7 January 2016

Slavery and Uncle Tom

Remember that little hand drawn black and white picture, as light as the colour of the skin of the neatly dressed animal lifting his leg to kick a man almost twice his age, at one corner of your history book? Bizarre, right? Why would such a picture be a part of the text books of such fine institutions?

Because, my dear friends, the poor, cowering man at the corner of the picture is the hero of the story. That man is Uncle Tom. 

“…humanity comes out in a variety of strange forms nowadays, and there is no end to the odd things that humane people will say and do.”- Harriet Beecher Stowe weaves this tale of an odd bunch of ‘protagonists’, a tale of a human being objectifying another in such a way that the ties of a mother and her baby, the ties of a brother and his sister, the ties of a husband and his wife are severed like one slashes off unwanted weed. Ruthlessly. Carelessly. Heartlessly. 

Harriet Beecher Stove

“Following three slaves and their experiences, in and out of slavery, Stowe’s novel deals with the effects of slavery on both blacks and whites in the antebellum or pre-Civil War, South.”
The story begins with a trader convincing a kind master to sell his most trusted slave, Tom. The bargain remains stagnant for a while until a little boy, happens to venture into the room. The very sight of him gives the trader the idea that he needs to ensure maximum profits from this transaction, unmindful of the consequences it might impose on human ties around him. Little Harry, the third and only surviving child of Eliza and George, naturally is the apple of the eye of his mother. When Eliza’s kind master is left no choice but to give them both up despite his conscience imposing questions on his deeds, this timid young mother resorts to the way any sane person would overlook. A mother’s love can be such an unfathomable force; that anything in its way is bound to lower its head and slink away. While Eliza chooses to take the reins of her fate into her own hands, Tom, like the honest man he was chooses to stand by what his master had decided for him, and his God had in store for him.

.“Down south I will never go. No! If it comes to that, I can earn myself at least six feet of  free soil, -the first and last shall I ever own in Kentucky.- Then there is George, Eliza’s husband, who is taken away because he was making more progress than a man of his colour is allowed to make, away from his wife and child, into the depths of torture, starvation and loneliness. Pushed to such an extent, George was determined that there were only two ways left to him. Freedom or Death. I believe, at this point one in their correct sense of judgement would be able to understand the desperation this might have felt, to have been driven this close to the edge of one’s patience that they begin to question the existence of the God, his wife believed in.


To be very honest, with every character you come across in the story, you get tangled into the web of despair and hopelessness woven out of the misfortunes of these fellow beings with feelings in the dimension of your own and for a while you would want to keep the book down and curl yourself into a little ball because you feel scared of the big bad world out there but then again like every other bibliophile you just muster the courage to go back into that world and if you can’t, let me give you the assurance that it’s not all bad. Because you meet Eva, and your heart warms up at her innocence and pure love for everyone around her, and you fall in love with her, and make her your own.

But, a fair piece of advice that I would like to give is that you must never forget where the heart of the story lies because in the words of Mr Frost, “In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: It goes on.”, just like it goes on for the protagonists, with only a slight shift in the focus until the finale.

All along you would wish that there were one man, one representative of the kindness and compassion a human being is believed to possess, selfless enough to break through the binds of the laws made by their cruel counterparts and free those who couldn’t do it themselves, but that never comes until Death decides to be the redeemer for these poor souls, and even though you feel like a huge hole has been carved in your heart with a blunt knife and painful patience, the knowledge that in death there is freedom, serves as the morphine to keep you holding on till the last goodbyes are said to our friends who are lost in this journey.


Have a good time reading though. 


Sayari Misra is a microbiology sophomore from Scottish Church college, Kolkata. This gifted author and a bibliophile is a columnist for ExPRESS magazine and a few other reputed magazines. 

1 comment:

  1. and this is some really nice piece of writing..
    Proud of u girl.. :)