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Important but flawed

Uncle Tom's Cabin or, Life Among the Lowly - Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ann  Douglas

Harriet Beecher Stowe's book is one that I would classify as important rather than great. It's a powerful condemnation of slavery using the language of Stowe's Christian faith, and her moral outrage at it seeps through nearly every page. This I expected; what I didn't expect was how she developed her characters. While her African American characters are uniformly dignified and good, most of the slaveholders received surprisingly nuanced treatments, with some good (if hypocritical) characters and only the infamous Simon Legree really embodying in full the evil and corruption resulting from slavery. Yet for all the positive nature of her depiction of her slave characters Stowe cannot help but reflect the racial attitudes of her time, with descriptions that have not aged well. In this she demonstrates the limits of even antislavery activists in their attitudes towards African Americans, yet this is all of a piece in a work that arguably serves as the most historically significant novel in American history, one that helped galvanize opposition to the institution that was corroding the nation's soul.