The Wide, Wide World, by Susan Warner, was one of the most successful American novels of the nineteenth century. Published in 1850, just two years before Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Wide, Wide World is the story of little Ellen Montgomery who must come to terms with her life's trials and learn submission to God's will. The first and most painful tragedy is that she must be separated from her mother, first by the Atlantic Ocean, then by death. Much of the drama of the early part of the book is generated by the impending separation, introduced in the first chapter.
There are two types of separation which surface as themes: those brought about by God (usually death) and those brought about by man. The first requires from mothers and children alike complete submission to God's will. For Ellen in TW,WW, separating her from her mother was God's way of bringing her into his fold. In UTC, Eliza's resistance to this sort of separation from her first two children brought "gentle remonstrance from her mistress, who sought, with maternal anxiety, to direct her naturally passionate feelings within the bounds of reason and religion."(p.57)
The second kind of separation - those brought about by man's sin - constitute the type of cruelty to which the generally timid and mild Mrs. Bird reacts with "a passion." (p.143) Resistance to this man-made injustice is sanctioned by God's law. When Eliza escapes this second, man-imposed, separation, her mistress exclaims, "The Lord be thanked!" (p.92)