Big Books (Feeling) Forum
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|Feeling Uncle Tom....|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-01-25 21:30:03
Link to this Comment: 4252
In the preface to Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe gives her explicit aim; the "object of these sketches," she says, "is to awaken sympathy and feeling."
So..let's hear what feelings she awakened. Use this forum to tell each other what you FELT while reading the first 100 pp. of Stowe's novel. What moment in the nove specifically moved you to..whatever it moved you to?
(Alternatively, if the novel DIDN'T move you, can you describe what prevented Stowe from reaching you??)
|revelation and hypocrisy|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-01-26 17:17:48
Link to this Comment: 4260
Some commentary in last week's NYTimes Book Review (january 19, 2003) could have been written in response to my query (above). Margo Jefferson wrote,
"'Uncle Tom's Cabin' is the closest thing we have to a national epic, and epics always reveal both the lies and the truths of a civilization: its prejudices, its vanities, the visions that still move us and those that shame or disgust us...you will find all kinds of revelations [in this tale]: great storytelling, and prose that is philosophical, born-again religious, robust and slangy, genteel and overwrought. You will also find the revelation of every hypocrisy America preached or practiced when it came to slavery. And you will find characters who are unforgettable....
Religion--a feminized Christiainity--was Stowe's hope. But it was her cover story too. it's not Uncle Tom's actions that are embarrassing and insufferable; it's his aura. He's an impossible dream, built to assuage Stowe's rage at masculine power, her fear of black violence and her guilt over her own will to power and her failure to be the selfless Christian she makes Tom.
[D.H.] Lawrence wrote, 'You have got to pull the democratic and idealistic clothes off American utterance, and see what you can of the dusky body of it underneath.' The slave narrative did this.....Harriet Jacobs wrote herself into the female literary tradition w/ this challenge: 'Reader, my story ends w/ freedom; not in the usual way, with marriage.'
Was there ever a girl who read 'Little Women' without mixed feelings when each daugher's story ended with marriage? ....It's a treacherous book too. Alcott deals out punishments and rewards with a justice and ysmmetry that life rarely manages. And that one-size-fits-all garment of gentle, pious womanhood that each girl must be encased in! Alcott never broke entirely from...the 'moral world' to which 'she was indentured growing up.'"
|a little disenchanted|
Date: 2003-01-26 20:27:32
Link to this Comment: 4263
I was quickly becoming disenchanted as I read the first few chapters of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I found myself asking "this was the book that was said to cause the Civil War?" Margo Jefferson seems to have put into words better than I could what I was feeling. I came to understand better how the novel evoked such strong emotional responses in its readers at the time as I read further, yet my own emotions (generaly easily spurred at the slightest provocation) did not reach any extraordinary hight of agitation. I think it is the continued hypocrisy in the novel which stops me short of being too moved. While there are several great moments (ie. when George denies America his country and states his desire for freedom and equality) but there are so many more where Stowe's prejudice is apparent (ie. of course Eliza is beautiful and the whitest she could possibly be while still being black, Aunt Chloe is the quintessential "Mammy", and the slave children are "impish" and lazy - hiding in closets to avoid work, eavesdrop and sleep). The constant reliance on the bonds of motherhood and the duty of women to uphold Christianity also wore on me - I know that writing to northern women's sensibilities was Stowe's angle at gaining their support but I found it tiresome and bothersome that it is the only argument which she engaged in thoroughly and repeatedly when there were so many reasons to oppose slavery. There is also a sort of narrative embellishing of the story and an air of superiority which halted me.
|uncle T's cabin|
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-01-26 21:05:58
Link to this Comment: 4264
Throughout the first hundred pages of Uncle Tom's Cabin i was struck at how many aspects of the novel i thought were cliched. i hate cliche's: popularized feelings, unique minds filtered into one broad feeling. There are scenes in the book that i swear i've seen a hundred times in movies and other books. i realize that these cliches are rooted in this book and at the time that this book was written these aspects were innovative and genious. but as i read all i can think is, 'i've read this a hundred times.' i suspect that this is going to be an aspect that runs through all the big books that we read. these are books that have shaped history and cultures and i suspect that i will constantly be seeing reflections of the books in the popular vocabulary of society. i'm not sure how to read with the conciousness of knowing that these books are the origons of these trends. how is it that a book can be worshipped so eventually it can no longer be appreciated? the only book that i know of that has lasted this 'test of time' is the bible. the bible keep being rewitten in so much litterature and yet people can still look at the bible as genious and unique. as opposed to reading uncle tom's cabin i can't see through the cliches to the genious.
another aspect of the book that has struck me is the emphasis stowe puts on a mother's love for her children. on page 56 marks and haley are talking about women and their children, 'if we could get a breed of gals that didn't care, now, for their young uns, said marks; tell ye, i think 't would be 'bout the greatest mod'm improvement i knows on.' the men can't understand eliza's love for her son, but the women do understand it, mary, the senator's wife understands it [p. 76],aunt chloe understands it, and mrs. shelby understands it.
over break i read 'beloved' by toni morrioson and here too we see the ultimate motherly love. in 'beloved' the mother kills her child so that the white men will not take it away. she justifies this act by saying that she is sending the child to a safer place- the ultimate pertection, the place where the child can't be hurt. the only other place that i can think that this kind of love shows up is in holocaust litterature when the parents give the only food they have to their children. maybe this kind of love comes out in traumatic situations. maybe it lies dormant when the relationship is not threatened but when it is threatened this kind of animalistic defense lashes out at those who are attempt to take the mother's child.
|150 Years later we are still reading Uncle Tom's C|
Name: Nicole Mar
Date: 2003-01-27 14:46:46
Link to this Comment: 4272
When I was (re) reading the first 100 pages of Uncle Tom's Cabin, I tried to continually ask myself WHY am I reading this? WHy after all these years is this book so reveered and esteemed? As we asked in class - what does this book say about us? I was struck not only the message, which I find to be very moving and powerful, but the manner in which it is presented as well. This book, if writen by a modern author could be accused (with some validity) as being mildly racist itself. Even those opposed to the injustices of slavery communicate this in degrading ways at times. And Stowe's own commentary (found on page 82-83) stereotypes and degrades the very slaves she seeks to defend. " [the threat of being sent down south] nerves the African, natuarlly patient, timid and unenterprising, with heroic courage..." In my opinion, we continue to read this book not only for the message it sends, but to remind ourselves our history- a history we can not be proud of. We continue to read Uncle Tom's Cabin because we need to be remined that our nation once held these beliefs and even those fighting for change could not fully distance themselves from the stereotypes and assumptions of a people they exploited and did not even attempt to understand.
|Uncle Tom's Cabin|
Date: 2003-01-27 16:41:36
Link to this Comment: 4274
Reading the first 100p of this novel reminded me of what I learned about slavery in eight grade. For some reason, however, I did not maintain the same "moving" emotion that I experienced earlier. I was actually feeling bored and can't wait to move on reading further in the novel...hoping there would be something that touches my reading experience. I know for a fact that my not very "moving" reading experience is not a result of not caring for the subject...because I did and still do... Could it be that my education experience on the subject had been so that everything become a cliche and lose it's effect and meaning...and therefore causes such "non-reponsive" reading? If so, how should it be taught so that through the years, one won't just simply take in the fact and let it go ...as if nothing ever happenned?
