So You’re the Little Woman Who Wrote the Book that Made this Great War: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Day 16) P is for Politics: Choose a book that is Political

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe

In 1852 this book was published and created a phenomena. It became the highest selling book of the 19th century, just behind the Bible. The first year it sold over 300,000 copies in the United States and three years later over a million in the U.K.

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This book is credited with, like The Jungle, being a revolutionary change in the actual world.

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In fact the political change they believe it started, was the helping bring about more awareness of slavery in the South and promoting abolitionism that sparked the Civil War.

Wow

Wow

In fact, Stowe’s family claims that when Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham Lincoln, he greeted her with “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” Whether or not this is true has been disputed for years with no one really certain whether it happened or not.

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Stowe was the daughter of minister Lyman Beecher, and wrote this novel to depict slavery, along with showing Christianity and being an allegory of Christ.

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I started reading this book when I was going down a list of classics provided by Barnes and Noble. As I borrowed the book from the library my mom spotted it and said she loved the book, it was one of her favorites.

I wasn’t thrilled to read it at first as I had heard it was a “bad book”, you know making fun of those of African-American descent.

I don't know...

I don’t know…

I started reading it and became sucked in:

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I was surprised as it was AMAZING! I couldn’t understand why people hated it. It was fantasticly written and such a great story.

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So many people today view the novel negatively; the way it uses “sentiment” to pull at heart strings, how all the slaves “had” to be helped by white men and women, and the fact that Tom never ran away but chose to honor the “contract” of his masters.

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But what they fail to see is that it is a powerful story, has some truly great African and white characters, and that Tom is supposed to represent Christ and the things he went through to save our souls.

Wow

Wow

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So the book focuses on six main characters: Tom (called Uncle Tom by others), Eliza, Augustine St. Clare, Eva St. Claire, Ophelia, and Cassey; and their views, interactions, and how they are changed or shaped by slavery.

Tom is a strong, middle aged, African-American slave. He is also a devout Christian and tries to embody the scriptures and live his life for the Lord.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:43-44

“All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.” 1 Timothy 6:1

Tom has been a part of the Shelby family for a long time, and has a family and children. As Tom knows how to read, his cabin is the place for the other slaves to go and hear about Christ along with getting individual instructions. George Shelby is the young “master” of the house and spends all his time with his “Uncle Tom”. In fact Tom is more of a father to him then his own father, and also his religious instructor.

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However, the Shelby’s have debts and they have to sell somethings…or in this case some people. They choose Tom as his height and strength will get a lot and we have the incredible sadness of seeing a family torn apart because of an archaic principle.

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Another slave, Mrs. Shelby’s maid, Eliza is married to a slave from another plantation. After a series of miscarriages, the two were finally able to give birth to a boy, Harry. While the Shelbys are a kind people, George’s master is cruel and he can’t stand it anymore.

“My master! and who made him my master? That’s what I think of–what right has he to me? I’m a man as much as he is. I’m a better man than he is. I know more about business than he does; I am a better manager than he is; I can read better than he can; I can write a better hand,–and I’ve learned it all myself, and no thanks to him,–I’ve learned it in spite of him; and now what right has he to make a dray-horse of me?–to take me from things I can do, and do better than he can, and put me to work that any horse can do…he puts me to just the hardest, meanest, and dirtiest work, on purpose!”

George decides to flee to Canada, earn enough money, and then return to purchase his wife and son. After he takes off, Eliza gets the news that she will be sold as well to pay the debts.

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Afraid to be separated from her child, she too tries to take the long road to freedom.

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As Tom is taken away, George vows to one day buy his friend back and free him.

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Tom is sold to a trader and being transported on a riverboat when he spots a little girl, Eva St. Clare. He misses his own children, so he begins amuses her, and she begs her father to buy him. Augustine St. Clare loves his little girl and gives in to her every whim. He buys Tom and takes him to his plantation.

Here Tom and Eva share their love of Christ as they both have a strong faith and relationship with the Lord. We also meet St. Clare’s sister Ophelia, who is from the North, who has moved to help take care of the house. Now here we have a great critique on the North’s treatment of African Americans. Ophelia is an aggressive abolitionist, constantly lecturing St. Clare and talking about the evils of slavery, yet she can’t stand to be around those of African-American descent. She is a complete racist, but can’t even admit it to herself.

“Well!” said Miss Ophelia, “you southern children can do something that I couldn’t.”
“What, now, pray?” said St. Clare.
“Well, I want to be kind to everybody, and I wouldn’t have anything hurt; but as to kissing – ”
“N*****,” said St. Clare, “that you’re not up to, – hey?”
“Yes, that’s it. How can she?”

St. Clare, tired of her constant lecturing, buys her a slave girl, Topsy, and bets she won’t be able to help her. At first Ophelia does poorly, having to instead be lead by Eva in showing kindness.

