Uncle Tom’s Cabin

by: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Themes

Throughout the novel, the reader sees many examples of idealized womanhood, of perfect mothers and wives who attempt to find salvation for their morally inferior husbands or sons. Examples include Mrs. Bird, St. Clare’s mother, Legree’s mother, and, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Shelby. The text also portrays black women in a very positive light. Black women generally prove strong, brave, and capable, as seen especially in the character of Eliza. In the cases where women do not act morally—such as Prue in her drunkenness or Cassy with her infanticide, the women’s sins are presented as illustrating slavery’s evil influence rather than the women’s own immorality. Not all women appear as bolsters to the book’s moral code: Marie acts petty and mean, and Ophelia begins the novel with many prejudices. Nonetheless, the book seems to argue the existence of a natural female sense of good and evil, pointing to an inherent moral wisdom in the gender as a whole and encouraging the use of this wisdom as a force for social change.