Date: 2003-01-27 19:10:49
Link to this Comment: 4280
I thought that I would be more rivetted by Uncle Tom's Cabin than I have been so far. I've always thought that it was book that was brutally honest and exposing. I thought it would have to be shocking to cause the reaction it did when first published. However, up to page one hundred I haven't been struck by the honesty of an expose or shocked. The more I read of it the more trouble I have believing that a white woman from the north would be able to accurately represent the conditions experienced by slaves in the south. I think that its because I can see so much of Stowe's own opinion in the novel that I'm finding some of the novel unbelievable.
|a lesson in stereotyping|
Date: 2003-01-27 19:31:58
Link to this Comment: 4284
I was struck with the level of stereotyping I recognized at every level in this novel. From the obeying, religious and unharmful portrayl of Uncle Tom to the feared over-emotionalness of Mrs. Shelby to the evil slave-traders, the characters struck me as not only stereotypes but also very one-dimentional. Given their simplicity, I personally found it difficult to really feel deeply for any of the characters when I found their simplicity glaring at me. Perhaps I'm overly skeptical, but it seems to me that Stowe is making a political/religious statement with this story and just uses these broad stereotypes to get her point across. I obviously cannot ascribe an intention from someone else's writing, but Stowe seems to need to keep both herself and her reader at a safe distance from the story (she illustrates this intention particularly well with her periodic direct addresses to the reader).
|"First impression on Uncle Tom's Cabin"|
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: 2003-01-27 20:39:37
Link to this Comment: 4287
While reading the first 100 pages of Uncle Tom's Cabin, I was not emotionally moved as much as I expected. The expectation for finding some prominent notion of that time by reading this great book has not been satisfied yet. It almost sounded like "cliché", or stories we've heard over and over again. At the same time, this first impression lead to a motivation of learning why and how this book had such an impact to the society, while I can't get the same feeling today.
On the other hand, I guess there were some problems with the text itself for preventing me from being moved. When I read "Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl" last semester, I was so moved and attracted to the way story flew. It was so vivid and real that I kept on reading (and such a thing doesn't happen very often!), whereas it was a little tiresome and time-consuming to read Uncle Tom's Cabin. I really felt that the story of Uncle Tom's Cabin was really "written by someone else (i.e. person who didn't experience slavery)" and less realistic, which provoked a question "how can this novel be so influential?" I was really disgusted with the usage of "creatures", by slave owners, including the mistresses who were the primary target of abolitionists' writings. Indeed, I felt that Stowe's notion of saving slaves was pretty much the same as calling for "animal rights", which is to give hands to poor beings who weren't "treated properly" according to their logics (law, religion, culture etc., and I mean no offence here to the people who are acting in animal rights movement.) Every time I encountered a scene that people giving love or mercy to others, I could not help but recognizing the hierarchy or class system beneath their "generosity", and that was stressful to me.
I also thought that it was weird for me to see slaves and slave holders believing in the same religion. I was wondering how Christianity could explain, admitted, and allowed the existence of these two populations. Then, there was George, who reached a "dead end" of his life and questioned what this country was and who God was, which his wife nor Mr. Wilson couldn't answer. I look forward to see continuation of these arguments further in the text.
|An easy critic|
Date: 2003-01-27 21:28:49
Link to this Comment: 4289
From reading the previous posted comments, I seem quite on my own when I say that I really enjoyed reading the first 100 pages of UTC. I don't think of myself as a big reader. I'm not an English major. I like reading Oprah books. I don't know why I liked the first part of the book, but I just did. It took me a bit to get into the reading, but I think this is normal for many books. Once I was comfortable with the characters and the plot, I felt very engaged with the story. I wanted to learn more about Mrs. Shelby and how she became so compassionate with Eliza. I was struck by how Mrs. Shelby and Mrs. Bird seemed to have such similar roles in the novel. I wanted to find out more about Uncle Tom and why the book was named after where he lived. I felt truly relieved when Eliza made it over to the other side of the creek. Maybe my lack of experience in the English world helped me enjoy the book more without seeing as many faults. Either way, I simply liked it.
|Uncle Tom's Cabin|
Date: 2003-01-27 21:40:41
Link to this Comment: 4290
I feel horror and disgust while reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. However, I think that I would feel these same feelings if I were reading a factual account of slavery in a high school history book (as long as it was an honest account). Thinking about terrible injustices done to people on a large or small scale generally invokes these feelings in me, and I do not think that Harriet Beecher Stowe did a particularly excellent job in invoking them. Also, the "feminine religion" aspect of it is a little too much for me to swallow. As an reader distanced by about 150 years, I can see that even Stowe's attempt at exposing the cruelty and unfairness of slavery is still a racist one. This interests me, because I wonder if she even had the language to write about slaves without implicit racism...
|Reaction to first reading|
Name: Barbara Sp
Date: 2003-01-27 21:52:29
Link to this Comment: 4292
Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin over a distance of one hundred fifty years seems a bit unfair to the author. Yes, it is stilted, amazingly patronizing and condescending in parts and the language is now so politically incorrect that it is something of a shock. However, Beecher Stowe covers a wide range of aspects to slavery that I had not really stopped to think about: the commercial dimension to slavery, and the money made in the trade; the wide range of reactions to slavery during that time; her overt femenism; the courage of the people involved who tried in their own small ways to change things; her own question (that seems to seep through) regarding the existence of a God that would allow such inhumanity; and above all, the cruelty involved. I must agree, however, that I too was touched intellectually rather than emotionally. The Victorian emotionalism does get tiresome, particularly when Stowe tries to whip the reader into a tearful response by addressing "mother" or "dear reader", which for me seemed to create a barrier between the narrative and the reader and produced the effect of feeling I was reading about the people involved rather than participating in the story. I could not help but remember my response to Delbo's "Auschwitz and After", a Holocaust account, and having to take time out because it was so disturbing emotionally. That's probably an unfair comparison, however, because it was so much nearer in time and memory.
|response to 1st 100 pgs of uncle tom's cabin|
Date: 2003-01-27 22:40:21
Link to this Comment: 4296
After reading some of the posts, I really feel I agree with maggie. Once I got into the first couple chapters and got to know the characters, I was pretty hooked. I felt the first 100 pages were emotional and intriguing, making me want to read on and find out what happens. A couple facts/scenarios struck out to me: (1) the unsettling idea that Uncle Tom had been a faithful servant to Mr. Shelby, who ultimately betrays Tom, since Mr. Shelby was a child (2) the "good" timing of Eliza showing up at the Birds' doorstep right after Mr. Bird participated in passing laws to punish people helping runaway slaves (3) the goodbye scene between George Shelby and Uncle Tom, where you have to wonder if he would act differently because of his experience with Uncle Tom or if he would end up in the same position as his father?
|An accurate Portrayal of slavery?|
Name: Margaret R
Date: 2003-01-27 23:03:14
Link to this Comment: 4299
While reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin," I highlighted all the words and phrases that I thought to be key in understanding Stowe's novel. When I looked back on all that I had highlighted, I realized that the majority of it was either religious or "prejudice" language. Yet, the reason I put the word prejudice in quotation marks is because I began to believe that Stowe's novel was an accurate description of the feelings and habits of Americans/slaves living in the south pre civil war. Also, I wondered why there was such religious fervor among the slaves, especially Tom, at such an awful time in his life. It made me think of Holocaust survivors I have spoken to that still have faith in God, even after all the suffering and crimes against humanity that they have experienced. To me, this made the book more realistic instead of reading religious "propaganda."
