Stowe and the Power of Sentimentality

ENG 205 Week 8 Unit B: Stowe and the Power of Sentimentality


  1. Discussion board: (200 WORDS)



Attached Files:



Introduction to Uncle Tom’s Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe, (912-13)

“Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Power of Literary History”

essay by Jane Tompkins

(pdf linked above)



“Feeling Right:  Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the Power of Sympathy” essay by Mary Kelley





For all of the attempts to contain women within the domestic sphere, both 19th and 20th American culture provide us with examples of radical social movements that were instigated, promulgated, and successful through the energy of women.  For example:

Abolition Movement – women were very active in the anti-slavery movement

Temperance Movement –  which resulted in the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” was prohibited from 1920 until 1933 when the passage of the 21st Amendment in 1933

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – established in 1980; instrumental in passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act (1984)

And recently, an organization called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America came online with the stated goal of “establish[ing] common sense gun reforms.”

What, if anything, do you think that this says about:

  • the (un?)changing role of women in America?
  • the acceptability of certain types of women (i.e., married, mothers), and the implied unaccaptability of others?
  • past and current cultural ideas about maternity?




  1. Write responses for other 3 student’s work. (50-75 words for each)



Americans have had their “Independence” now for two hundred and forty years. Surely that may seem to strike celebration, but are celebrating under the right circumstances. In 1776, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, but who was considered the party that received their independence? It is clear that we still had many issues that had not been resolved or considered such as slavery and womens’ suffrage. Every year, we celebrate the day that we officially signed our ticket to freedom. However, we fail to honor or discuss the political and racial issues that still seem to raise debate in today’s society. The only true reason that these are not brought to light on this day is due to the meaning that we have now associated with Independence Day. Currently this day is filled with BBQ’s, going to the beach, and most importantly, fireworks. We treat this day as a form of celebration, a paid holiday off from work, and an opportunity to spend time with our loved ones. We are clouded by the benefits that this day brings and neglect to consider the issues that surrounded this day over two centuries ago. It is clear that we will never honor this day in the way that will bring all issues to light.



The reason for me to rewrite the question at the beginning of this section’s post is because I find the question very interesting when it is asking domestic people, the Americans, to reflect on their own history, especially the dark side of it, which is always ignored by humans in modern world but important for human to develop righteously or correct prior mistakes. Moreover, the question could be a part of answer on itself, which admitting the shamed history on slavery. This question made me think a lot about the definition of liberty in several weeks ago, and I believed that the whites reconciled the meaning of liberty as privileged freedom as early colonists immigrated from European countries. Only when there were slaves and slave holders, privilege would prevail as a kind of right for a small portion of people if say so. Therefore, I suppose those people who advocated slavery also distorted the meaning of “independence” in the similar way, or even utilized the advantage of slavery and exploiting inferior people to achieve their defined independence in the new land. However, in my opinion, the concept of slavery never fade away and extinct on the earth, no matter in America or in other countries because people always want to climb over others’ head and control others as a deficit instinct all the time, and this idea is stronger among high developed countries I suppose. Therefore, the words of slavery and privilege not refer to a suppressed event only but imply the dark side of human nature more.



Reconciling the American’s rhetoric of liberty and independence with the bald facts of its history in reference to slavery that saw the cruelty directed to blacks and other minorities was not and has not been easy. Fredrick Douglas speech presents the distaste of blacks towards American’s declaration of independence in that they see the independence as mockery and something not to be happy about because it did not settle scores for the cruelty that the whites directed towards the blacks. The declaration was a mockery because even at this time, over 500,00 blacks were still enslaved yet the declaration  claimed to ensure equality and freedom. Ideally, it seemed that it was beneficial to the whites and not the blacks or those enslaved.

It is clear that the atrocities committed are immeasurable and that declaration for independence did no justice in ensuring that the slaves enjoyed their freedom. As Fredrick Douglas seems to suggest, the only way to reconcile is to move beyond these two, recognize that all people have natural right to their freedom. Avoid doubtful application of the justice principle, as seen in the Declaration of Independence, where some colonies want to still hold on to slave. That slavery is not divine, it is inhuman and that the American nation abandon hypocrisy in reference to acting as if it has not done any wrong and own up to its mistakes. The Americans should recognize that times have changed, that they cannot keep on relating to each other, as their forefathers did ages ago and that they cannot keep walking in the same old path with no interference because it can no longer shut itself up—-the world is watching. People have become more intelligent/enlightened that the privileges present cannot be confined and enjoyed by only a few (Whites).

Even though back then this seemed like a far-fetched dream, American has evolved and despite racial discrimination that exists today, there have been remarkable steps in recognizing the blacks, as well as, minorities’ freedom/rights in the context of them being basic human rights granted to them by God and nature. Nonetheless, there is still much that needs to be done, as blacks are disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to securing employment and having access to wealth—a trend that finds its roots in the past grim history of slavery, segregation and immense discrimination in the social and economic arenas. This almost suggests that it may never be possible or it may be increasingly difficult to reconcile liberty or declaration of independence with the grim facts of American history.


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