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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
_____ 1. Harriet Beecher Stowe was the daughter of a
B. beloved poet
C. famous preacher
B. Fugitive Slave Law
C. Civil War
III. membership in antislavery organizations
B. II and III only
C. I and III only
B. Red River
C. Ohio River
B. Simon Legree
C. George Shelby
B. doesn't know her way around a kitchen
C. is no lady
B. a necessary evil
C. sanctioned by the Bible
B. New England
B. hiding in the swamp
C. disguising themselves as ghosts
B. to Africa
C. back to Kentucky
11. When Uncle Tom's Cabin was published, Southerners denounced it as an unfair attack on their region. Do you agree?
12. Uncle Tom's Cabin has been criticized for creating stereotypes of blacks. Do you agree?
13. Who is the hero of Uncle Tom's Cabin? Defend your choice.
14. What is Stowe's view of women in Uncle Tom's Cabin?
15. What is Stowe's view of men in Uncle Tom's Cabin?
_____ 1. Harriet Beecher Stowe was born into a family of
B. ministers and reformers
C. politicians and soldiers
B. slavery should be abolished immediately
C. the Civil War was coming
II. it destroyed soils
III. it was inefficient
B. II and III only
C. I and III only
B. she had met many former slaves
C. she thought that blacks and whites were equal
B. St. Clare becomes a Christian
C. George Shelby comes to get him
B. tries to run away
C. refuses to whip Lucy
B. fight against slavery
C. make it up to Aunt Chloe
B. become abolitionists
C. vote for Abraham Lincoln
B. Susan and Emmeline
C. Sam and Andy
B. Eliza Harris
11. Is Uncle Tom's Cabin a realistic novel? Explain.
12. What is the definition of a good Christian in Uncle Tom's Cabin? Who personifies this definition?
13. Some readers call Uncle Tom's Cabin a feminist novel. Do you agree? Why or why not?
14. Some readers say that the ending of Uncle Tom's Cabin is a failure. Tell why you agree or disagree.
15. The term "Uncle Tom" has come to mean a black (or anyone in a reform movement) who is too subservient. Is this an accurate use of the character of Uncle Tom? Give evidence for your views.
11. If you agree, look for descriptions of the South and Southerners in the novel. You'll find plenty of negative ones. Marie St. Clare, for example, the typical Southern belle, is spoiled and self-centered. Alfred St. Clare, Augustine's brother, works his slaves extremely hard. His son, Henrique, abuses his slave, Dodo, and Stowe says that having power has made him hot-headed. Worst of all is Simon Legree, who works his slaves to death, and tries to destroy their souls as well as their bodies. Southerners would argue that such masters were extremely rare. Stowe tells you repeatedly that slavery tears families apart. However, that didn't happen very often, Southerners would say, and good people would try to see that it didn't happen, just as good people would avoid selling their slaves to traders like Haley.
If you disagree with this statement, point out that Stowe includes numerous examples of the positive aspects of slavery. Slaves on the Shelby plantation are well treated, and the ones in the St. Clare household are positively coddled. If you think Stowe is fair in her treatment of the South, you would say that her point is not that masters are always- or even often- cruel, but that the master's character is the only protection a slave has. Show that Stowe deliberately implicates Northerners in the evils of slavery- by showing that they profit from the sale of slaves (the New York firm) and that they don't like black people and don't treat them well (Ophelia). Augustine St. Clare points out that his father and his father's brother had exactly the same character, although one lived in Louisiana and the other in Vermont. Finally, Simon Legree, the evil slaveowner, comes from New England.
12. If you agree with this statement, you would argue that many of the sympathetic characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin- especially George, Eliza, little Harry, and Cassy- are so light-skinned that they can pass for white. The dark-skinned characters- Uncle Tom, Aunt Chloe, Sam and Andy, Dinah, Mammy and Topsy at the St. Clare mansion, and most of the slaves at the Legree plantation- are portrayed differently. They speak in dialect and their actions are generally comical. Aunt Chloe's pride in her baking is a little silly, as is Dinah's disorganized kitchen. Sam and Andy resemble characters from a minstrel show.
If you feel that Stowe does not create racial stereotypes, you would claim that the light-skinned characters serve an important function in the plot: because they can pass for white, they can escape slavery. In addition, they arouse the sympathy of white readers. You would also say that only the minor characters- Sam and Andy or Dinah, for example- are truly racial stereotypes. Stowe has enormous respect for Uncle Tom, and her portrayals of Mammy, Topsy, Cassy, and Prue are extremely sympathetic.
13. There is no right answer to this question, so you will have to decide from among a number of possibilities. Is Tom the hero? Certainly he is the central character. His sufferings and death are Christ- like. Stowe has great respect for his strength and gentleness. However, some readers think George Harris is the real hero of the book. If you do, you would point to his intelligence and courage in fighting his pursuers and escaping from slavery. You might also cite his speech to Mr. Wilson about what the promises of American life mean to a black. At the novel's end, Stowe implies that George will accomplish great things. You could also argue that Augustine St. Clare is the novel's hero. For many readers, he is its most attractive figure. Unlike some of the other characters, he acts morally without being too good to be true. His beliefs about slavery closely resemble Harriet Beecher Stowe's. Finally, you could claim that George Shelby is the hero of the novel. A good and active young man, George satisfies readers by knocking Legree down and swearing on Tom's grave that he will do what he can to end slavery. Stowe seems to view men like George as the hope for the future of the South.