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Eva and Topsy become best of friends, even though they “should” be separated buy race and class, it doesn’t matter to Eva as all she sees is someone who needs love.

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Augustine is another interesting character as he isn’t a fan of slavery, but won’t do anything. He sees the way Christianity is, how his daughter lives but won’t commit to it. He is supposed to represent the people who were against slavery but never took a stand against it, waiting for future people to decide or others to fight. When his daughter dies, he is utterly heartbroken.

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He promised Eva on her deathbed to release the slaves and become an abolitionist for his daughter, but waits too long and is killed before he can do it.

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Meanwhile, Eliza has been running for her life and from slave catchers, and she actually manages to find her husband. After they go through horrible hardships they manage to make it to Canada and freedom.

Tom is sold by St. Clare’s wife, while Ophelia returns to the North with Topsy, taking what she learned with her, as Topsy does the same.

Tom is sold again, this time to the incredibly cruel owner Simon Legree. He rapes and beats his slaves. He begins to hate Tom and treat him in unspeakable ways. He has a slave, Cassy, who is his unwilling mistress. He has stolen her children from her and sold them, beat her, and just given her a horrible life. She is bitter and in pain.

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She is a quadroon, one quarter black, so she has a strange place in society. She is better educated than most, but is a sex slave, representing the harsh lives of female slaves and how they are at the whim of their master more than the men. Simon is planning on replacing Cassy with a young girl he just bought, Emmiline.

One day as they are picking cotton, Tom sees a woman struggling to fill her sack and looking at horribly beaten or worse. He helps her, aided by Cassy, and is then ordered to whip the women by Legree. When Tom refuses, Legree whips him and Tom has earned a permanent spot on his hit list.

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Tom’s pain makes him consider turning back on his faith, but he sees a vision and remains true.

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” Psalm 89:1

Cassy knows the life that Emmeline will have and decides to run away with her. When Simon finds them gone he tries to beat the answer out of Tom, but he will not reveal anything. He is so horribly treated that he begins to die.

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George arrives to buy him, but is too late. He fights with Simon and takes Tom’s body, giving him a proper burial.

Leave me alone so I can cry over the death of my fictional characters

Cassy and Emmeline reach Canada and find themselves with George Harris and Eliza. It turns out that Eliza is Cassy’s daughter, and the two are finally reunited.

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In the end George goes home and decides to honor Tom and free all his slaves:

“It was on his grave, my friends, that I resolved, before God, that I would never own another slave, while it is possible to free him; that nobody, through me, should ever run the risk of being parted from home and friends, and dying on a lonely plantation, as he died. So, when you rejoice in your freedom, think that you owe it to that good old soul, and pay it back in kindness to his wife and children. Think of your freedom, every time you see UNCLE TOM’S CABIN; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.”

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So this story is an amazing thing. Why would people call it horrible?

Why not?

Why?

Well what I personally feel has caused this shift from honoring Uncle Tom and all the other characters to having their names now be used as derogatory terms was the over-popularity of the novel.

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As this book became so sought after and was selling millions of copies; everyone wanted a piece of the pie; but when there such a wide amount of people madly grabbing to make their fortunes, they tend to forget about what the book actually stood for and was trying to change. Plays and films were being made based on the story, but instead of honoring and revealing the social issues that Harriet Beecher Stowe was writing about, these pieces became all about entertainment and cheap laughs. No longer are we shown the characters going through different trials to reveal the hypocrisies and social injustices of the time, but instead are given pure comedy or in extreme cases sexual innuendo.

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Too few people actually read the novel and understood how the characters and situations can be easily relatable.

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Uncle Tom is more than a slave toiling in the United States waiting for his freedom, but is a figurehead for any oppressed people. As David Reynolds writes in his book, Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Fight for America, Tom easily connected to the Russian serfs; the Chinese peasants, the Chinese immigrants in America, Jews all over the world, black slaves in Brazil, black slaves in Cuba, etc. Tom’s passive resistance to Simon Legree, as he does not listen to Legree’s warning but continues to stand up for what he believes in and aids Cassy, and Emmeline; can even connect to passive resistance done by Gandhi in India, Martin Luther King Jr. in the South, and Cesar Chavez here in California. While the unjust situations may never be the same as those that Tom or the other slaves faced, wherever trouble arises and people are suffering Uncle Tom is there struggling alongside and encouraging the oppressed that everything will be alright in the end.

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Another way that Tom’s character is still so relatable and present in today’s time is how loving and willing he is to protect others. Tom lives by the mantra “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few”; causing him to be the type of person we all want to be. The way Tom lays down his life so that the rest of the Shelby slaves could be spared and in the end dying to protect Cassy and Emmeline; is behavior we all admire and hope would imitate in such situations; as no one wants to imagine themselves being a Sambo or Quimbo character; betraying their fellow man to protect their own interests. We all recognize the value and honor of self-sacrifice for a person or a cause.

