What was Kazin's response to critics of Uncle Tom's Cabin?Introduction

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Some critics say that Uncle Tom’s Cabin lacks literary merit, but Kazin states in his introduction that Stowe wanted to convince people that slavery was immoral and the book was actually very effective.

Kazin believed that the book had to be judged not by “the liberal feelings today” but by the context of the nineteenth century when it was written (p. xvi).  Stowe, he comments, is “not so old-fashioned as we may think” (xvi).  She was successful in convincing people in her day.

In his introduction, Kazin comments that Stowe wanted to “persuade people through literature that that slavery was wholly immoral” (ix).  Of all of her books, he notes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the one that survived.  Even Lincoln is reported to have credited some of the Civil War with her.

She said that the beating to death of Uncle Tom came to her as a vision. (p. x)

Kazin uses this as an example of how the nineteenth century was different.  At the time, the belief that God helped her write was generally accepted.

Stowe believed that blacks could not free themselves.  She did not “ignore the agony and dread among the blacks themselves” (xvi).  He tells us that “to patronize the book is to miss it relevance to ourselves” (xvi).  When we consider the context in which the book was written, it really was significant.

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