Uncle Tom's Cabin Web Experience

By Steven Rogers and Grace Watkins


Despite deep-seated prejudice, people in the 1850s were fighting hard for equality.

The Analysis - by Steven Rogers

One of the most prevalent motifs illustrated by these images is equality among all people despite their race. This idea is shown throughout the illustrations by the simple interactions between white and black folk. There are, however, more minute ideas that are conveyed within these pictures as well. For instance, in many of the pictures, even when they are being abused the black people shown have a sense of humanity and determination. The idea of humanity within the black people wasn't popularized in the 1800s because African Americans were seen as second-rate citizens without the mental capacity to formulate their own thoughts; consequently, they were unable to achieve humanity. By showing this idea within both peaceful and violent settings, the illustrations criticize the social constructs of the time. The determination shown on the faces of the black people in the pictures conveys the idea that African Americans can and will overcome the prejudice that they face in everyday life and become equal with the white men who have monopolized the high positions in society.

These ideas were not what surprised me though; what surprised me was the emotion depicted in the illustrations. These emotions were not vengeful nor sad but they were kind and calm, instead. The lack of focus on what had happened, the paintings focused on what could happen. Due to this, there was not anger and there was not sadness, only calm contemplation. By removing anger and sadness from the paintings they, surprisingly, became easier to connect with. This is because, by not relying on a shared experience, the art is easier to understand and, thus, connecting is easier as well.

Analysis by Grace Watkins

Equality is the strongest theme in most of the images, but it isn't just political or economic equality. Even at this point history, the focus is on creating a harmonious society where people of different races see each other not just as equals, but as fellow humans. the pictures of Eva and Uncle Tom highlight their friendship and respect for each other--the fact that they have different skin colors is secondary. The images don't focus on equality as a political and social injustice, they mourn the humanity lost when prejudice and intolerance rule society. The only stereotypical image is of Eva and the girl in the red dress--although they hold hands, the contrast between them borders on ridiculous and there is no warmth in the gesture. This picture seems to focus more on the differences between Eva and the other girl, and while it does promote equality, it doesn't celebrate unity like the other images. The image of the slave boys being kicked and beaten also focuses on inequality rather than unity, with emphasis on the clear divide between the boys and the man. The anger at injustice, rather than focusing on the benefits of equality.

It surprised me that more images weren't like these--angry or oversimplified. But instead of focusing on what draws the country apart, but instead focusing on their primary goal--to bring people together. They also portray the subjects as people, not stereotypes. They do this by clearly portraying the relationships between the characters, and focusing on emotion, not action, in the peices. The majority of the images aren't inherently persuasive, they focus on conveying a message by celebrating tolerance and unity, not by disparaging hate. For the most part, the stories in the images have happy endings. They focus on beauty of humanity, not the despair caused by the darker sides of human nature.