Cultural Interactions in the 1850s

Alex I. Rebecca M.

1850s Interaction Thesis

In Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin", a slave named Tom saved a little girl because of the beauty and innocence he saw within her (named Eva). He was bought by the little girl's family and grew an emotional (but platonic) attachment to Tom. He read the Bible with her every night, and through this he discovered his faith. The little girl soon died (from terminal illness), and he was traded away. After such poor treatment, he lost his faith and passed away.

Stowe conveys how important it is to look past what is on the outside and to judge people by their actions, and not the colour of their skin. She modeled cultural interactions of the two differing social classes (slaves and whites) by using Tom's life story. Stowe portrayed two different types of people throughout the book: Eva and the other slave owners. Eva represented Stowe's idea of a perfect society - one that didn't judge people by the pigment of their skin and accepted Tom for who he was. The other slave-owning persons treated Tom poorly, which caused him to lose faith and resulted in his eventual death. In both cases, whites were depicted as elevated and above their "property".

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Cartoon for "Uncle Tom's Cabin"

This cartoon depicts Tom and the friendly slave owners as uncivilized, showing the separation of classes (socially)

Individual Response (Rebecca M.)

1) The first subtle message is the portrayal of the innocence of children and the pure goodness of their hearts. Eva accepts Tom as a friend despite the color of his skin. Stowe's message is that children see what the correct way to treat people is, and Stow believes that society should be more like this. Another message is the subject of faith. Tom and Eva get close through readings of the Bible, and even when Eva passes away, Tom tries to keep his faith and hope that this is the only real option slaves had (which was coping with such horrible conditions. The slaves could try to run away; however, that would have consequences. So the only chance they really had at this time was to keep faith.

2) The most surprising thing in the images was the difference of the treatment of slaves. With the picture on the children's version (see above), two different races are together and happy. However, the picture of the woman treating the slave for no apparent reason is terrible.

Individual Response (Alex I.)

1) One of the subtle ideas that I picked up on is that slave culture and white culture weren't very different in the 1980s. Putting aside the major difference of right and social class, these two different races had similar cultures. In the comic strip, "the white man" and the slave are depicted as having a beer together, enjoying themselves. The same thing occurs with what appears to be the wives of the two gentlemen - they are gambling together! These two cultures aren't as different as they seem.

2) What I found to be the most appalling was not in the images, but the images themselves. It's absolutely bonkers to imagine that slavery was a thing that was actually practiced. Nowadays, anything of the sort would be frowned upon (to say the very least).