Discussion Question – Why does James Baldwin refer to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a “very bad novel”? What examples does he site and do you agree or disagree with his assessment? Why or why not?
James Baldwin refers to Harriet Stowe’s Novel as a “very bad novel” because as he states it has, “self-righteous, virtual sentimentality”. This is stating that she has too much connection and emotions connected to the novel. I don’t fully agree with him that this would make it a bad novel just because she was black and wrote about how things were or how she perceived that things were. I think it is very bias of him to say that she has too much sentimentality in the novel because he was not in her time period to experience the feelings.
James Baldwin states that she was not a novelist just an “impassioned pamphleteer”. Baldwin states in his excerpt that she merely wrote the novel to prove that slavery was wrong and that those were not grounds for a novel. This I would have to disagree with him. Just from reading the few parts that we were given from Uncle Toms Cabin, I believe that yes, she is writing to prove that slavery is wrong, but she also writes a story to tell about slavery and even a little bit of the politics. In her story, she talks about the women who fled across the water and ended up at a house of a congressman who was against slavery. As she told her story about how she ended up there, he didn’t let her stay he made her leave, even though she was fleeing from slavery to free her son from being bought and taken away from her.
Baldwin also brings into his excerpt about medieval times and how it was not different from slavery. He states, “… is not different from that spirit of medieval times which sought to exorcize evil by burning witches; and it is not different from that error which activates a lynch mob.” I think that these are totally different things and shouldn’t be categorized together. These are from two totally different times periods. Yes, maybe they are a little on the same lines, but slavery was a whole race that was being terrorized by white people. It shouldn’t be on the same level as a few people get killed because people thought they were witches.
Baldwin refers to Stowe’s book as a bad novel because of the feelings, emotion, and sentiment that went into writing it. Baldwin refers to the emotion n the book as excessive and dishonest because he felt as though Stowe was writing based of personal feelings and not true facts. He also states that the book contains too much violence and feels as though she did not try to hold back or “flinch” in portraying her message leaving question as to which her writings are even true or not. “..her book was not intended to do anything but prove that slavery was wrong.” him describing this in itself “perfectly horrible”. he feels as though her writings were enough for a pamphlet and not to be considered a novel. I disagree with his opinion of the work. I read this book during high school and found it informative. Just because her truth is not in relation to how he feels or sees things pertaining to slavery. I feel as though yes he is entitled to hold his own opinion regarding someones work, its not write for him to belittle the work just because the writer expressed emotion in her work, those are the best relatable books. Anyone who made it out of slavery and was educated enough to talk about it for the world to know, im sure they also had great emotions behind things experienced during that time. I took a history class in high school where we learned of slavery and settlement and sometimes after watching films the viewers alone were emotional. In closing, I think Baldwin is wrong in his view of the sentiment that was put behind the work of Mrs. Stowe. People, just as himself are entitled to feel how they want to feel otherwise we would hold dear to heart freedom of speech.
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