Study Guide

Uncle Tom's Cabin Slavery

By Harriet Beecher Stowe


Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin specifically in order to illustrate the evil and inhumanity of slavery to her mid-19th century American readers, for whom slavery was a current and heated political issue. The novel illustrates not only the suffering and misery of the slaves themselves, but also the way that slavery as an institution harms everyone involved in it. Even those who do not participate directly in slavery are shown to be complicit – such as northern politicians and citizens. Thus slavery, in addition to being highly unethical, is portrayed as unviable in economic, social, and political terms as well.

Questions About Slavery

  1. According to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, what are the causes of slavery? Are some of those causes still in existence today?
  2. Although a strongly abolitionist text, Uncle Tom’s Cabin suggests if slavery is ended too abruptly, it will cause certain problems. What are those problems and what solutions are offered?
  3. Alfred St. Clare compares slavery as practiced in the American South with other social economic and social systems operating, for example, in aristocratic Europe. Do you find these comparisons compelling or useful? Is it possible to apply his argument to any societies in the modern day? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Although the South perpetuates slavery, the North is just as guilty because it allows it to exist due to its prejudice.

Even though slavery is wrong, Uncle Tom’s Cabin suggests that emancipation without education for former slaves would also be wrong.