Also, The descriptions of skin color; pg.21 when Aunt Chloe describes Mrs. Shelby's hands, and on pg.45 where Stowe writes of the white look of Eliza and her child, made the novel seem accurate. I never lived in the south at that time, and this book's descriptions seem credible because they are shocking. That shock may come off as prejudice to some, yet I find it to be truth; why not beleive in Stowe?
Date: 2003-01-27 23:54:15
Link to this Comment: 4303
-Similar to what seems to have been the experience of many other people in the class, I was surprised at how relatively unmoving the first 100 pages were. I say relatively because I've been comparing Stowe's account of slavery with other accounts I've either seen or read such as the movie Roots. (Certainly, Eliza's story and the intensity of her situation was moving) Since this is my first time reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, I don't know how the story will unfold, but I believe that the next part of the book will be more emotionally poignant. The reader is introduced to the characters in a surprisingly peaceful setting as Mr. and Mrs. Shelby are incredibly kind people (as far as masters go). I doubt that Tom will fare as well with Haley. Perhaps we will see more of the cruel treatment that slaves endured in Haley's house.
-Another point - I identified Taka's confusion with the role Christianity played in the slave south. It seems like a multi-masked character providing a motive for whites to help blacks in need, but at the same time it was used to keep blacks down and to prevent slaves from acting out.
-And one more point - This book seems to be about the way individual players act within the wider structure of society. There are those characters like Haley that go with the general current, but there are also those like the Shelbys who don't. The Senator offers a really interesting struggle. He pushes for the upholding of the law which disallows whites to give protection to runaway slaves, but as the title of that chapter suggests, he is but a man and can not ignore his humane impulses, thus he breaks the very law he fought to pass. Stowe sets up a society in which the heroes are those who go against the grain and question law - it flips the general modern order of things on its head while showing that our government and laws are ones of constant revision (thank god!).
Date: 2003-01-28 09:08:52
Link to this Comment: 4307
The first 100 pages of the book were very interesting, even though they started off slow for me. The things that happened and were said ellicited different thoughts and feelings from me, so I suppose Stowe's objective was accomplished. My favorite line so far, because of its dark irony, was in the beginning when Mr. Harris takes away George and says, "It's a free country, sir; the man's mine, and I do what I please with him, -that's it!" I found this to be a humurous but deeply disturbing commentary on American society in general, but at the time period especially. Two other themes that made an impact on me were those of feminism and female strength, seen when Eliza is running away and she crosses the river, and the importance of religion as seen in the meetings.
Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-01-28 09:13:55
Link to this Comment: 4308
I am a little disappointed to read most the class' reactions to the first 100 pages of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The book was written to raise awareness. Before it was written, the characters (ie. the hard master, the intelligent slave, the light-colored servant) were not cliche. Many people in the North didn't know much about slave society at all. It was only after Uncle Tom's Cabin
that these characters became so well known, and maybe that is because they were true?
Date: 2003-01-28 09:35:28
Link to this Comment: 4309
I found that the first one hundred pages of the novel generated tremendous sympathy for many of the characters, notably Eliza. In particular, the scene where she overhears Mr. Shelby and Mr. Haley discussing the sale of her son Harry. To me this scene was very powerful. The loss of a child in any fashion is devastating to any parent. In this situation, however, though Eliza knows what is going to happen she has few options to better the situation. On another note, I was surprised regarding the presence of the themes of feminism/female influence. I also thought the subtle manner in which this theme is presented was interesting, and it did not detract from Stowe's larger goal.
|Uncle Tom's Cabin|
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-01-28 09:37:34
Link to this Comment: 4310
This is my first time to read an American classic. In the beginning, I was doubting whether I would enjoy the book. To my astonishment, I was not able to put the book down. I felt terrible reading all the racism occuring and how human beings were labelled as "slaves". I agree when Maggie said that this is how she would feel if she read a history book about slavery in High School. I did not think it would affect me as much as it does. I do enjoy the book because there is suspense on what will happen next. I am excited to read more because each chapter suggests a new idea and theme and in the end, these themes will be linked together and that is when the fun begins!
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-01-28 21:09:17
Link to this Comment: 4312
A reminder that we will be settling, on Thursday, on a schedule of readings for the remainder of the semester, so come ready to be clear about your preferences (and reasons therefore).
A second reminder to those of you who were acting as "recorders" for your small group discussions today: record here what was said (so we can all profit....)
Also an invitation to all to reflect further in this space, as you read Tompkins and Baldwin (and perhaps Zwarg) about the role of sentimentality in Stowe's fiction (and melodrama more generally, in the stories we make about the world we inhabit).
Also to spur your thinking: here's the passage which I read in class today, from one of the 2nd wave feminists who queried the limits of rationalism/had a problem w/ Western rationality; it's from Iris Marion Young's 1987 work on "Impartiality and the Civic Public":
"The bourgeois world instituted a moral division of labor between reason and sentiment....sentiment has been thoroughly devalued because it has been excluded from rationality....I am suggesting that only a conception of normative reason that includes the affective and bodily dimensions of meaning can be adequate ....contemporary politics grants to all persons entrance into the public on condition that they...keep their passions private....Liberating public expression means not only lifting formerly privatized issues into the open of public and rational discussions...but also affirming in the practice of such discussion the proper place of passion and play in public."
|Small group discussion|
Date: 2003-01-28 21:19:10
Link to this Comment: 4313
The most emotionally poignant scenes in the first hundred pages:
-The image of when the infant Mr. Shelby was placed in Tom's arms.
-Eliza's strong maternal instincts.
-The scene when Mstr. George and Uncle Tom met for the last time before the later was taken away. The way that Tom was so accepting of his fate.
-Mr. Shelby and Haley's discussion on the treatment of slaves. Shelby was surprised at what Haley thought was good treatment of slaves.
The relationship between feelings and actions in Uncle Tom's Cabin:
-Feelings affect thinking, but thinking doesn't necessarily affect how one acts.
-People in power tend not to act on their feelings because they have more to lose.
