Gender Roles In Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Gender Roles in Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s great American classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin is so renowned for its progressive views on race and its deeply humanitarian portrayal of slaves that what can be easily overlooked is how divided the characters are by gender as well. It is undeniable that race – specifically the treatment of African Americans in the United States during 19th Century – is the central force of the plot. However, what Stowe may have inadvertently provided in her careful treatment of the relationship between all characters, is an emerging commentary on women’s role during this time as well. There is no indication that Stowe intended her masterpiece to be interpreted as a subversively feminist critique..
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Shelby also highlights the difficulties women with strong political beliefs had with asserting influence. Mrs. Shelby had no say in the sale of her slaves, she was completely helpless when it came to money management in her household, and her only resource to enact her will was to plea to her husband. To infer that Mrs. Shelby had any other resources available to her would not only be completely inaccurate, but it would arguably be the one of the most outlandish thoughts of the novel. Nearly 100 years later, scholarly articles were still so oblivious to the unequal power structure, that it was not even considered. An article entitled “Shall We Teach Gender?” from 1922 was so aloof to the inequality that it states, “Gender is a matter of very little importance; it could be entirely omitted from our grammars without any loss” (Phillips, p 27). While this statement is ignorant enough to induce involuntary eye rolling, it illustrates perfectly the historic difficulties generations of American women endured. Their plight was one so often overlooked some did not believe it was ever…show more content…
To think that a young girl would maintain such influence over her father as to which slave he purchased, valued, and intended to set free betrays some of the limitations established by Mrs. Shelby. Eva may be the most overly influential female of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in this way, but the suspension of belief allows for great characterization and pathos to take place. Just as it was said, “The truth is that if there had not been a slave in America, Uncle Tom’s Cabin would have [still] taken hold upon the hearts of men” (Shoup 89) is true of Eva’s emotional, if not logical, addition to the novel. She is a tenacious, intelligent, and heartfelt character who brings out the best in Tom and is a gentle mediator between the reader and some of the more difficult concepts of the story for early readers of this novel to
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