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Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe – Misery of Slavery Exposed

Misery of Slavery Exposed in Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin addresses the issue of slavery in close accordance with the style of Frederick Douglas’ narrative. A theme that Stowe impresses strongly upon the reader is the degenerative effects of slavery upon both the slave and the master. Frequently in the novel the issue is raised . Even Mrs. Shelby recognizes the depravity and admits that slavery, “is a bitter, bitter, most accursed thing- a curse to the master and a curse to the slave!”(45). The injustices of slavery are frequently identified in the novel but, of course, the practice is continued. Many of those involved in holding slaves are sensitive to the problem. Mr. Shelby, for instance, is not contented by the idea but enjoys the benefits out of what he deems necessity. The inherent problem of slavery is again stated when John Van Trompe is being described. His worn appearance is attributed to the ,”workings of a system equally bad for oppressor and oppressed,”(105). The novel also dexterously demonstrates the absurdities and contradictions of slavery. For instance, Mr. Shelby’s actions are strongly contradictory to his statements. He believes himself to be a good Christian man with a genuine respect for his slaves. Yet the fact that he holds slaves opposes all that he says and although his treatment of slaves is better than most master’s, he still is not respectful of them. For example, in the first chapter when Shelby and Haley are discussing the ensuing trade, Harry enters the room and Shelby has him dance around like a clown and then tosses raisins at him. Also, Mr. Harris, a slave owner, in defense of his relocating George asserts that, “it’s a free country sir; the man’s mine,”(24). It is also ironic that after George invents a machine to clean hemp the employer congratulates not George, but George’s master for owning such a fine slave. Another example that effectively illustrates the strong contradictions and absurdities of slavery and slave owners is the philosophy of Haley concerning the proper treatment of slaves. Haley, whose practice is to buy and sell people asserts that, “its always best to do the humane thing,”(16) and that it is good to have a conscience, “just a little, you know, to swear by,”(13). Another topic often addressed in the novel is exclusion of blacks in the law and the injustice of the entire condition.

Death in The Story of an Hour, What the Living Do, and Trifles

Death is a topic that is often not discussed in the western culture. When the topic of death

is brought up, the conversation is quick and not many questions are asked. Authors, though, open

the minds of their readers to see the topic of death in a new light. Some authors use humor,

others drama and some even leave the audience with many unanswered questions. The point is

that authors write about death in their own ways, and this does not exclude the authors of ―The

Story of an Hour,‖ ―What the Living Do,‖ and Trifles. But the authors of these three works write

not only about the physical death of the characters but also the death of the character‘s soul.

The three pieces of literature all start off with the physical and obvious death of one of

the characters. In ―The Story of an Hour,‖ the husband is the one who is dead, or so the readers

think. The story revolves around the death of the husband and the misery that the wife should be

feeling. Then there is the poem ―What the Living Do,‖ which also revolves around the death a

loved one. In the poem, the main character seems to truly have sadness towards the death of the

loved one, in this way the two works differ. The last piece of literature is Trifles, which like the

first two works deals with the death of a loved one, but in this piece of literature the audience

gets insight into the main character‘s past. With this knowledge, the audience is more likely to

relate with Mrs. Wright from Trifles, even though she did murder her husband.

Though all three pieces of literature deal with death, Trifles and ―The Story of an Hour‖

are the ones that deal with the perspective of the wives. Both the wives are similar in the way

that they feel trapped by th…

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… to a realization that they have a choice of how they can live. The characters

have the choice of living in misery, with a loss of who they are, or of doing something about it.

In all the works, the characters do something about that misery they feel. Mrs. Wright kills her

husband, Mrs. Mallard ends up dying, and the narrator of ―What the Living Do‖ moves on. All

of the characters realize that they cannot live this way and change their environment to better suit

their needs, an instinct every human has.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. ―The Story of an Hour.‖ Literature: Craft and Voice. Vol. 1: 13-14.

Delbanco, Nicholas and Alan Cheuse, eds. Literature: Craft and Voice. Vol. 1-3. New York:

McGraw Hill, 2010. Print.

Glaspell, Susan. Trifles. Literature: Craft and Voice. Vol. 3: 5-12.

Howe, Marie. ―What the Living Do.‖ Literature: Craft and Voice. Vol. 2: 67.

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