In the article, Brown’s thesis is that Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin did not fully address the needs of the African Americans, as well as the issue of slavery since in his endeavour to address slavery, the author dealt with racism instead. It is for this reason that most of the African Americans did not appreciate the novel, but rather viewed it as a book that tried to explain the origin of racism and religious discriminations. Thus, he concludes that those were the factors that led to the elusiveness of the American freedom which is just a dream up to today due to the high rate of poverty, recession and people losing their homes in America.
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I chose this article because Brown compares the gains made against slavery and the freedom enjoyed by the African Americans today. His main analysis is based on the responses from African Americans who perceived Stowe’s novel as a book that seeks to use the plight of slaves to preach racism rather than address the issue of slavery independently. Brown agrees that although most of the Americans kept slaves who were African Americans, there were also slaves who were Americans kept by their fellow countrymen. Thus, according to Brown, Stowe’s statement on the issue of slavery and race is unjustified.
The critics approach intervenes with the meaning of the novel and helps me see Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a different way since I believed that slavery was an injustice committed to promote racism. However, in the article Brown argues that slavery was something that was widely spread over the world, as long as one had the financial muscle over the other. Thus, Stowe’s dwelling on Christianity as the religion that refused slavery was debatable and created another theme of religious stereotyping in the novel.
Furthermore, the critic’s approach can also be said to be liberal since he does not only criticize Uncle Tom’s Cabin from his point of view, but he engages other African Americans in the process. He even goes ahead to quote the views of Langston Hughes on Stowe’s novel and notes that according to Hughes the book was just a good story that had been well written with the incorporation of exciting incidents, as well as a lot of humour. Thus, Brown seems to believe that African Americans did not see Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a serious book that addressed their plights in slavery, but rather a good book that told a story of slavery and religious stereotypes (Brown).
A close reading of the text reveals that Brown depended mostly on the responses from African Americans to write the criticism of the book. This is clearly seen in the fifth paragraph of his work (Brown). The ambiguity of his work is that he forms all his ideas based on the responses he gets from these African Americans. The irony of this is that he did not personally capture these responses, but he relied on documented evidence in the form of testimonial literature, such as the memoirs of the bondage and the poetical letters written by poet Phillis Wheatley.
Hence, it is not appropriate to judge the whole of Stowe’s novel as not being able to address the plight of slaves based on some few documented evidence. It is also important to note that the time when these responses were being captured, African Americans had not been fully granted the civil rights that they were fighting for since the country was still riddled with racism. Hence, most of them may have been afraid to confidently state their true and honest opinions.
Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin brings out the stereotypes on the part of African Americans, especially in the form of religion. This occurs through the idealization of religion in the text. The fact that Uncle Tom is a trustworthy servant who even saves Elisa when she falls in the water shows that religion is used as a means to help slaves cope with slavery, since Uncle Tom does not revenge evil for evil but he does good as advocated in Christianity, this is my interpretation of this particular moment.
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In conclusion, although the American dream is still to be achieved, it is imperative to note that works that openly criticized slavery were few at that time and Stowe’s effort to preach against the vice should be appreciated. Thus, even though most of the responses of African Americans fault the book to have dwelt so much on racism, it is hard to differentiate between slavery and racism since most slaves used to be people of a different race from their masters.
It is only in rare circumstances that the master and the slave came from the same race. Hence, Brown’s criticism is a good work that enables the reader to change opinion about the book and think further about the plight experienced by slaves by exploring American history further using the recommended reading, as well as other texts from MLA bibliography written recently.
Brown, Lois, 2007, African American Responses to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Web.
Recent Works on the Text from MLA Bibliography
MLA: Approaches to Teaching Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 2010. Web.