Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin

When I was in high school we weren't required to read many books and especially classic literature.  I remember reading The Scarlet Letter in 11th grade and I think we read Of Mice and Men in 10th grade.  Some of the other classics were not read, but we just watched the movie.  Ten years later I really regret that I haven't read much classic literature and since we want to give our children a classical education, my goal has been to read more of the classics every year.  Thus far I have read Pride & Prejudice, Emma, The Tale of Two Cities, and yesterday I finished Uncle Tom's Cabin

Josh read it first and couldn't put it down.  When he finished it last week, I picked it up, but started reading it slowly.  I honestly wasn't sure I could read it because the opening chapters tell of one of the main characters escaping so she can save her four year old son from being sold to a slave trader.  I don't know if you read like I do, but I put myself in the shoes of the characters and all I could think about was someone trying to take one of my boys.  As I got further into the story (and Eliza and Harry were okay), I could not put the book down either. 

My emotions through reading Uncle Tom's Cabin were varied:  sadness, repulsion, anger, hope, and even elation.  Harriet Beecher Stowe did a great job of portraying slavery from the perspective of all people involved: benevolent owners, harsh owners, slave traders, abolitionists, and of course the slaves themselves.  I was struck with how slaves were treated as mere property and it didn't matter if an owner broke up a marriage or took children from their mothers (one of the hardest aspects of slavery for me).  There were some kind owners who were very good to their slaves, but it seems for every kind owner there were two who were harsh and inhumane in their treatment of their slaves. 

After reading this book, it really gives me a new perspective on the evils of slavery, but also on the faithfulness of God to His people.  Many slaves were introduced to the gospel for the first time through slavery and Uncle Tom (the main character) is such a godly man even through all his suffering.  The gospel is woven throughout the book and that's what gives hope to the slaves.  Uncle Tom repeatedly says, "They may kill my body, but my soul is with Jesus."  One quote from the book is especially moving:

Tom looked up to his master, and answered, "Mas'r, if you was sick, or in trouble, or dying, and I could save ye, I'd give ye my heart's blood; and if taking every drop of blood in this poor old body would save your precious soul, I'd give 'em freely, as the Lord gave his for me. O, Mas'r! don't bring this great sin on your soul! It will hurt you more than 'twill me! Do the worst you can, my trouble'll be over soon; but, if ye don't repent, yours won't never end."  (p. 407)

Josh and I have talked about what is comparable to American slavery in our modern world and we can think of two things: abortion and sex trafficking around the world.  Both the unborn babies and those enslaved now are not treated as persons, but as something you can treat and do with as the mother or owner wishes.  While sex trafficking is not legal in this country (hopefully, not any country) abortion is and it is truly horrendous.  Psalm 139 clearly tells me that the Lord knit together every baby in the womb and He is the creator and sustainer of life. 

If you haven't read Uncle Tom's Cabin or if it has been a long time, I would highly recommend it.  Not only did I learn much about slavery (it was written in 1852), but was so encouraged to persevere to the end no matter the circumstances of this life.

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