Uncle Tom’s Cabin
full title · Uncle Tom’s Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly
author · Harriet Beecher Stowe
type of work · Novel
genre · Anti-slavery novel, novel of social protest
language · English
time and place written · 1850–1851; Brunswick, Maine
date of first publication · 1851
publisher · The National Era (serial publication)
narrator · The narrator is sometimes omniscient—informed of the histories of the various characters unknown to other participants in the plot—and sometimes a plausible real person, reporting what he or she has perceived or experienced. In both modes, however, the narrator is far from objective and often lectures the reader.
point of view · The novel is told largely in the third person but often in the second. The narrative enters the minds of many of the characters but sympathizes mostly with the slaves in the book.
tone · Stowe’s attitude toward the story seems to be identical with that of the narrator.
tense · Past
setting (time) · Around the early 1850s
setting (place) · The American South (Kentucky and Louisiana). Eliza and George’s escape takes them through Ohio and several Northern Quaker settlements, then into Canada.
protagonist · Uncle Tom in the main narrative; Eliza and George Harris in the subplot
major conflict · Whether practiced by kind or cruel masters, slavery injects misery into the lives of Southern blacks, testing their courage and their faith.
rising action · Uncle Tom comes to live under increasingly evil masters; his faith begins to falter; while working at the Legree plantation, he encourages Cassy and Emmeline to escape; he refuses to compromise his values by helping Legree hunt them down
climax · The sequence of events surrounding Uncle Tom’s renewal of religious faith and his death, Chapters XXXVIII-LXI
falling action · George Shelby’s emancipation of his slaves in Chapter XLIII, which is motivated by his witnessing Tom’s death
themes · The evil of slavery; the incompatibility of slavery and Christian values; the moral power of women
motifs · Christ figures; idealized women; the supernatural
symbols · Uncle Tom’s cabin (the destructive power of slavery and the power of Christian love to defeat it); Eliza’s leap across the Ohio River (the transition from slavery to freedom); geography (North represents freedom, South represents slavery and oppression)
foreshadowing · Eva’s statement that she will soon join the angels foreshadows her death.