Uncle Tom


Although antecedent to the publication of The American Woman's Home (1869), the Quaker settlement in Uncle Tom's Cabin is in many ways a literary realization of the "Christian House" proposed by Beecher and Stowe. Rachel Halliday's home is a figurative expression of the literal suggestions Beecher and Stowe would make; like the model it is a home and school and church, and like the missionaries imagined in The American Woman's Home, its inhabitants serve as role models to all who meet them (in this case, slave trader Tom Loker and Stowe's readers rather than "the heathen.")

In her essay "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History," Jane P. Tompkins writes, "Embedded in the world of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is the fallen world of slavery, there appears an idyllic picture, both utopian and Arcadian, of the form human life would assume if Stowe's readers were to heed her moral lesson."* The Quaker settlement is the ideological center of the story, and is a model which manual readers would recognize.

Rachel Halliday's kitchen is the one room in the story where all is as it should be; Christianity reigns, black and white sit down to the table as equals, the white woman addresses the runaway slave as "daughter." It is enough, even, to soften the hardened heart of George Harris.

Chapter XIII
The Quaker Settlement




* from the Norton Critical Edition (1994) of Uncle Tom's Cabin. ed., Elizabeth Ammons.