© 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe
Written as an indignant response to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, Uncle Tom's Cabin shook the American landscape in the mid-19th century as few other novels could. A sounding condemnation of slavery, popular conception holds it responsible for fomenting a more strident attitude against slavery in the north and giving the Republican Party its great foothold in American history. Still controversial today for not living up to 21st century mores, Uncle Tom's Cabin remains a beautiful morality play.
Although its now-dated language and attitudes toward slaves no doubt annoy the modern mind, Uncle Tom’s Cabin rises beyond such petty complaints. This is a story of redemption, of how a man can be bound in body, but not in spirit; degraded by law, but not in person. Just as Harry's mom Eliza Eliza finds defense for her body in flight and arms, Tom finds defense for his spirit in acts of love; ultimately he becomes a Christ figure – certainly for characters within the text, and perhaps Stowe hoped, for the American people as well. It's an outstandingly beautiful novel.