Uncle Tom's Cabin

Defending Uncle Tom's Cabin - Sentimentality & Intrusive Narrator College

Of the two modern critical objections to Uncle Tom’s Cabin – sentimentality and intrusive narrator – the first one is accurate while the latter objection is disingenuous; however, both criticisms belie the overtly political nature of the book. In cultural and literary history, tastes change and critical standards change. Shakespeare was sharply criticized and dismissed in the neo-classicists and embraced by the Romantics. Zora Neale Hurston’s literary reputation was revived by Alice Walker after decades as an obscure apolitical Harlem Renaissance writer. Consequently, everything in this essay will be from a 2013 perspective which is will contain the cultural biases of the 21st century. These biases have been informed by modern literature, particularly the works of Hemingway and Raymond Carver that have emphasized control and economy over sentimentality and intrusive narration.

Of the two major “sins” of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the easiest one to defend is the intrusive narrator. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s narrative style involves a narration that is omniscient but also intrusive since it makes judgments about characters, sees things from individual character perspectives and ensures that the reader fully appreciates the episodes. This...

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