In Stowe’s novel she hit upon so many issues, and attempted (and in some cases succeeded) in trying to make a difference in how African-Americans were treated. While she did not completely change the way the United States worked, or resolved every issue; her novel did bring awareness and start people talking and thinking about abolition, integration, education, religion, politics, etc. This initial jolt eventually set America on a path to striving for change.

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To start the 30 Day Challenge from the beginning, go to It Was a Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451

For the previous post, go to The Great Depths of the Ocean are Entirely Unknown to Us: Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

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For more Harriet Beecher Stowe, go to If It Means A Lot to You

For more on the Civil War, go to Why Everyone Should Read Gone With the Wind

For more Frank Peretti, go to A Giant Metal Man: The Iron Giant (1995)

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Today’s song is O Holy Night. In 1843 Roquemaure, France; the church organ was renovated. The priest asked wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau, to write a poem to commemorate the event. Four years later it was turned into a Christmas carol by compser, Adolphe Adam.

In 1855, minister John Sullivan Dwight translated and created the version that most sing today.

I choose the version by Josh Groban.

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For more Josh Groban, go to Midnight in Austenland

For more Christmas Carols, go to I’d Spent Some Time As a Kid Wishing My Name Were Ashley or Katherine, if Only Because It Would Have Made Life Simpler, But My Mom Liked to Tell Me That My Name Was a Litmus Test: Along for the Ride

The End: Goodbye Michael, Goodbye

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All things must come to an end. And as stated before, my relationship with Michael has ended and with that any more posts about him. It’s time to fully move on. We had the Verne Saga, the Michael Drama, and now its time to move onto something completely new.

It’s hard to fully move on as I was counting down the days until I would see him again and couldn’t wait until I was home and could spend time with him. I was totally the guy in If It Means A Lot to Youor All My Lovin“. There are some days when I do great, and others when all I can think of is what could have been, what I could be doing with him. Some days I feel very much like Shawn Spencer in the Psych episode “Right Turn or Left For Dead“.

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The hardest thing is not knowing exactly what happened that made him change his feelings for me. I keep contrasting the old Michael; (the Michael that played the piano for me, would text me cute things, the one that had to see me so much that he skyped me on his vacation, who spent all his evenings and some days with me, was waiting for the right moment to kiss me, who was excited to take me out on a “real” date, the guy who I had trouble getting him to stop talking to me on the phone); to the Michael that started ignoring me, and was so emotionally detached and standoffish. I just don’t know what happened.

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I mean I was terrified to try a long-distance relationship as I thought it wouldn’t work out, but he was so secure and sure, he made me believe it and I don’t know what made him change his mind.

I went and returned some of his stuff and asked him what happened, but he wouldn’t answer me until I harshly pressed him. He told me that 1) I wasn’t the person he wanted to marry. This really threw me as matrimony was the furthest thing from my mind. I mean we had only  been dating 5 months of which only 2 did we interact everyday with each other (the other 3 we were apart), and I think that is waaaay  too short a time to be thinking of marriage. There was still so much we needed to learn about each other. We needed time to grow our relationship and be a couple before marriage could even be thrown on the table. I mean, how could he even know with that short of time? At the beginning of our relationship I mentioned that so many of my friends were getting married and having babies and that I was no where near ready for that anytime soon. I mean if he really wanted to get married, wouldn’t he have just have not dated me? I mean we talked about HIMYM and I told him how Ted’s constant falling in love and trying to marry girls who did not want to be married constantly annoyed me, and he agreed with me.  I know I never tried to pressure him into thinking we had to get engaged. I never even tried to pressure him into saying I love you. I never asked for a promise ring or any jewelry. I really feel that this is a copout.

He also told me that 2)”we were too different”. I don’t know why he would say that, as in the summer we “were so much alike“. I tried to press him on what was different and he couldn’t give any definite answer just kept repeating “we are too different”. I don’t understand what was so different; we both are human, grew up in church, lived in the same town, have suffered from addictions, are the youngest in our families, have similar morals, beliefs, values, and political thoughts/ideologies; loved to read similar stuff, watch the same type of movies, etc. I mean I don’t drink, but that’s not like I  judge anyone who does. I don’t have tattoos, but I never said anything about his other than when I said that the process looked extremely painful. I don’t know what he thought I wouldn’t be able to understand or empathize.

