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Free Study Guide-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-Free Notes
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In this first section of the novel, the author makes a few introductory comments about the message she hopes to deliver. As the title indicates, the story is about the "race hitherto ignored by the associations of polite and refined society." It is about the African race that has received only misunderstanding and contempt from the so-called Christians in America. Stowe expresses her belief that a better day has dawned for America. The poet, the painter, and the artist have come under a humanizing influence that will encourage the principles of Christian brotherhood. Africa has at last been remembered by the dominant white race, but not nearly enough. The object of these sketches she presents is "to awaken sympathy and feeling for the African race" to a now receptive nation of whites.

In her preface she addresses her audience, including in it people of the North as well as the South. She further reiterates that her novel is made of true stories, romanticized and dramatized so that their real meaning and effect will not be lost on the world. She closes this preface, introducing the content of the novel, by quoting a six- line poem dealing with God's deliverance of the needy and the poor. The blood that the blacks have shed because of the "deceit and violence" of the oppressive white masters will be precious in "His" sight.


Harriet Beecher Stowe helps the critical commentator enormously by prefacing her novel with an explanation and justification. From the very first line of the Preface, Stowe's purpose in writing the novel becomes abundantly clear. She wants to enlighten the public about the predicament of the black people in America. In her day, black people were considered inferior to "polite and refined society." She proposes to show the injustice of this history through a series of "sketches" put together and presented as a novel. . Indeed the entire novel is just a series of sketches that highlight the evils inherent in the institution of slavery.

According to Stowe "every influence of literature is beginning to recognize the great master chord of Christianity, goodwill to man." The "Man" she speaks of in her preface encompasses all men-- black and white. Through her novel she hopes to amend the terrible wrong done to blacks by focusing on the inhuman treatment meted out to the lowly, the oppressed, and the forgotten.

She uses highly charged language in this opening, the first hint of the emotionally wrought scenes to come. Consider the passage in which she describes the black man "bound and bleeding at the foot of civilized and Christianized humanity, imploring compassion in vain." She does this in order to gain the sympathy of the reader and to impress upon the Southern as well as the Northern mind what she considers to be the real picture, her true message. Another important aspect of the Preface is the role Stowe assigns to God in delivering the needy and the poor--in this case blacks. It is an aspect of her writing that will play a greater role as the novel goes on.

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Free Study Guide-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe-Free Summary


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