-Good people in novel acted on their feelings (George, Eliza, Tom, etc.)
|Feeling Uncle Tom's Cabin|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-01-28 21:47:01
Link to this Comment: 4315
Harriet Beecher Stowe said that the "object of these sketches is to awaken sympathy and feeling." What she awakened in us was a range of very different feelings: one each of us were...surprised, horrified, shocked, nervous, sad, disappointed, terrified, reassured, frustrated, manipulated, enlightened, disgusted, torn, unsettled, concerned. Two each of us were annoyed, cynical, untouched and... sympathetic!
Name: Margaret R
Date: 2003-01-28 23:30:11
Link to this Comment: 4316
The overall feelings that the group I was in felt, were, annoyance at Stowe's generalizations about black culture (83), an unsettling feeling due to the emotions she conjured up when describing Uncle Tom's relationship with Mr.Shelby (82), and reassurance that this was a book that told the truths of the time period (17).
When we discussed our beliefs about the way we deal with our emotions, most of the group felt that they were intuitive, yet it was limited due to their rationalization that society seems to create and enforce. Most said that they listen to their emotions yet don't always follow them in fear.
Date: 2003-01-29 00:47:40
Link to this Comment: 4317
Group: Barbara, Eric, Emily, Bernadette
Our group did not record much of what we discussed - but here's what I remember:
The points in the novel which invoked our personal feelings were
~ the contrast between Uncle Tom's loyalty and sacrificing nature and Mr. Shelby's lack thereof signaled him as weak and aroused annoyance.
~ the first scene in Tom's cabin where he, Aunt Chloe, their children and Master George are introduced also invoked annoyance at the steriotypical descriptions and characteristics of the slaves.
~ the scene in which Eliza's husband George makes himself known to Mr. Wilson invoked admiration.
I can't remember what the forth scene we discussed was - if someone else from my group could fill in that blank I'd appreciate it.
Our group discussed the cultural and historical distance between the time when the novel was written and now and whether or not we, as modern/distanced readers, are effected by that distance while reading.
An example which we discussed was how the descriptions of slaves, the descriptions meant to present positive images for the white audience, seemed the equivalent at times of descriptions of a dog (ie. p.82 - "the instinctive affections of that race are peculiarly strong. . . . They are not naturally daring and enterprising, but home-loving and affectionate"). Some felt that this was degrading, but one member of the group brought up that the animal aspects used are the best possible and possibly one could perceive the situation so that while the slaves are naturally possesing of these traits many of the white people in the novel are lacking those positives.
|Class Discussion 1/28|
Name: Nicole Mar
Date: 2003-01-29 15:59:48
Link to this Comment: 4319
Feelings elicited by Uncle Tom's Cabin as related to feeling
As an intuitive peron Marie Clair felt "sympathetic" to the characters in the story.
Also an intuitive person, Natalie felt "frustrated" by the story and the injustice the reader faced in the novel.
More of a rational person, Phil felt "shocked" by the lack of regard the slave traders displayed for the mother child relationships of their slaves.
More of a intutive person, I felt disappointed over all by the novel in that Stowe did not seem to respect the very people she is trying to help.
Our group talked a little about our felings in relation to our notions of modernday justice. Had we been a reader one hundred and fifty years ago we most likely would experience Uncle Tom's Cabin very differently. We concluded that Stowe may have felt the book would be more effective if she wrote in a way which appealed to the average reader who lived with slavery without giving it much of a second thought.
Date: 2003-01-29 16:40:01
Link to this Comment: 4320
Although I did not feel the first 100 pages of the novel as effective and moving as other have experienced, I don't believe that it is a "very bad novel" as Baldwin stated in his essay despite all his reasons. It is true that the novel have its flaws but then he too is also evaluating the novel from another time and space. If one was to have written the novel so that it would include, implement all the "life", "beauty", etc. the way Balwin suggested, then would the novel maintain the effect it had and would readers during that time be ready for it? I think that we should critically examin the novel with all the considertion of Bawdwin's points. However, we should not condemn the novel as "bad" ...at least give Stowe credit for her good intention. If religion is one way to alleviate the suffering (mentally or physically) or the first step/effort toward examing (/ending) slavery, then it should be acknowledged for its important impact on the issue.
Date: 2003-01-29 19:25:01
Link to this Comment: 4321
Although I waited a while to write my feelings (I was interested to see how they would change after we spoke in class), I still have a version of the same interpretation and emotions. Of course, I feel this message is a bit cliche, "corny" Baldwin says, but I have begun to see the novel through new eyes.
Orah mentioned in class the Stowe was herself a bit racist ("She says they'll be LIKE people, not they will BE people"), Jamie mentioned that the book quoted the Bible as an excuse for slavery, and Sebastian noted that it seems the book may be about feminism. I am beginning to think Stowe ahead of her time: of course she could not write a novel about empowering women, but she COULD write a "wet" novel about slavery and consistently introduce women as the perpetuaters of "rightness" and power. Thompkins mentions that Stowe "relocates the center of power in American life, placing it not in the marketplace, but in the kitchen". I agree with whomever (maybe Bernadette?) said that they didn't see how this novel caused the civil war, but I can see how it may have laid a very shaky foundation for feminism.
On the subject of 'feelings', I have yet to really feel for this book because it so desperately wants me to.
|small group recording|
Date: 2003-01-29 19:33:11
Link to this Comment: 4322
During the discussion on Tuesday,
Monica (who feels she is intuitive and often trusts her emotions) was moved by the relationship between Mrs shelby and eliza
Orah (who is intuitive as well and is "in touch" with her emotions) was untouched by the novel so far.
Nancy (who recognizes her emotions but values rational analysis) was touched by eliza's trip across the river.
Ngoc (who felt rational thought is not different or separated from emotion) was touched when she realized the senator was a compassionate man.
although the majority of our group was touched in some way by the novel, a general air of annoyance pervaded. Perhaps Stowe's attempt to play so obviously on our sympathies and compassion is cliched itself- have we as a culture become desensitized to others' suffering?
|Theme of Christianity|
Date: 2003-01-29 20:53:16
Link to this Comment: 4324
One of the major themes in Uncle TomÕs Cabin is religion. Part of the most moving part of religion is the feeling of beliefs. The meetings that are mentioned are huge gatherings where the presence of the Holy Spirit is to be found, felt. If the teachings of religion are truly accepted by the believer, then that believer will feel what are the right and wrong courses of action. StoweÕs emphasis on Christianity is that there are teachings other than what were commonly heard in southern churches about the rights of the slave owner and the slave. The idea of every life being sacred is a teaching in many Christian churches, although not one with which many people fully enveloped in southern society of the 1850s might ever encounter. The character John Van Trompe gives himself as an example of a man who couldnÕt believe the standard teachings of the local churches, so he never joined. Stowe could be trying to reach out to all readers who havenÕt been able to reconcile their feelings of something being wrong in the system of slavery.
The fact that Stowe produces an argument against slavery from the Christian perspective specifically may not be as important as that it is another group she can appeal to. The motherly love of Eliza is an equally important perspective and group to whom Stowe can plead.
