Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Incidents
In The Life of A Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs are two books which were written against slavery. Both authors are deeply against slavery and write these books to convince their audience that slavery is bad. They both want the reader to get an image of how slavery was about during the 1850’s. Only difference is that Stowe writes about things that occur during the 1850’s but are not based on a true story. In other words, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is fiction where has Jacobs book, it is an autobiography, a slave narrative.
Even though Uncle Tom’s Cabin is fiction and Incidents In The Life of A Slave Girl is a life story, they both confirm the reality and viciousness of slavery by focusing in religion, mental and sexual abuse, and how slavery obliterates the moral principles of slaveholders. Religion played a major role during slavery. Not only was religion one of the main reasons as to way colored people (and the few white abolitionist there were) believed slavery was wrong but also because it was the only “good” there was during the 1800’s. During the 1800’s, it was jam-packed with inequality.
Therefore, religion was the hope towards freedom, love, and equality amongst all. In Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom was the most religious and noble character. In Jacob’s book, Aunt Martha was the most religious and kind hearted. Both characters passed on the religious values to others. For example, after Uncle Tom’s death was it then that Mr. Shelby, Toms slaveholder, realize that in the eyes of God, Slavery was immoral. Mr. Shelby states, “Witness, eternal God!…. Oh, witness that, from this hour I will do what one man can drive out this curse of slavery from my land! (Stowe, 479).
Mr. Shelby had basically said that with the help and guidance of God, and his determination, he was going to put a stop to slavery. He realized how slavery was not right and was determined to work against slavery from that very hour (meaning the moment poor Tom passed away). This part of the Story was Stowe’s way of conveying her message that through determination and the power of having religion/god in your life, it is the way Slavery would have an end to it. Another example from Stowe’s book is a quote from Mrs. Shelby.
She states that “This is a God’s curse on slavery……I was a fool to think I could make anything good out of such a deadly evil. It is a sin to hold a slave under laws like ours,…” (Stowe, 38). This is a perfect example of Stowe’s religious views stating that slavery is a sin, in others eyes, a crime and that because of those reasons it shall be prohibited. As for Jacobs, we get to read an actual event that happened during her time of being a slave. As mentioned before, religion was an important part of every slave. Jacobs gives us an example of how the white individual would try to use religion to lure the slaves to do as their master says.
Knowing that religion was a big part of a slaves life and beliefs, their assumptions were that this type of preaching was actually going to affect and bring some senses into the slaves mind. A preacher named Mr. Pike would preach to the slaves stating that “You must forsake your sinful ways, and be faithful servants. Obey your old master and your young master…… You must obey God’s Commandments. ” (Jacobs, 60). Next is how mental and sexual abuse confirms the viciousness of slavery. Jacob talks through out the book the way her master took away her Girlhood. Jacob discusses how women suffered just has bad as men did.
Men did in fact undergo more physical abuses but throughout the book you can read how she and women in general endure the same pain. She states by saying that she then “… entered on [her] fifteenth year—a sad epoch in the life of a slave girl. [Her] master began to whisper foul words in [her] ear. ” (Jacobs, 26) With that being said, it began with foul words but then lead to the sexual abuse. Another example from the text was when she says that “Slavery is terrible for men, but it is far more terrible for women. ” (Jacobs, 66) This example also informs us on how hard it was for her and for other slave women during those times.
That is way it is harsh on a slave girl because they are forced to have sexual relations with their masters. As for mental cruelty, women are mentally being abused because they are tortured when they get separated from their children. For a mother, being away from your blood and flesh and knowing that they will probably have no more contact with them because they were sold, is terrible. An example from the text can be with A friend of hers named Fanny stating that “dwelled agony but did not suffer the same as her because she had hope to see her children.
As of for her, she did not have no more hope because they had been auctioned off. ” (Jacobs, 130) Last but not least how slavery obliterates the moral principles of slaveholders. Stowe uses perfect examples of how slaveholders were trying to be nice but in the end were not what they appeared to be. An example will be Mr. Shelby’s father and a character name St. Clare. Both of these slave holders saw and knew that Slavery was wrong. But they didn’t stop with the slavery because they thought that slavery had already spread to much and that it had become unstoppable.
For that reason they didn’t bother stopping themselves. Other examples can be Mr. Shelby. Mr. Shelby became a huge impact on the message of the book. He was against slavery but he dealt with it by owning slaves and treating them with honor. Just like in Jacobs narrative, her master will “treat her well” by never making her go through whippings or do field work, but still had her as a slave. In conclusion, I believe both books are good sources to look into if anybody is trying to get a point of view towards slavery or even a history behind it.
I also believe that both books are reliable because they both provide their own individual pieces. Stowe offers a brief history and conveys the message that once accepting God into ones life, Slavery would end. She also gives an overall perspective of what was going on during the 1800’s because she wrote this book right when The Fugitive Slave Law was passed. Therefore she expressed her opinion and was trying to send out a message to the Southerners (the south were her main target audience).
As for Jacobs book, I believe it is a reliable source because she takes us into her past and her sufferings. She helps you understand how an actual and other slaves had to go through. Her book also allows the reader to understand more into depth that the women slaves suffered just as much as the men or even more so. In the end, I rate Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs higher than Uncle Toms Cabin because I believe there is nothing better than an actual life story. An autobiography has the ability to give the reader a better view of things of how that time of period was.
I liked Jacobs narrative because through out the reading she repeatedly would mention to her readers that she was not exaggerating on what she had written/said. I liked that about her because it reassured me that I was actually living history and slavery just by reading her story. Although Uncle Toms Cabin was a great text written against slavery and towards Southerners, I didn’t like Tom, as noble and religious the character was, he ended up suffering the most I believe. But overall, both books are great resources and that’s way they continue to be read years after being written.