Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom's Cabin Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Mrs. Shelby was a woman of high class, both intellectually and morally. To that natural magnanimity and generosity of mind which one often marks as characteristic of the women of Kentucky, she added high moral and religious sensibility and principle, carried out with great energy and ability into practical results. Her husband, who made no professions to any particular religious character, nevertheless reverenced and respected the consistency of hers, and stood, perhaps, a little in awe of her opinion. Certain it was that he gave her unlimited scope in all her benevolent efforts for the comfort, instruction, and improvement of her servants, though he never took any decided part in them himself. In fact, if not exactly a believer in the doctrine of the efficiency of the extra good works of saints, he really seemed somehow or other to fancy that his wife had piety and benevolence enough for two – to indulge a shadowy expectation of getting into heaven through her superabundance of qualities to which he made no particular pretension. (1.78)
In the very first chapter of the novel, Stowe describes her feminine ideal: a well-bred woman with strong religious principles who exerts moral influence over her husband and her household.
It is impossible to conceive of a human creature more wholly desolate and forlorn than Eliza, when she turned her footsteps from Uncle Tom's cabin. [. . .] But stronger than all was maternal love, wrought into a paroxysm of frenzy by the near approach of a fearful danger. Her boy was old enough to have walked by her side, and, in an indifferent case, she would only have led him by the hand; but now the bare thought of putting him out of her arms made her shudder, and she strained him to her bosom with a convulsive grasp, as she went rapidly forward. (7.1, 3)
Stowe develops Eliza as a mother and heroine first and a black slave second. By showing her readers that Eliza’s maternal feelings are just as strong and just as sacred as those of any white northern woman, she establishes a sympathetic connection between her readers and her character.
If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that were going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, tomorrow morning, – if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o'clock till morning to make good your escape, – how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom, – the little sleepy head on your shoulder, – the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck? (7.5)
Stowe appeals directly to her reader, whom she assumes to be a white 19th century northern Christian mother. Forcing the reader to imagine herself in Eliza’s situation strengthens the reader’s sympathetic bond with Eliza and makes her suffering even more poignant.