Finally got through what was one of the best librivox.org recordings I’ve heard. Coming only a couple of months after Cloudsplitter, I don’t think I was really ready for more slavery.
It’s initially amazing how much classic American literature focusses on this issue. But then, on reflection, the country is still young and this was certainly its defining moment, when the very foundation of the country was rocked. So, it stands to reason that it’s a common theme in the literature.
Stowe’s classic has its own place in that genre. Sure it’s melodramatic, but it was meant to be. Most novels were then. Sure, it’s full of stereotypes. But they weren’t so stereotypical then. From what I’ve read, a lot of the criticism of the novel comes from a misunderstanding of when it was written and why. It was instrumental in fuelling the flames of anti-slavery that led to the American civil war, and if that hadn’t happened… who knows what kind of world we’d be living in.
Two things caught my attention though. Firstly the correct portrayal of Christian character in Tom and others. Stowe knew her faith. It’s refreshing to find this in any novel, despite it being over a hundred years old. Tom is a man who leans on God and recognises that he needs not to fear man, who can only destroy the body, but God who can cast both body and soul into Hell.
The other thing was right at the end. The country of Liberia is eulogised as the hope of the future world. I couldn’t help observing the tragic out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire irony with which, having made it by the skin of their teeth to Canada, a group of them then set their sights on emigrating to Liberia. Having visited that country a few times prior to the recent civil war there, I can testify from first-hand experience that even a cotton plantation in Alabama would be better than the slavery of that nation in the state it exists in now.
Prophetically, Stowe foresaw this: “To fill up Liberia with an ignorant, inexperienced, half-barbarized race, just escaped from the chains of slavery, would be only to prolong, for ages, the period of struggle and conflict which attends the inception of new enterprises.”
Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P——, in Kentucky.
Not by combining together, to protect injustice and cruelty, and making a common capital of sin, is this Union to be saved,—but by repentance, justice and mercy; for, not surer is the eternal law by which the millstone sinks in the ocean, than that stronger law, by which injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb