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Uncle Tom's cabin, or Life among the lowly
by Harriet Stowe
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Classic nineteenth-century literature can be difficult to read and hear. But this production is an exception. Buck Schirner's characters are so vivid, so well enunciated, that we wish Stowe had created more people for Schirner to give voice to. His characters argue about slavery, lament their fortunes and survive by their wits. He gives each person emotion and depth and reads Stowe's prose with conviction. Indeed, it's hard not to, given the moral force behind her words. The only negative is when Schirner reads in his own voice, which is low and flat. Because of his excellent vocal work, though, the book reminds us that the debate over race and human worth was as vivid in the 1850's as it is today. R.I.G. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister
This is one of those books that everybody has heard about but few people these days have actually read. It deserves to be read - not simply because it is the basis for symbols so deeply ingrained in American culture that we no longer realize their source, nor because it is one of the bestselling books of all time. This is a book that changed history. Harriet Beecher Stowe was appalled by slavery, and she took one of the few options open to nineteenth century women who wanted to affect public opinion: she wrote a novel, a huge, enthralling narrative that claimed the heart, soul, and politics of pre-Civil War Americans. It is unabashed propaganda and overtly moralistic, an attempt to make whites - North and South - see slaves as mothers, fathers, and people with (Christian) souls. In a time when women might see the majority of their children die, Harriet Beecher Stowe portrays beautiful Eliza fleeing slavery to protect her son. In a time when many whites claimed slavery had "good effects" on blacks, Uncle Tom's Cabin paints pictures of three plantations, each worse than the other, where even the best plantation leaves a slave at the mercy of fate or debt. By twentieth-century standards, her propaganda verges on melodrama, and it is clear that even while arguing for the abolition of slavery she did not rise above her own racism. Yet her questions remain penetrating even today: "Is man ever a creature to be trusted with wholly irresponsible power?" -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin is the most powerful and enduring work of art ever written about American slavery."
From the Trade Paperback edition.
An international bestseller that sold more than 300,000 copies when it first appeared in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin was dismissed by some as abolitionist propaganda; yet Tolstoy deemed it a great work of literature "flowing from love of God and man."
Today, however, Harriet Beecher Stowe's stirring indictment of slavery is often confused with garish dramatizations that flourished for decades after the Civil War: productions that relied heavily on melodramatic simplifications of character totally alien to the original. Thus "Uncle Tom" has become a pejorative term for a subservient black, whereas Uncle Tom in the book is a man who, under the most inhumane of circumstances, never loses his human dignity.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is the most powerful and most enduring work of art ever written about American slavery," said Alfred Kazin.
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