Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe

My sister recommended this book to me. I never read it in school, although it’s usually required. The book tells the story of pre-civil war South and the about the lives of slaves. It really touched me mostly because I’ve never thought about it in this way before. Even studying the civil war and slavery and how awful it was, I never really knew how horrible it was. I feel a lot wiser in understanding the deep tension between races.
Uncle Tom is the main character of this story. He starts off in a kind family in Kentucky. The Shelby’s love him dearly because of his honesty, but are forced to sell him due to heavy debts. Tom has to leave his wife and children and is sent “down river” where the hard plantation owners live. Fortunately Tom is sold to an indulgent owner named St. Clare. His daughter Eva has a particular fancy for Tom and wants him as her own. She is an only child and very dear to her father.
Eva is one of the best characters in the story. It’s hard to describe her. The most I can put into words is that she is an angel. She embodies a spirit of love to those around her and spreads her innocence and depth with others. Tom loves her greatly and it eases his pain of leaving home. Eva is only in the story for a short time due to her failing health.
After some unfortunate events in the life and death of St. Clare, Tom is sold at an auction to one of the harshest slave owners in the South. Legree is his name. He is so cruel to his slaves that it makes me sick. To know that there were really people like this man that nearly starved his people to death and made them work much harder than any person should. Tom’s death comes at the hands of this cruel master. It makes me angry because Tom was so good. He has the strongest faith in the Lord that I’ve read about in a secular book.
Another important slave family is that of Eliza and George and their little boy. The same family that first owned Tom, the Shelby’s, also owns Eliza and her son. The boy is sold at the same time as Tom and Eliza cannot bear it. She escapes before the trader comes and gets him. George escapes shortly after that, disguised as a Spanish noble. They are all of light skin due to the greed of white owners on their poor slave women. Each George and Eliza with her son succeeds in escaping to Canada. Their story is wonderful to hear and their success is a victory.
The plot of this story is to tell the world the atrocity of slavery. Most of the story is written to an audience that is either ignorant of the pain of slavery or is ignoring it and looking the other way. I don’t really know how to describe this book. It is very much an awareness story. Mostly relevant to the time it was written, but still powerful in its message.
The story of Tom is one that breaks my heart to know it really happened. I wonder what is going on now that I’m unaware of or am turning a blind eye to. This book can change a person. Usually I don’t get emotional about a book, but I do feel very strongly about this one. One part that really hit me hard was the strength of the faith of Tom. He really loved God so deeply. To see the suffering he went through, yet still trusted God, really challenged me. I see how easy my life is and how weak my faith is and I realize that it shouldn’t be so.
I think everyone should read this book. It may not affect them in the same way. But it is good to read a little part of American history and what has contributed to us a nation. This probably isn't a very good review, but is how I feel about this book right now.

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

I first chose this book because it is a known classic. Leo Tolstoy is one of those names known for writing great novels. This book truly is one of my favorites. What stands out to me the most is that the people in this novel are so believable.
The title of the book points out one main character, Anna Karenina. She was a complicated woman whose fall into adultery brought on her destruction. She married at a young age to a man much older than herself. She wasn’t necessarily unhappy in her marriage due to the love she had for her son. Her downfall came when she met a handsome young man, Count Vronsky that fell desperately in love with her. Their affair leads Anna into a madness that comes from her insecurity in her relationship with Vronsky. I don’t want to give away her ending, but it is quite troubling how one can end up from the stress of an affair.
The other most interesting character is Levin. He is a country landowner that struggles with big life questions. There are many characters that are influences in his life, his two brothers, his wife, his in-laws, his close friends. Each of them are intertwined together in this story in some for or another. I love the relationships between characters. It takes a great mind to bring them all together.
Levin’s wife, Kitty, is also a favorite of mine. She at first was in love with Vronsky. He was courting her and leading her on. Once Vronsky found Anna he ran to her and left Kitty broken hearted. Later Kitty accepted Levin’s proposal realizing that she really did love him. She is a dear sweet Christian woman that is very influential in Levin’s life. Their first year of marriage was a struggle, but they overcome and are very grateful for each other. Other influential characters include Kitty’s sister, Dolly, and her husband.
Its hard to state the type of book this is. Its not quite a romance or a tragedy. It tells of the dramatic lives of the aristocratic Russian population. There are many passages of the views on peasantry and movement toward a democratic nation. Some of it was a little over my head, but it was present in a concise and interesting way. It seems to be set in late 19th century, Tolstoy’s current time.
It was a wonderful read and kept moving. There wasn’t any unnecessary information and it didn’t lack anything either. I was thoroughly pleased with the pace of the book. The story line followed many characters and it’s hard to say what the exact purpose of the book was. In some ways it just shows the dynamics of people, but also it brought in some political views and influences. For some of the characters the book has a tragic ending, but for others it ends happily.
In all, I enjoyed this book very much. Even though the size of it is long and it sound like it would be difficult to follow the different characters, it ends up being perfectly put together. Tolstoy is a genius in writing. I recommend this book to anyone that loves reading.