 He also said 3) he was  too aloof for me, and I demanded too much of his time. All I was asking for was 20mins a week to talk or skype, some texting, and seeing him once a month when I visited home. I don’t know where he will find any girl less dependent or consuming of one’s time. I actually don’t mind spending time by myself and doing my own thing, I missed him though and wanted to be with him. Besides when I was there this summer not only did he tell me how he hated being alone (kinda cancels out being aloof) but he spent practically every day with me, and I did not force him to do that.
I feel like the song The End” by Silverstein, “you broke my heart, you promised me the moon and stars. I fell for your dreams. I fell for your lies.”
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He told me so many things and I believed him. He talked about our future, making plans, and he didn’t come through. And the worst thing of all, he knew he wanted to break up with me, but didn’t have the courage to say anything. He lead me on. He allowed me to think nothing was wrong and let me plan spending my winter break with him. I searched for a perfect Christmas present for him, and when I texted him I had it, he already knew that he had no plans to spend Christmas with me. He knew that my Grandfather died and he said nothing. Any decent person would be there for someone who was hurting, but he just ignored me and my pain. It wasn’t immediate but for a while I just wanted to slap him or hit him. The song “Blow” by Atreyu describes how I felt about him.
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But now I’ve gotten past that. I’ve forgiven him for what he did and how he hurt me. I really cared about him, and as pathetic as it might sound to some, I genuinely hope that he finds happiness, and someone to care about him as much as I did. I actually am starting to feel bad for him, as I know that I will find someone else who will treat me how I deserve, but he will have lost out on me. He’ll never find another girlfriend who didn’t care about his past, only the present and future. One who never pressed him about things in the past he didn’t want to discuss, but waited until he wanted to share. Who didn’t care that he couldn’t take her on a “real date” as she didn’t care about money but spending time with him. Who never judged or criticized him. Who always supported and encouraged him. Who sent him care packages, even though she was the one that was “away”. He will never find someone who will listen to all his hurts and insercurties and do everything in her power to make sure that she doesn’t contribute to them, but try and help him overcome them. I mean at times I felt like telling him that I had other guys very interested in me, but I knew he had previous relationships were the girls broke his trust and I didn’t want to to that. He will never, ever, ever, find a girl who when they broke up never told him about the hurt and bitterness he caused her, but tried to encourage him all the way in the end, sharing instead all the things she loved about him. Who told him that she loved him, not as a ploy to get back together or make him feel guilty, but because she did and because she honestly wished for his happiness. What can I say, I’m one in a million and he is going to miss out on me.
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It’s funny, because when we started our relationship it reminded me of Lloyd and Diane from Say Anything. Michael was Lloyd, very adorable, easygoing, friendly, impulsive, full of life experiences, etc. And I was a much nicer version of the more structured, focused, not as socially experienced, more of a loner Diane. But somewhere along the way, I became Lloyd, and Michael Diane. Just like in the film,  something happenedc to change how Michael/Diane felt about the relationship, and instead of talking about it  they decided to break it off. Like Lloyd, I did a final move, although not nearly as epic as his boombox move. I was working on a CD to tell Michael how I felt about him as I was planning on dropping the L-Bomb on our fifth anniversary. We broke up two weeks before that, and I was going to delete the playlist, but finished and dropped it off asking him to just listen to it. He told me once that he always listens to any CD given to him twice, and I hope he listens to this one as nothing could better describe how I felt about him.
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Now not everything was bad about what happened. I’ve always been afraid of commitment and allowing someone into that space of my life and with Michael I learned how to care, trust, and let down emotional walls. And except for the last three weeks of our relationship (when he started to ignore me), Michael was a pretty great boyfriend. He really made my summer special and I am so thankful for that, as it is the best summer I’ve ever had. I also found out that I am capable of long-distance relationships, as I never thought I would be able to. But I cared about him so deeply that while the distance was long and sad at times, it was worth it. And it was nice having a very intelligent, funny, attractive, sweet guy as my boyfriend, as short as it was. Plus he introduced me to some great bands. I’ve always liked all types of music (besides rap), but most of my musical knowledge ends in 1989, and he opened me up to some great stuff. I love A Day to Remember, Silverstein, Atreyu, Chiodos, Three Days Grace, My Chemical Romance, Streetlight Manifestoand Avenged Sevenfold. I found a a7x sweater in a thrift store and almost bought it, but it was white and I always ruin my white sweaters. 😦 He had been lending me his CDs to check out the music, and I  (of course) had to return them to him. I then went to the library and put holds on everything they had from these bands.

It’s been about a month since we broke up and still hurts. This describes perfectly how I feel.

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I know I’ll find someone else and I won’t settle for anything less than a Lloyd, Mr. Tilney, or  any of the amazing men in my Romance is in the Air series (or part II). I’ll be okay. The hardest thing is that there was this guy Martin who liked me when I was dating Michael, and when I let him know I had a boyfriend he backed off. As soon as he found out Michael and I broke up, he immediately upped his game. All the attention, the flirting he’s doing, etc.; hurts. It’s not coming from who I wanted it to be from. But in time I know I will heal. It won’t be easy, but I know I’ll come through this okay.

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