Page notes refer to the 2009 version of the text.
Published in serial form in abolitionist newspaper the National Era beginning in June 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is a harrowing read: the violence is unflinching and brutal.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is, without hesitation, a product of its time. The overt and covert messages of the text contradict each other so that the Christianity and equality that is overtly preached in both plot and dialogue is tainted by the innate racism of the prose. Non-white characters are condescended to and stereotyped: slaves are described – by a character who is ostensibly on the side of the oppressed – as ‘poor, simple, dependent creatures’ (p. 31); Stowe states that ‘the negro mind, impassioned and imaginative, always attaches itself to hymns and expressions of a vivid and pictoral nature’ (p. 29); the children are ‘pickaninnies’ and the mixed-race women are sexually available. All of the black characters are ‘woolley headed’.
Stowes racial essentialism is paternalistic and unpleasant to modern readers, but, perhaps (and this is not to excuse her) they are a product of her experiences. Stowes ideas of race are socially constructed, a product of a divided world that truly believed in the natural characteristics of the races.