The current research paper analyzes Harriet Beecher Stowe’s language and implicit methods of main idea delivery in her most influential work Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The author appeals to reader’s emotions by manipulating gender issues, family, religion, and inheritance principles. She also uses numerous descriptions, dialects, and punctuation as a linguistic method to impact reader’s feelings. In her novel, Stowe has consolidated several strongly debated issues of her time such as slavery, gender roles, and influence of a woman. It is also observed that the novel has rich vocabulary, frequently used direct speech and slang, and numerous descriptions.
In order to deliver her main anti-slavery idea of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe employs implicit methods as well. She pays sufficient attention to the gender roles such as masculinity and femininity, which are of great importance in the novel and undergo specific transgression. It is beyond any doubt that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a woman-centered novel. Thus, most of its female heroines are stronger and more moral than male characters. Eliza is a perfect example of this since she strives to protect her family by being strong when needed, for example, when she runs across the frozen river.
Masculinity in the novel is presented by means of vivid paternalism. Since slavery is a patriarchal institution, it is preserved with a paternalistic “law of the father” model. Despite this fact, two basic types of men can be outlined in the novel. The first type, usually associated with slave-owners and landlords, is an “aggressor” with different levels of loyalty. The second type can be referred to as “defender” and is implied in black male characters, which are inclined to abandon their male principle and obey the stronger men.
In the novel, there are dominating and dominated male characters, the latter of which are ultimately feminized. Tom is a good example to demonstrate gender transgression in the novel. He possesses numerous characteristics that coincide with female behavioral patterns. Stowe created Tom as a completely non-violent, gentle, doubting, self-sacrificing man to contrast the socially defined masculinity based on principles of competition and conquest. Masculinity and femininity in the novel are shifted also due to the fact that masters address black adult men and women like little children. Author uses this to diminish their social value and demonstrate hierarchy inherent to that time. For instance, Mrs. Shelby calls Eliza “child” although she is a mature woman and a mother as well, while St. Clare calls Tom “boy” despite the fact that Tom is the elder man.
There is a strong hidden line of motherhood and femininity, which runs throughout the whole story. The implicit message about men in the novel is that despite the cruelty of the world of the 19th century in the United States, there is a saving light of kindness and human compassion, which is expressed through motherhood vividly presented in the novel. Although initially women are weak and helpless creatures, their influence on men is considerable. For instance, the self-sacrifice and Christian compassion of a mother like Eliza prove to be more powerful than the cruelty of men like Tom Loker.
This novel is full of mothers since the majority of female characters are mothers, including Mrs. Shelby, Eliza, Cassy, Aunt Chloe, Madame de Thoux, Marie St. Clare, and Mrs. Bird. Stowe believed that women played special roles in the society as mothers and paid attention to a careful description of her female characters.
In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Stowe also appeals to the principles of the family institute. She demonstrates one of the major problems that slavery demolishes the family structure, separating wives from their husbands and mothers from their children. One of the most emotional moments of separation is that of George and Eliza as “they stood silent; then there were last words, and sobs, and bitter weeping, – such parting as those make whose hope to meet again is as the spider's web, — and the husband and wife were parted” (Stowe, 1852).
In the novel, Stowe also pays much attention to inheritance and ancestry since, in her opinion, the unity of blood family must be established and protected. Consequently, the idea of ancestry and bloodlines is significant in this novel as well. In this novel, bloodlines provide social identity. In the world of white men and women, birth is considered to be the source of generation continuation where purity of bloodlines is of great importance. Inheritance and slavery are mutually bound as well. Children of a freed slave were considered to be free and slaves became a heritage of the master's children.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin is considered to be a sentimental novel and makes obvious appeals to the reader's emotions. In order to achieve her goal, Stowe uses appropriate linguistic features. Indeed, the author represents emotions with detailed descriptions, direct speech, and punctuation. The author often uses exclamation marks to demonstrate the emotional coloring of a phrase. She projects emotions in direct speech of the characters. Besides, dialect is strongly pronounced throughout the whole novel in the speech of Stowe's characters:
Now, Mas'r George, you jest take off dem books, and set down now with my old man, and I'll take up de sausages, and have de first griddle full of cakes on your plates in less dan no time. (Stowe, 1852)
The author uses numerous specific adjectives, which imparts the novel with a very careful and specific manner of narration. For instance, describing Haley, the author pays attention to the dressing, hands, and to the description of jewelry the gentleman wore:
His hands, large and coarse, were plentifully bedecked with rings; and he wore a heavy gold watch-chain, with a bundle of seals of portentous size, and a great variety of colors, attached to it,—which, in the ardor of conversation, he was in the habit of flourishing and jingling with evident satisfaction. (Stowe, 1852)
Stowe illustrates her characters as close to the existing stereotypes as possible. Her black protagonists are depicted in racist terms as childlike and very emotional. One of the most touching characters in the novel is Eliza. She is described as a passionate young woman, able to be happy and desperate within one moment. “Eliza started. “O, missis!” she said, raising her eyes; then, bursting into tears, she sat down in a chair, and began sobbing” (Stowe, 1852).
Uncle Tom’s Cabin harshly criticizes the conceptions of racial hierarchy. Stowe wrote her novel specifically in order to demonstrate the inhumanity and evil of slavery. She disbursed vivid descriptions of slaves’ sufferings and misery in order to reveal social, economic, and political non-viability of slavery. Thus, in addition to being highly unethical, it is depicted as an unreasonable phenomenon in many aspects of life.
The current paper describes the language peculiarities of the story as well as their role in the delivery of the main idea of the literary work. This paper has examined and approved the role of language and implicit appeal in delivering author’s message to the reader. In conclusion, it is clear that Harriet Stowe sent her strong anti-slavery message by means of vivid and voluble language, dramatic descriptions, bright portraits of characters, and discussion of the chief principles of the humanity.