A new edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the novel reassessed.
Edward Rothstein writes:
In one early chapter, for example, the fictional Senator Bird of Ohio, who had voted for the Fugitive Slave Act, is brought face to face with just such a fugitive in desperate need. His abstract political conviction is suddenly challenged by the suffering human being before him. “The magic of the real presence of distress — the imploring human eye, the frail trembling human hand, the despairing appeal of helpless agony — these he had never tried. He had never thought that a fugitive might be a hapless mother, a defenseless child.”
This is just what Stowe tries to do again and again: to force the imagination to shift from abstractions to the concrete.