Maret 29, 2020

Oleh: Karina Hanum Luthfia

(Mahasiswi S3 Kajian Amerika UGM dan Dosen Sastra Inggris Universitas Negeri Semarang)

 Image Courtesy of The Library Congress

Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852 was written by White American, Harriet Beetcher Stowe. The novel was associated to the groundwork of the civil war between Southern and Northern America toward African American as a slave. The novel advancing an issue of cultural materialism from which the opposition between White American and African American was portrayed involutedly. The main character, uncle Tom, was depicted on being a faithful slave with his kind-hearted masters Shelbys (Stowe: 1852). The portrayal of a normal and happy life was on purpose exposed by Stowe to elucidate the perspective of African American slaves since how sweet-tempered the master, they were still doing an evil thing, slavery. 

The trajectory of uncle Tom was followed when uncle Tom lived with St. Claire family. On this passage of the story, uncle Tom experienced the distinguished treatments from Augustine St. Claire and Marie St. Claire, the wife. Stowe brought the binary opposition existing on this family into two distinguished elements, which are pro abolition and pro-slavery. Stowe (1852) portrayed that Eva St. Claire in togetherness with Augustine St. Claire explicitly stated that uncle Tom should have been freed since as a human being, he deserved to be free. However, Marie St. Claire’s perspective was opposed to the idea that uncle Tom was born to be a slave since he was an African American. The narration ushered the consciousness of choice from which barely realized by the slaves, especially who lived in the mansion within the master.

The racism issue then developed coating in physical violence when uncle Tom lived in the plantation of Simon Legree. Domination, oppression, violence, and racism were explored in consequence of the unconscious danger of slavery in uncle Tom’s context, since at the beginning, uncle Tom mostly achieved a good living. The portrayal of the trajectory came to an end onto the choices provided in the novel, whether uncle Tom decided to stay in the plantation, murdered by Simon Legree, and dies as a slavery, or escaped and migrated to the Northern America and be freed as portrayed on the story of Eliza Haris and Harry Haris.

The realization of choice then led into the civil was between Southern and Northern America. Northern American’s tendency was on the abolition of the slavery. Meanwhile, Southern American’s tendency preferred to the institutional slavery to be existed. The racial issue was assumed to be the main major issue grounding to the Civil War. In fact, capitalism took control more powerful as portrayed that Southern America’s area was mostly plantation from which the landowners called for workers from the slavery system to work in their plantation. Meanwhile, the Northern America’s area was dominated by the industrialized life, hence they need labor to work and be paid within a minimum salary, the only social group who would be willing to do it was the ex-slave of African American.
Then, it can be concluded whether the slavery was abolished or not, African American will face racial segregation and inequality. However, Stowe proposed the movement since the writer presumed that being freed is better than being a slave since, within freedom, African American would be able to open the gate of access to some significant elements of life such as education.

“Witness, eternal God! Oh Witness tha, from this hour, I will do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!” (Stowe: 1853)

Consequently, within the education, African Americans gradually can develop their social group and express their self-determination. Hence, Stowe pointed Eliza as the characters who urges to escape since a woman is signified as the new generation caretaker. It means that education is proposed to be reached for African American not only on a certain period of one layer generation but durably for generation to generation.


Stowe, Harriet Beetcher. 1852. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Boston: John P. Jewett and Company.



Karina Hanum Luthfia atau biasa dipanggil Hanum, adalah seorang mahasiswi S3 Pengkajian Amerika yang juga mengajar di Universitas Negeri Semarang. Saat ini sedang menitikberatkan fokusnya ke kampus untuk mengajar dan penelitian mengenai gerakan literasi di Indonesia. Ia juga memiliki pengalaman menjadi volunteer dan researcher di salah satu locally run NGO di Yogyakarta.


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