The Heterosexual Economy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Threatening Presence of the Taboo in the Domestic Novel

Abstract: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin depicts a violent society shaped by and built around slavery but also offers a possibility of liberation from the sins it causes. This paper focuses on the novel’s construction of alternatives to its main story as it positions the taboos surrounding gender and race against its Christian narrative. It is thus imperative to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin considering Monique Wittig’s work since it uncovers what is hinted at but never enacted. It is the unsaid that unveils the most dangerous aspects of a society in crisis, a society that at times even toys with the realization of the taboo. Categories of being, as conceptualized by Wittig, reveal their core when threatened by the anxieties present in the novel’s characters and overall economy. The overarching equilibrium in Uncle Tom’s Cabin is constantly challenged by the loss and following reestablishment of balance through the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of its characters. This article demonstrates how the domestic novel might be less conventional than it appears and how it sheds light onto the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality in the violent spaces created by Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a monument of American culture which has been impactful both in its immediate reception and its lasting influence on collective memory. Considering its canonical status, one might wonder why yet another piece must be written about it. If it is true, however, that everything this novel contains has been studied, then why not look at what has been excluded from it?

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