Slavery as an Attack on Domestic Life in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Slavery as an Attack on Domestic Life in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Compromise of 1850 included The Fugitive Slave Law, a law forcing non-slave owners in the free Northern states to return escaped slaves to their Southern masters and participate in a system they did not believe in. Jehlen notes the reaction to this cruel governmental act by stating that "[t]he nation's growing guilt and apprehension is tangible in the overwhelming response to Uncle Tom's Cabin" (386). It seems hard to believe that people could find no wrong in making it a law to return humans as if they were property. In fact, Stowe wrote her most famous work, Uncle Tom's Cabin, at a most opportune time; indeed, she wrote it in response to the passage of the
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Like many other female writers during this time, Stowe emphasizes the two separate spheres created by the Cult of True Womanhood. The Cult of True Womanhood was a system of values, deeply ingrained into the minds of 19th century Americans, much like the idea of slavery, that established the proper codes of conduct every respectable woman should follow. A major component of the Cult of True Womanhood was the Cult of Domesticity, the belief that a woman's place was in the home where she could cook, clean, and care for her family. Nina Baym states that "[d]omesticity is set forth as a value scheme for ordering all of life, in competition with the ethos of money and exploitation that is perceived to prevail in American society" (27). A woman supposedly had no business worrying with events occurring outside the home, in the public sphere or marketplace where decisions like the Fugitive Slave Law were made and the cruel patriarchal institution of slavery thrived; she belonged strictly in the domestic sphere. Davidson comments that writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe, having no voice in the public, male-dominated sphere, "used their writing to exert a moral force and power in the nation from which they were excluded by custom and law" (444).

Uncle Tom's Cabin tells the stories of several Southern families who live within the confines of the slavery system. The characters have different feelings about the society they live in, but they do share
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