I don't mean to say that people who fit into these, or any other target groups are the only ones who can sympathize with Stowe and her aims, but they are certainly intended targets.
|tompkins' sexism and stowe's racism|
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-01-29 21:34:36
Link to this Comment: 4325
first i want to clarify something i said in class. in class i said that i didn't think that Stowe actually thought that the african americans felt. Obviously, she thinks they feel, since the book's intention is to teach white people to look upon black slaves as humans. what i was trying to say in class was that though Stowe beleives that the slaves are humans i think she looks at them as 'different' from the white people. we spoke in class about how all the white people in the book have all these feelings, but they don't do anything about them. the white women 'feel' that slavery is wrong, but they don't do anything about it. the african americans, on the other hand, seem to feel and act immediatly. eliza feels love for her son and therefor runs with him immediatly. the africans americans seem to act with an animalistic kind of passion that the whites do not have. Stowe does not seem concerned with the thought proecess behind the african american's actions, because i never got the sense that the slaves thought about their actions before they just went out and did them. maybe stowe, being a white woman, was so far removed from the african american thought process that she could not see them as human, as the whites are human, but humans that act impulsivly LIKE animals but not AS animals.
one more ramble: i read tompkins article about the 'sentimental novel.' tompkin defines the 'sentimental novel as one, 'whose chief characteristic is that it is written by, for, and about women.' tompkin goes on to say that though some people put this genre underneath those clasics written by harthorne and melville that the sentimental novel is just as good as the other classics that are written by men. i am going to try to say this in the most unoffensive way possible... i would consider myself a feminist in that i beleive that in a lot of areas men and women are equal. men are not innatly better poets than women, men are not innatly better writters than women. society handicapped women by making it a rarety and a social statement for them to be writers. BUT, it bothers me when a woman writes an entire essay about WHY this genre is just as good, if not better, than other genres that happpen to be written by men. i beleive that women are just as good writers as men and i think that the written work should speak for itself. if sentimental novels are just as good as moby dick and the scarlet letter than let the reader figure that out for him/herself. tomkins obviously does not ffel that stowe's work speaks for itself and she has to defend it against works that do speak for themselves. tompkins is the sexist one. she is assuming that all sentimental novels are better just because of the fact that they are written by women; she completly ignores content. she is the one giving women a handicap by dissmissing the actual writing and focusing on something [gender] that should not matter when speaking about the quality of writing. Tompkins' article is insulting. she says, "i will argue that the work of the sentimental writers is complex and signifigant in ways other than those which characterize the established masterpieces." these ways are hidden and tompkin must enlighten us. if the reader cannot derive these complexities then the work has failed. tompkins say: yes,women are special in their own unique ways and should not be compared alongside men. That's a load of crap. i think i am the femanist here and Tompkins is the sexist.
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-01-30 19:43:05
Link to this Comment: 4330
today in class we spoke about how extreem demonstrations of emotion can be seen as forced and untrue. though i see some of this in the novel these are scenes where i see true, effetive emotion. p. 113 when hayley has just taken the woman's baby away from her stowe describes her: "the woman did not scream. the shot had passed too straight and direct to the heart for, cry or tear. dizzily she sat down. her slack hands fell lifelesss by her side. her eyes looked straight forward, but she saw nothing. all the noise and hum of the boat, the groaning of the machinery, mingled dreamily to her bewildered ear; and the poor, dumb-stricken heart had neither cry nortear to show for its utter misery. she was quite calm."
i am reminded of one of the only dickinson poems i can skim the top of it's meaning:
after great pain, a formal feeling comes-
the nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs-
the stiff Heart questionswas it He, that bore,
and yesterday, or Centuries before
The Feet, mechanical, go round-
of Ground, or Air, or Ought-
A Wooden way
A Quartz contentment, like a stone-
This is the HOur of lead-
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing Persons recollect the Snow-
First-Chill-then Stupor-then the letting go-
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-02-03 15:25:59
Link to this Comment: 4369
As a follow-up to our discussion last Thursday, I am putting up some links here where you can learn more about James Baldwin, Jane Tompkins and Richard Wright:
Along w/ the links comes an invitation to tell us what you were thinking in class, during our game of "Barometer," during the lecture which followed....
or while you were doing this week's reading.
As Stowe observes,
"Now, the reflections of two men sitting side by side are a curious thing, --seated on the same seat, having the same eyes, ears, hands and organs of all sorts, and having pass before their eyes the same objects,--it is wonderful what a variety we shall find in these same reflections!" (100)
|A little disappointment|
Date: 2003-02-03 20:05:42
Link to this Comment: 4372
After reading the second chunk of Uncle Tom's Cabin, I found myself rather disappointed. As the only firm supported of the novel before, I might have joined the other side from reading pages 100-206. In this section of the novel, I felt really depressed from what I was reading. I enjoyed the parts of the novel involving the Quakers because it seemed to be the only positive part. I felt happy when Eliza was reunited with George, and I thought the chase scene was pretty exciting. I also enjoyed reading about Eva and Tom's encounters. Again, I liked the positive parts of the story. Besides that, I didn't like reading the book as much. I think Cousin Ophelia is pretty boring, and I hate all the parts about the annoying wife, Marie. I also think St. Clare's long speech about slavery in chapter 19 was awful. I hope the next 100 pages have a little more action and some more positive aspects to the story.
Name: Eric Seide
Date: 2003-02-03 22:17:21
Link to this Comment: 4376
I am wondering what the deal is with the book's narrator. It is more or less omniscient, able to read thoughts as well as tell about the personality, feelings, and ambitions of any character, yet it seems to speak in a very relaxed, almost homey voice. On page 125, the narrator says of Tom, "Let us follow him a moment, as, pointing to each word, and pronouncing each half aloud, he reads." This reminded me of a group of people sitting around a fire telling a story, much like the tone FDR used in his fireside chats. No doubt, Stowe is using this tone to make the northern housewives to whom (who?) she is trying to appeal, feel more comfortable.
|2nd reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin|
Date: 2003-02-03 22:25:39
Link to this Comment: 4377
as much as two hundred page, i still can't seem to response to the book in any significant ways... there is a little thought (and sometime pitty) here and there for certain character like Marie...but nothing major as i would hope... though i am more aware of my reading process this time...where i find myself more engaged in conversations more than simply texts written about something...the chapter of Evangline...where for the most part of the chapter were told through a third voice rather than letting the story come through in conversation...and so...i didn't find that chapter to be very "touching"...
Date: 2003-02-04 00:15:07
Link to this Comment: 4382
I identified with Eric's uneasiness with Stowe's "homey" narration. Unlike many narrators, Stowe's is intensely aware of the reader. I was wondering if this is perhaps one of the reasons why many of us felt manipulated by Stowe's prose. Instead of becoming immersed in a story, as we usually are, we are constantly reminded of our distance from the events. Stowe constantly pushes us away from enjoyment of the book by reminding us of who we are (merely readers), and for that reason the people outside of the world which she writes about and for that reason, we are also the people who can change that world.
