Close Reading American Literature

A close reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin






I’m a Christian English student. While reading a novel called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A story informing the public on the horrors of slavery. An interesting passage caught my eye. For religious folks or lovers of history reading this blog take a look at this


“O, ye poor crittur!” said Tom, “han’t nobody never telled ye how the Lord Jesus loved ye, and died for ye? Han’t they telled ye that he’ll help ye, and ye can go to heaven, and have rest, at last?” “I looks like gwine to heaven,” said the woman; “an’t thar where white folks is gwine? S’pose they’d have me thar? I’d rather go to torment, and get away from Mas’r and Missis. I had so,” she said, as with her usual groan, she got her basket on her head, and walked sullenly away. Uncle Tom’s Cabin Chapter 18″

In most religions there is a belief in the afterlife. The idea that when a person dies, if they behaved well throughout their life, that person would go to heaven. An eternal paradise. If a person behaved badly during their life, they would go to hell a place of eternal suffering.

This is a passage of dialogue between a devoted Christian and a slave girl, in the novel Uncle Tom Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is anti slave novel that argues Slavery is wrong because it goes against Christian values. The reason why this particular passage caught my attention is that the slave girl is saying, that she would rather go to hell than heaven. Why would someone want to go to a Hell instead of Heaven? This is a thought that is unfathomable. Heaven is good, Hell is bad.

I brought down this passage into two ideas.


  1. The author is bringing up an idea for discussion are slave masters are in heaven? Do slave masters go to heaven when they die? Is slavery just and respectable by the heavenly father? If the answer is No, then slave masters should go to hell. If slavery is just and god made blacks to be a slaves, then they would be a slave in heaven as well? If the answer is no black men would be free in heaven. (Some slave owners did in fact tell their slaves they would be rewarded in heaven). Then how can owning a slave be justified on earth if in heaven a place that is all good slavery does not exist. Slavery must be bad then.


  1. The second idea that this passage brings up is the idea that being a slave is a fate worse than eternal suffering. The concept of hell is that nothing in existence is worse than hell. Hell is the worse suffering imaginable. Every bad thing that you can imagine is supposed to happen in hell. For a northerner reading this book that usually doesn’t concern themselves with the politics of slavery. This is a passage that would have, had to make you pause for a second. That being a slave is one of the worse things that could happen to a man. Is it worse than being in hell.


What to take away from this Blog is the reason why my eye caught on to this particular passage. Picture the 19th century reader who would be deeply religious. Readers who grow up on “The day of Doom” and “Sinners in the Hands of an angry god” Texts that describe the suffering that a sinner would endure in hell. The idea that something could possible be worse than hell. This isn’t a passage that would be read and over looked. Readers would stop and wonder. This is something that must of gone debated. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a huge commercial success. People read this book. People wrote response books to this novel.

Just imagine this concept this very passage being brought up for discussion, to a group of readers that owned a single copy of this book


Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin,Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1852; Print


Tom’s Impact




One thought on “A close reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

  1. Remember to always edit and proofread before submitting a draft of a final paper. This is a good reminder for all students in the class. I see many distracting errors, from incomplete sentences and incomplete thoughts in the first paragraph to a misspelling of the very title of the book you are discussing. Always, always, always write deliberately and carefully. A complete sentence contains a subject and a verb. Also, remember what I mentioned about plural/singular agreement in our last and final class. I always recommend running a draft of a paper by a peer or through the Writing Center for help catching basic errors and making sure what has been written is clearly communicating what the author actually means to say.


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