you're not a Christian, you may find all her Christian references a bit much. (But the majority of her readers claimed to be Christian, and it was her appeal to the spirit of Christ that was her most powerful tug at the emotions of her readers). Yes, she still had some stereotypical views of African-Americans (frankly, I think most people have stereotypical views of races other than their own, they just don't state them as clearly today). But in her time, she went far beyond the efforts of most of her contemporaries to both see and portray her African-American brothers and sisters are equal to her. The best way she did this was in her multi-dimensional portrayal of her Negro characters -- they are, in fact, more believable and more diverse than her white characters. Yes, at times her portrayal of Little Eva and Uncle Tom is overdone at times -- they are a little cardboard in places -- but both, Uncle Tom especially, are overall believable, and very inspiring. The rest of the Negro characters - George Harris, Eliza, Topsy, Cassie, Emmeline, Chloe, Jane and Sara, Mammy, Alphonse, Prue, and others, span the whole spectrum of humanity -- they are vivid and real.
The comments of a previous reviewer that the book actually justifies slavery (because "it says it's no worse than capitalism") and that it shows that Christianity defends slavery are due to sloppy reading of the book. No one reading the book could possibly come to the conclusion that it does anything but condemn slavery in the strongest and most indubitable terms. This was the point of the book. The aside about capitalism was just that, an aside on the evils of capitalism. It did not and does not negate the attack on slavery. Secondly, another major point of the book is that TRUE Christianity does not and could not ever support slavery. Stowe points out the Biblical references used to claim that Christianity defended slavery merely to show how the Bible can be misused by those who wish to defend their own indefensible viewpoint. It's ridiculous to say that the book "shows that Christianity supported slavery". It shows that some misguided preachers abused certain Bible passages and ignored other ones to support their view of slavery.
There is an overlay of the tired "Victorian women's novel" to this piece - that must be granted. For literary perfection, it will never take its place beside Tolstoy, Dickens and Austen. But it is a piece entirely of its own category. Nothing before or after it has been anything like it, and it IS a great, if flawed, novel. I highly recommend it. I give it 5 stars despite its flaws because it's utterly unique, and its greatness is in some ways is related to its flaws.
am 3. März 1999
1. SLAVERY WASN'T SO BAD AFTER ALL. I was surprised to find out that this book supported slavery. Of course, you have to wade through the melodrama and Christian speechifying (which is to say about 95% of the book's content) to get at Ms. Stowe's thesis, but once you do it becomes clear. To Ms. Stowe, slavery and capitalism are just different manifestations of evil human greed (St. Clare's speech on pp 239-241, chapter 19). It's good news to old slavers who could whip their charges to death, to be compared to Rockafellers, Carnegies, and Bill Gates.
Ms. Stowe deems many factors that separate capitalism and slavery to be irrelevant. The fact that under capitalism families weren't separated is irrelevant. The fact that people could emigrate freely is also irrelevant. The fact that people were not forced off their farms and into the cities is irrelevant. The fact that proletariat, even in Ms. Stowe's day, were protected by labor laws is irrelevant. The fact that life expectancy increased vis à vis the pastoral lifestyle is irrelevant. The fact that the proletariat were not chosen for racist reasons is irrelevant. The fact that a worker could become an entrepreneur and eventually a capitalist is also irrelevant.
2. CHRISTIANITY DOESN'T CONDEMN SLAVERY. Ms. Stowe does a fine job (inadvertently) of showing that Christianity contains doctrine that supports slavery, and no doctrine that outright condemns it.
3. AMERICA IS FOR AMERICAN INDIANS. Ms. Stowe states at the end of chapter 43 that Topsy, after receiving a decent Christian upbringing, became a teacher in "her own country" -- Africa. Ms. Stowe believes that Africa is Topsy's country because she is descended from Africans, and conversely that the United States is not Topsy's country. Of course, if one were to apply the same logic to everyone in the U.S., only native Americans would pass the test.
am 5. Oktober 1999
For 30 years my only knowledge of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" came through the awkward filter of a brief scene in the movie, "The King and I." In that movie from the 1950s, Siamese actors present a beautiful but caricatured version of Stowe's book- like the minstrel shows of the nineteenth century which made Uncle Tom into an obsequious cliche. These dramatizations have probably done much to obscure the true value of this narrative. Stowe's characters are richly drawn and highly complex. The characters of Uncle Tom, Ophelia, and Mr. St. Clare are some of the most vivid, precisely drawn characters in literature.
The conversations between Ophelia and her cynical, slaveholding cousin from the South encapsulated perfectly the heated debate in this country about the "peculiar institution" of slavery. And, while Stowe attacks the South for its tolerance of this demonaical practice, she does not hesitate to point out the hypocrisy of the North. Northerners, she states, condemn the South for slavery, but they themselves want little or nothing to do with blacks or their rehabilitation. (Little Topsy becomes the perfect metaphor for the challenge of reconstruction.)
This novel also reminds us of the dominance of faith and the Bible in the nineteenth century, making much of the text feel- to us in the twentieth century- preachy or overly didactic. It's an odd combination of story and moral jeremaid, but its ultimate purpose was to incite action, not to entertain. Utimately, it managed to do both.
am 21. März 2000
Without a doubt, one of the GREATEST BOOKS I have ever read, and certainly one of the most historically significant literary works of this nation! In the beginning, we find a young Negro mother, Eliza, who learns that her son is to be sold the following day. So on that cold, winter night, she takes her infant son into her arms and runs away. She runs with her child into the darkness of the South, hoping to save her son from a horrible fate. She comes to a river and knows she must cross it. But the river is only partially frozen. So with her child in her desparate clutches, she leaps from ice patch to ice patch. Meanwhile, her attempt to escape has been discovered, and the "trader" to whom her son is to be sold is off to re-capture her. As Eliza struggles to bring herself and her child to the opposite side of the river, with the slave trader hot on her trail, your heart is pounding and your eyes are racing through Harriet Beecher Stowe's masterful prose. You can't help but cringe with each leap Eliza takes, as her battered, bare feet stain the ice with blood. From beginning to end, Ms. Stowe puts you in the old South, and you cannot help but feel for the characters, both good and bad, honorable and flawed. A true classic that holds a mirror to the human soul. You may not like what you see in the reflection, but you will be better off for having seen it!