Date: 2003-02-04 01:26:35
Link to this Comment: 4386
While I spent most of the first 100 pages not very happy with UTC, I had several moments of appreciation for the second 100 pages. I wonder if anyone else thinks that Stowe - considering her place in history and society of course - at least tries to present a view of slavery through the various perspectives of Americans at the time? I admit that she fairly obviously does so with the intention of reinforcing the abolitionist cause, but I find her attempts to show the slavery system through different Amerian perspectives (rather than only that of a northern abolitionist woman) admirable if not always very well executed.
On another note... I won't say much about it here now since probably not everyone had already watched The King and I - but I have to be honest - I'm not really sure how helpful the film will be to our understanding/interpretation of the novel. I'm curious to hear what everyone else has to say about the film in relation to the novel.
|Uncle Tom's Cabin, Part II|
Name: Monica Loc
Date: 2003-02-04 01:31:30
Link to this Comment: 4387
The events that occured in the second part of the reading has been interesting. However, I feel that the author takes too much time explaining herself and the ideas she is trying to bring about end up in circles. I did enjoy reading the second part because different scenes came about in the story such as Uncle Tom meeting Eva, George and Eliza together again, St. Clare and family. But there has not been much action in this part of the reading. The narrator has the capability of making the story draggy and the new themes she explores can be more interesting if she adds a bit more suspense and action. So far, the main theme that keeps on coming up is religion. It definitely plays a vital role in the story because many of the characters have this deep connection with God and believe that their suffering makes them closer to freedom and being with God.
|We are in business|
Name: Taka Kawan
Date: 2003-02-04 02:52:26
Link to this Comment: 4391
In the next 100 pages of reading, Augustine St. Clare played a role in addressing various aspects of (Stowefs) slavery and American society, including issues regarding gender characteristics (e.g. sentimental vs reasoning), religion, etc. Even though St. Clare is a slave owner, his position is very weak, and his argument is a rationalization of his current situation. Even so, I thought that this is a good wrap-up the topics to be discussed later in this novel. I think that the way Stowe brought the series of St. Clarefs confession, right after appealing to the sentimental feeling in first 100 pages, was deliberately carried out as a structure of novel. Now we are in business.
As for Eva, she is still hanging around in my head, who came from nowhere in the space, and not quite sure what kind of representation she is performing. I still need more time to examine her.
|Tom's Cabin Cont.|
Date: 2003-02-04 08:06:55
Link to this Comment: 4393
I think St. Clare and Marie are an interesting diversion from Stowe's typical representation of a husband and wife and their thoughts/feelings on slavery. I thought that she might make up for this alteration by making St. Clare religious, and making Marie impious. However, it is the other way around. Therefore in this couple, as opposed to the senator and his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Harris, the wife is religious and yet still has less sympathy for the slaves than her irreligious husband does. Stowe did, however, point out that while he was growing up, St. Clare was sickly and more womanly than most boys. I'm still not sure if this completely explains her change in her pattern. It made me happy to see people differ from her stereotype, although St. Clare and Marie do simply represent another stereotype. It seems like Stowe is presenting us with a cross section of Americans and their views on slavery. Then the way that she describes people reflects how she thinks we should feel about their views. For example, we are supposed to like St. Clare, but perhaps feel a little uneasy with his carefree and irreverent manner. Likewise, we like how nice he is to his slaves, but we are a little uneasy with how he refuses to even debate about whether slavery is good or bad.
|religion in UTC|
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-02-04 22:13:41
Link to this Comment: 4404
as one can see from my previous postings i have been having a negative reading experience with UTC, but after actually writing and activly thinking about the book and tompkin's approach versus baldwin's approach i have been able to appreciate UTC more. there is no space to get into theological discussion here, at least i'm not going to initiate it, but after discussing the tompkin article in class i have realized that to some degree i agree with her and with baldwin. i beleive that religion is an essential part of human existence, and therefor the submission of self to community is also an essential part of human existence, and survival, but at the same time i am the last person willing to give up individuality. but, i am aware that i am obligated to give myself to humanity to some extent. i think the way that religion is portrayed in UTC is on othe extreem side of religion when individuality is completely denied. i guess this is due to the fact that this is an architypical novel and not a realistic one.
|The King and I|
Date: 2003-02-04 23:37:58
Link to this Comment: 4406
I have seen The King and I many times before but each time I came to the play about Uncle's Tom Cabin, I never seemed to understand and sometimes fast fowarded. This time, after having read the novel, I felt and was able to pay close attention to it. It was great to see it being told under a different culture and religion. The biggest question I have, and have been wondering while we discussed about Christianity and its influence in the novel, is what/how the novel change if it was to be written religion other than Christianity. How would people receive and how would characters in the novel be transform? (For example, in the play, Buddhism was used to explain Eliza's "miracle", how and what part of Buddhism's philosphy, belief Tom could hold on. Could it possibly be that only Christianity can bring the kind of strength/belief for Tom also? If possible..then would the level of effect on the novel stay the same?)
|Challenge to Orah (& Others!)|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-02-05 09:09:07
Link to this Comment: 4409
Orah said, above, "the submission of self to community is also an essential part of human existence, and survival, but at the same time i am the last person willing to give up individuality."
Following up on our discussion of Hegelian dialectic yesterday: is there any way out of this binary? Any one want to try and re-construct/re-imagine the relation between individuality and community?
Name: Samantha D
Date: 2003-02-05 19:02:21
Link to this Comment: 4423
After our discussion on Tuesday I find myself thoroughly confused. Prior to this class I had always thought that I had my beliefs regarding religion and spirituality pretty much figured out; however, I don't think that any of my prior conclusions apply to me anymore. Like Orah, I will not even try to initiate a conversation based on theology because neither time nor space provide for it. But, after considering the idea that for every thesis there is an antithesis, and consequently synthesis, I have realized all of the antitheses to my theses, and found that my convictions are no longer as strong as I thought they had been.
The prospect of being completely lost in the realm of religious possibilities scares me tremendously, but it somehow makes the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin more understandable for me. In the second hundred pages I have found that I am less bothered by the somewhat condescending nature of Stowe's writing because the perdicament of some of the characters has really hit me for the first time. I can really sympathize with George especially who seems to be struggling with religion as well.
I think to really appreciate this novel you have to completely disregard the language and narration, and instead allow yourself to relate to the characters themselves. Because although they are stereotyped exaggerations, they are based on truth, and as a result extremely important to the appreciation and understanding of the story. I think that this process is expediated through our classroom discussions, which could explain why so many people have testified to enjoying the second hundred pages more then the first.
