Do you approve of Uncle Tom’s actions?

Here is the answer and explanation to the question Do you approve of Uncle Tom’s actions?

Do you approve of Uncle Tom’s actions?

While this question is ultimately a matter of opinion, many readers would likely approve of Uncle Tom’s actions. The Uncle Tom in Stowe’s novel, unlike later stage adaptations, is a man of extraordinary moral fiber who will not compromise his values or grovel to white people. He accepts his body being enslaved, but he never allows anyone to own his soul. He eventually chooses death over doing evil.

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Before considering whether or not one approves of Uncle Tom’s actions, it is important to understand the history of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The novel was the blockbuster bestseller in the world (after the Bible) in the nineteenth century. However, following the Civil War, Americans increasingly were put in contact with the book through the various stage versions that travelled to small towns. Most of these stage adaptations deviated sharply from the book by depicting Uncle Tom as a servile, white-loving, elderly Black man. This is where the stereotype of an “Uncle Tom” who grovels for white approval originated, a depiction of Blackness that the Black community understandably despised.

This, however, is not the the Uncle Tom in Stowe’s novel. Her Uncle Tom is a hearty, strong, moral man with a young wife and young children. He is hardly a groveler, and while he does his duty, he does not kowtow mindlessly to white authority. He is, in fact, a man of great strength of character and will who believes with all his heart that while white people might own his body, he owns his soul.

When Uncle Tom agrees to be sold from the Shelby farm early in the novel, he does not do this to please his white masters. He is encouraged to flee, as Eliza does, but he does not, because he knows this would lead to a large number of the Shelby slaves being sold instead of him. (Uncle Tom is strong and will fetch a high price.) Tom sacrifices himself to help his Black brothers and sisters, not because he wants to kowtow to white people.

When he is owned by St. Augustine, Tom retains his dignity and makes a compelling case for being freed, so much so that St. Augustine is ready to do so when he dies suddenly. Tom, as his conversations with St. Augustine show, capitulates to slavery because he has to, but he never once will say he likes it: he thinks slavery is a terrible, cruel institution.

At the end of the novel, too, Tom refuses to kowtow to the evil sociopath Simon Legree. This so enrages Legree that he beats Tom to death. However, Tom would rather let his body be killed than compromise his soul by participating in evil.

Tom in the novel is a noble character placed against his will in a terrible situation because of being enslaved. Stowe makes him a good Christian that white people will accept, because her goal was to end slavery, and she knew to do that, a white audience had to respect Uncle Tom. However, he is much to be admired on his own terms for his strength of character and refusal to compromise his moral values.

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