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Sunday, June 14, 2015

To seem, rather than to be.

Waldo, typing furiously in his bath, looked up. 

"If I have to read one more pious Facebook post by Franklin Graham, I shall run amuck," he growled. "All that clenched-teeth insistence, 'Of course I love the homosexuals, the Bible tells me I must love everyone' business, while accusing them of every depredation short of cannibalism."

I waited, knowing no response was really expected.

"Today is Harriet Beecher Stowe's birthday," he said. "The Writer's Almanac has an interesting comment on her work that has a singular to the pieties of the Right:

In 1996, novelist Jane Smiley wrote in Harper’s: “Ernest Hemingway, thinking of himself, as always, once said that all American literature grew out of Huck Finn. It undoubtedly would have been better for American literature, and American culture, if our literature had grown out of one of the best-selling novels of all time, another American work of the nineteenth century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Smiley explained that by making the racism and slavery a personal matter between two individuals, rather than a political and institutional evil, Huck Finn fails even where it succeeds, by allowing white people to feel good about getting over their racism without ever actually doing anything about it. Smiley wrote, “Personal relationships do not mitigate the evils of slavery.” In Huck Finn, she writes, “All you have to do to be a hero is acknowledge that your poor sidekick is human; you don’t actually have to act in the interests of his humanity.” She concludes: “I would rather my children read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, even though it is far more vivid in its depiction of cruelty than Huck Finn, and this is because Stowe’s novel is clearly and unmistakably a tragedy. No whitewash, no secrets, but evil, suffering, imagination, endurance, and redemption — just like life.”

1 comment:

  1. I disagree with Ms. Smiley. Twain's book works on many levels for all ages and degrees of literacy and sophistication. Stowe's book is crimson and purple, simplistic emotional propaganda and one dimensional. One reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin as an adolescent is enough. I liked the book and agreed with and respected Stowe's stance but I've never felt the need to re-read. Just a reader's taste and opinion.

    Old Jill in N.C. BTW, it's time for something from your lawn and garden!