As far as the King and I... I really liked the theatrical rendition of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but I'm not sure I understand its relevance. It was enjoyable and entertaining to see, but it did not provide me with any kind of revelation or newfound knowledge. Like Bernadette I'll be currious to see what everybody else thought about it.
|over emotion / over analyzation|
Name: Mia Vergar
Date: 2003-02-07 08:54:40
Link to this Comment: 4470
Perhaps I have been influenced by the fact that since I came late in the course, parts of the novel were being discussed before I had a chance to read them, but nonetheless - The novel does invoke feeling partly because of the overly dramatic way Harriet Beecher Stowe writes. I think she writes this way to stress a point. I do not think she is writing what emotions she feels for these characters, or what feelings the characters should have, but she writes in anticipation of her readers' feelings. She wants to make a point about slavery (that it is wrong) and she over dramatizes the characters to raise sympathy in the readers. This worked in the era that the novel was published, but today in our world of constantly analyzing and over analyzing books, we have become so aware of the motives of the author and what 'the deeper meaning' of the book is - that perhaps we miss something. Maybe taking a novel at face value will allow one to see the book another way than all the different angles to pick it apart. Because of this, because I'm trying to analyze the book instead of reading, I don't really feel any empathy for the characters. And what could be a moving read is almost like text.
|feeling in stowe|
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-02-07 18:04:47
Link to this Comment: 4479
mark shagall, the painter, described his artwork as 'images that obsessed him.' likewise, i seem to be stuck on, obessed with, stowe's hidden ability to portray accurate and true emotion. so i will just keep listing them for you guys: p. 264
"week after week glided away in the st. clare mansion, and the waves of life settled back to their usual flow, where that little bark had gone down. or how imperiously, how cooly, in disregard of all one's feeling, does the hard, cold, uninteresting course of daily realities move on! still must we eat, and drink, and sleep, nd wake again, -still bargain, buy, sell, ask and answer quesions, -pursue, in short, a thousand shadows, through all interest in them be over; the cold mechanical habit of living remain in, after all vital interest in it has fled."
it seems sometimes after such pain that the world should NOT go on. the planets should stop their orbit, everything should stand stagnant after such a great pain. static sounds. still flame. but, the great evil of the world is that it keeps going depite those who have fallen; it rolls on over them, creating beaty in the face of those who do not want beauty.
a beautiful, perfect child is dead AND THE WORLD KEEPS GOING!!!???!!!?!!
but at the same time this is the greatest good of the earth, becuse each time something terrible happens, something horrifically ugly, then the earth rolls over it with beauty.
WB Auden writes of a lost lover (i might not have this exactly right. i don't have the poem right here):
the stars are not wanted any more
put out every one.
take away the moon and dismantle the sun
pour out the oceans and sweep up the wood
for nothing now can ever come to any good.
|Third Part of Uncle Tom...|
Date: 2003-02-11 10:05:01
Link to this Comment: 4536
I am not sure of what to say about my third reading experience on this novel... For the most part I felt the same as I always did...on the other hand, there were times/moments in the novel that touched me deeply...not because of their historical importance...but of the emotion that it produces... and I guess it is here that Beecher Stowe succeeds in making her reader feel.
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-02-11 13:05:39
Link to this Comment: 4542
In today's class I (tried to get us) talking about humor: what makes something funny? what are the characteristics of jokes? why do we tell them? why do we need to? I offered two different theories about their social function: Gershon Legman's notion that they defuse (and so perpetuate) highly charged situations, vs. Leonore Tiefer's idea that they can have a revolutionary function, by unifying a group that shares a recognition of injustice and is outraged by it.
We tested out the usefulness/applicability of these theories by listening, first, to some "humorous" passages in Uncle Tom's Cabin, trying to figure out how they were intended to work/actually did...and then compared Stowe's gestures to the very striking images in David Levinthal's collection Blackface; we told one another our reactions to those photographs, and then experimented with "representing" our neighbor's point of view...
as we tried to explore the paradox of representing, or "speaking for" another.
Reactions/responses to any of this?
Name: orah minde
Date: 2003-02-11 13:43:38
Link to this Comment: 4543
spike lee made another film called 'the kings of comedy' in which he video taped four black stand up comedians. the film is filled with jokes that mock a black stereotype. i think: if some of these jokes were said by a white person then they would be deemed racist. also, if the audience was predominantly white then the atmosphere would be deemed racist. BUT, as spike lee portrays it the scene is a black person and a predominatly black audience laughing at themselves.
i have gone to a jewish school my whole life and know just about every jewish joke there is. i tell them. and talk about the obnoxious jewish mother sitting behind me on the train coming back to school. i can say it because i am jewish.
but a problem arises. i have a caucasian cousin who when he went to boarding school last year has a black roomate. the two of them became very close. when i saw my cousin last thanksgiving i was shocked to hear him use the word 'nigger.' he said it was okay because it didn't bother his roomate and his roomate used the word.
NO ITS NOT OKAY. and it is NOT okay for anyone to mae a jewish joke who is not jewish.
so if a black man using the word nigger legitimizes it then its not okay for even the black man to use the word. and if my telling jewish jokes is going to legitimize a christian to say it then NO, its not okay for me to tell jewish jokes.
Date: 2003-02-12 23:20:35
Link to this Comment: 4562
I found Orah's comment really interesting. It reminded me of an essay I read (I think it was by Judith Butler) where the author talked about the gay community re-claiming a word that was historically used in a degrading way towards them. That's what seems to be going on with the "n-word" it was used in such a derogatory sense for so long, but has now become a word in African American slang. The question I have is: when one group re-claims a word and redefines it, can that new definition be used by another group? Why is it that when a white person uses the n-word today, one immediately thinks of the master/slave definition, but when a black person uses it, one understands that the new definition is meant. If the n-word has been re-claimed and given a new meaning, why is that new meaning only available to blacks?
I think if anything, this shows how powerful language is. One 2-syllable word can symbolize oppression and also a step towards freedom from that repression at the same time. The word becomes the symbolic locus for a battle over the blackman's freedom.
This also touches on why telling racial jokes can be touchy (if you are not the minority) because you are trespassing on another's linguistic (and emotional) territory.
Date: 2003-02-13 14:36:28
Link to this Comment: 4576
I have been thinking about Miss Ophelia's feelings - almost of revulsion - when she sees too close a physical contact between blacks and whites. There is no question as to her duty-inspired 'feelings' regarding slavery and her strong opinions about the system in general. Even though, after the death of Eva, she is able to overcome her physical reaction, the question remains as to whether one must actually feel another's pain (a phrase I don't like because I don't think it is possible)to accomplish something good or whether the action in itself can be viewed as enough.
Date: 2003-02-14 00:47:01
Link to this Comment: 4594
The scene between Tom and Eva as they sit by the lake at sunset reading the bible was a striking scene in its similarity to many of my experiences. The similarities were the point that finally got me to cry. Sunsets, sunrises and shore points are the ideal situations for spiritual reflection. I have loved my times sitting on the lake on Cape Cod or a sunrise over a hill in South Dakota. In natural settings thinking about life and relations to God is so much easier than in the busy settings of everyday life. I think that the scene stands out as an example of Stowe showing her readers how to reflect on what she is telling them as they read her book and how they should think when reading the bible.
|The Promised Land|
Date: 2003-02-14 01:08:22
Link to this Comment: 4595
Today's class hit on a detail of heaven to which I had given little thought, how people would look in heaven. For me, the issue of clothing is not what is important. I consider heaven to be a place where everyone is welcome and forgiven for what they did on earth. There is no limit in my picture of heaven as to the people who I would expect to find there. I think of a place where the peace exists in each personÕs understanding of those around them, not necessarily agreeing with them but allowing other opinions to be expressed. This ideal state of understanding is part of what I think distinguishes life on earth from life in heaven.