14. There are more women characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin than in most novels. Most are good mothers, and their love for their children has taught them to love humanity. Motherhood seems to be the central focus for women in this novel. Either they focus on their children or, if they are slaves whose children have been sold, on the loss of their children. The only bad mother in the novel is Marie St. Clare. The values Stowe seems to admire most are those that are traditionally associated with women: love, sensitivity, and gentleness. She also admires efficient housekeeping and considers it an indication of character, as in the case of Mrs. Bird or Ophelia.
In Uncle Tom's Cabin, women help each other. For example, Mrs. Shelby, Mrs. Bird, and Rachel Halliday help Eliza, and Cassy helps Emmeline. But women characters are constrained by not being able to fight directly for what they want. Mrs. Shelby and Mrs. Bird must convince their husbands- or influence their sons- they cannot take action themselves. Thus, Stowe portrays women as being good and powerful in their influence on their families.
15. You could demonstrate that Harriet Beecher Stowe didn't think much of men. All the truly evil characters in the novel are men: Legree, Haley, and the slave-catchers. Even the decent men seem morally inferior to their wives- Shelby and Bird, for example. The best men in the novel, Uncle Tom and Augustine St. Clare, are explicitly described as womanly. Young George Shelby is close to his mother, and George Harris says that he is under the influence of his wife's gentle and religious nature. Stowe seems to find men admirable only insofar as they submit to the power of women.
11. To argue that Uncle Tom's Cabin is a realistic novel, include incidents, details, and language that seem lifelike. For example, you could point to Stowe's physical descriptions. The depiction of the ice, as Eliza makes her way across the river, seems quite accurate. In addition, Stowe's portrayal of children, with the exception of little Eva, seems realistic. The author's use of dialect, especially the way the slaves, the slave-catchers, and the Quakers speak, is convincing. Finally, you would argue that current historians generally agree with Stowe's assessment of slavery.
To argue that Uncle Tom's Cabin is not realistic, you would point to the general lack of physical description. You would also focus on melodramatic incidents, such as the deaths of Eva and Augustine St. Clare. Finally, you would mention Stowe's contrived subplots and the way characters are reunited with their long-lost relatives at the novel's end.
12. To answer this question, consider the words and deeds of Eva and Uncle Tom. They read the Bible, believe in the presence of God in daily life, and most important, love and forgive the people around them. Little Eva and Tom are the most ardent Christians in the novel, but there are others as well. Include Stowe's other descriptions of Christian behavior. For example, she thinks it was Christian of Mr. Symmes to help Eliza up the bank on the Ohio side of the river. To Stowe, helping others, or as Tom puts it, taking care of God's "critturs," is another dimension of Christianity. Christians also oppose slavery. Stowe has harsh words for ministers who claim that slavery is sanctioned by the Bible, or that it is a necessary part of the Southern social structure.
13. If you think Uncle Tom's Cabin is a feminist novel, you could point to the many women characters in it, and emphasize Stowe's high regard for the traditional feminine virtues of gentleness, sensitivity, and maternal love. She thinks women have tremendous influence over men. Many characters credit their mothers with teaching them values- from Augustine St. Clare to Simon Legree. Other characters, such as George Harris, praise the influence of their wives. Stowe seems to think more of men who resemble women; she specifically states that Uncle Tom and Augustine St. Clare are womanly.
If you disagree with this statement, you could show that the women in Uncle Tom's Cabin have little real power. The only woman who really has power over a man is Cassy, and that's only because Legree thinks she's possessed by the devil. You could even argue that Eliza gains her freedom only after she disguises herself as a man.
14. If you believe that the ending of Uncle Tom's Cabin is a failure, you could say that Stowe's solution to the problem of slavery- praying and acting so that you feel right- is not in keeping with the emotional outpouring of her attack on slavery. After such a display of evil and such an appeal to the readers' emotions, one expects more than advice to pray. In addition, you could present George Harris' plans to settle in Africa as giving up on the possibility of racial justice in the United States. You might agree with some readers who say that the limitations of Stowe's religious perspective prevented her from considering other solutions to the problem of slavery.
If you don't think the ending is a failure, you could claim that Stowe's goal in writing Uncle Tom's Cabin was to arouse emotion- which she unquestionably did- rather than to provide solutions. You could conclude that, as history has shown us, none of the other approaches worked. Losing the Civil War was the only thing that "persuaded" Southerners to give up their slaves.
15. If you agree that Uncle Tom is an "Uncle Tom" in twentieth-century terms- a black too subservient to whites- you could point to testimony to that effect from black readers of the novel, whether they be abolitionists of Stowe's time or novelists of today. You could show that Uncle Tom is passive in the face of adversity. He does not escape from either the Shelby plantation or the Legree plantation when he has the chance. He does not understand that his interests differ from those of his masters. Uncle Tom is always currying favor with his masters' children, from George Shelby to little Eva. Finally, Uncle Tom never expresses anger at the injustices done to him by whites; instead, he forgives them.
If you don't believe that Uncle Tom is an "Uncle Tom," you would say that Tom was acting not on behalf of his masters' interests, but on behalf of the interests of the other slaves. Most important, you would argue that Uncle Tom's values were Stowe's values. From her point of view, dying nobly was better than killing an unjust master or escaping from him. You could say that Uncle Tom is a different kind of hero. His heroism is religious and passive, rather than political and active.
TERM PAPER IDEAS AND OTHER TOPICS FOR WRITING
© Copyright 1985 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.