Symbolic Right to Choose in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

In history, America has traditionally been the country created of a mixture of different nationalities and fatherlands. In the early formation of the country, this sense of patria was distinctly different for most Americans, whose ancestors had understood that their fatherland was an inherited tradition. For the new Americans, they were given the freedom to choose their own homeland and individually decide whether or not they were American or the nationality that belonged to their parents. The idea of Patria is explored in depth in George L, Aiken‘s stage adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s novel, Uncle Tom ’5 Cabin.

In parallel storylines, the titular character of Uncle Tom is a slave faced with being sold further and further south while his niece Eliza escapes North to Canada with her husband, George, and their son. Through both character‘s mutual belief that a homeland for them is going to come, the play explores the idea that all Americans, even slaves, are given the symbolic right to choose where they are planted, One of the most enduring aspects of the play is the constant presence of true Christian faith, particularly in the character of Tom.

In Christianity, every believer is promised a home at the end of their life when they go to heaven. The pious Torn remembers this as he is continually relocated farther and farther away from a chance of an escape to freedom. When Eliza asks Tom if he will escape with her before he is sold further south, Torn responds by saying, “No; time was when I would, but the Lord’s given me a work among these yer poor souls, and I’ll stay with ‘em and bear my Cross with ‘em until the end”.

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This quote not only exemplifies Tom’s everlasting faith, but his trust that he‘ll find a permanent home in paradise when he dies. This is the patria that Tom choses, rather than a homeland built upon dishonesty towards his master. In the very end of the play, after Tom is beaten for refusing to whip a fellow slave and is near death,

Tom proclaims, “l’m right in the door, going into glory! Oh, Mas’r George! Heaven has come! I‘ve got the victory!”. This final proclamation proves that Tom has chosen to have his homeland be in heaven and the final image shows him there with St. Clare and Eva. Faced with the entire break up of their family, George and Eliza decide to plant their home in the north in Canada Unlike Torn, George shows his little faith in the idea of heaven, saying, “Eliza, my heart‘s full of bitterness. I can‘t trust in heaven.”  The clear contrast to Tom‘s faith in heaven shows why George and Eliza are forced to choose an earthly patriot.

However, the characters make the distinctly American choice to decide where to live for themselves. Their choice is the distinction between American and European ideas of patriat The question of “Where is home?” permeates through Uncle Tom s Cabin with both of the main storylines concluding with their characters settling into the home that they themselves choose. It is making this choice that makes characters such as Tom and Eliza truly American. Though every American’s former motherland was somewhere else in the world, the ongoing generations living in the new country will begin to identify themselves as strictly “American”, and when asked where they come from, they would say, “America’fl This idea of a new homeland is ever present in American theatre, which can be Credited through this common theme for creating a national American identity among audiences.

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Symbolic Right to Choose in Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. (2023, Apr 06). Retrieved from

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