Date: 2003-02-14 11:47:42
Link to this Comment: 4602
I've been thinking about jokes since our class discussion, and I remembered a joke I had heard about September 11th. I do not think it is very humerous, and I wondered why anyone would make a joke like it. I though of the two reasons 1) To avoid any seriousness with what happened 2) To bring about conversation - or, possibly, because it was so surreal - the joke is simply ignorance and a mockery. Perhaps that is what the face is that we observed in class. The 'stereotype' of the happy, winking, smiling, man. Was that made to mock the blacks at that era? Were the people who made it ignorant, laughing with it or at it? I feel that humor and race - and all the different decades it spans brings about more discussion, questions than answers.
|What's up with the last Chapter?|
Date: 2003-02-14 14:46:07
Link to this Comment: 4604
Thoughts on the third section:
--Tom teaching, converting and saving other slaves, very touching and noble
--Tom dying for this, sad and tragic
--Young Master George searching for and finding Tom on his death bed, sad, very sad
--The broken up Harris family & co. reuniting, redeeming and affirming
--Stowe's personal address and statement at the end of it all, disgusting, disturbing, ruined the redeeming quality of the conclusion of the novel itself
Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe what were you thinking? I can't understand you? I have a hard enough time understanding the people you try to represent and when I finally start viewing some credibility in what you write you ruin it with your own biases!
Was anyone else really upset with Stowe's sending all of the former slaves back to Africa? I've learned about this movement that took place in history class, but I was expecting something better than that from this novel. Very disappointing.
Date: 2003-02-14 17:38:36
Link to this Comment: 4607
The more I read the novel the more I am frustrated by the predictability and uncreativeness of the story. It is coming across to me more as a cheesy B TV movie than a tale to bring out compassion for the slaves. I also am kind up upset that we read those criticisms that expounded on later parts of the story that we had not gotten to yet. This kind of ruined it for me even more as I knew what was going to happen and it reduced its effectiveness. I also agree with what Katie said in class the other day that the story isn't as meaningful because of the authors lack of connection to the source matter. It's almost like the feeling I get when vegetarians yell at me for eating meat because it's inhumane to animals. How do they know what it is like, and why should I believe them?
|when in doubt, go to Europe/Africa|
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-02-15 21:03:13
Link to this Comment: 4614
I, too, felt the sudden reunion and departure for Europe and then Africa at the end of the novel was absurd, and it was made even more strange given how little we really know about the characters. Even though it is admittedly difficult to write about characters who lead vastly different lives from that of the author's, it can be done masterfully and seamlessly (read The Hours, by Michael Cunningham~my current favorite~for reference). It seems as if Stowe didn't even try to inhabit her characters, and that she used the stereotypes of slaves she collected and absorbed to create a shield between herself, her readers, and the subject matter. Perhaps this distancing is what makes parts of the novel so difficult to identify with and feel for.
|My computer hates me|
Name: Natalie Ab
Date: 2003-02-15 21:08:06
Link to this Comment: 4615
I thought I lost this, so this is the more complete version of my earlier post! -Natalie
I completely agree with Kati's comment on the last chapter- I wasn't quite sure whether to laugh or be aghast at the utter absurdity of the whole thing. I talked with Anne about this earlier, and provided me with more background about the belief that blacks, when freed, would go back to Africa and the whites wouldn't have to deal with them. For her readers, perhaps the only way they could rationalize the abolition of slavery was if the former slaves left, as with George & Eliza.
Going back to our conversation on Tuesday (I meant to post this then, and couldn't remember if I did or not, so that's why I'm a day late- sorry!), I am interested in what exactly goes in to writing about characters who are different from oneself. Our conversation in class seemed to echo over and over the sentiments that Stowe did this poorly (for an amazing example of writing about characters different from oneself, read The Hours, by Michael Cunningham). My only thought is that Stowe really intended this only as a piece of propoganda, and didn't busy herself with believable character construction...or maybe her shallow characters were part of the propaganda? It could be one of many things, but I think the 1-dimentionality of Stowe's characters is one of the elements that makes this book difficult to identify with in some ways.
Name: Samantha D
Date: 2003-02-15 21:25:23
Link to this Comment: 4616
Since our last class on thursday I have considered the purpose of the jokes I have heard recently, and I have concluded that jokes serve one of two purposes. First, to alleviate pain or discomfort associated with a specific subject area. I think that this reason is the motivation behind most of the jokes that society produces, because humor is the most basic way to mask pain. I think that sometimes the world is just so hard, and so sad, that we turn to humor to make it a bit easier, because if you can laugh about something it doesn't hold the same power of you that it once had. The second reason I can find for telling jokes is to bring a topic to the forefront of conversation. I think that once you can laugh about something, you can begin to talk about it. This makes many taboos acceptable for everyday conversation. The use of jokes makes us take ourselves less seriously.
However, I do believe that there are limitations to the jokes that we can tell. For example, what is the purpose of telling racist/sexist jokes? All that is accomplished here is the perpetuation of age old stereotypes and misconceptions that either raise barriers, or do nothing to bring down the existing ones.
Keeping these limitations in mind, I think that jokes can be extremely beneficial for society, and as long as they are used people will continue to be socially and politically aware and active.
|End of the novel|
Date: 2003-02-16 13:01:35
Link to this Comment: 4618
I agree with Kati and Natalie about the end of the book. I am still very glad I read the novel, but I definitely expected more out of the ending. I took the characters' over the top Christianity in my stride throughout the novel, but towards the end I felt bombarded with all the ministry going on. Although I think this is simply Stowe's method of getting her point across, and although it might have been successful at the time, I think it might be difficult for many readers today to feel connected with these characters that are, as Natalie said, very one dimensional.
Date: 2003-02-18 17:05:59
Link to this Comment: 4663
I felt that the first fifty pages seemed to drag on. I was only getting acquainted with the characters and the way that they would react in given situations, but as the story moved on i became more interested and moved by thier standpoints. I do have to say that i felt that i was brought directly into the story in the first few pages in being submersed in the surroundings, that the story takes place. As, i began to be more acquainted with the characters I really wanted to reach out to them. I really felt for Tom as did the towns people when the trader placed shackles on his ankles. I could feel the anticipation of every jump as eliza crossed the river. Mostly this book made me want to help the slaves and to become more understanding of the difficulties that they had gone through. These pages made me realize that i could never truly relate to them or understand thier reasoning when put in such drastic situations, but could easily imagine it and consider the ways that i might feel. These pages made me really want to know what they would experience next.
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