Was the purpose of Uncle Tom’s Cabin to promote the abolition of slavery? Was it successful? Have other writers used fiction writing to try and influence society in some way?

Harriet Beecher Stowe was a very outspoken author. She wrote several controversial works promoting the abolition of slavery. The most famous of these was Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
“Stowe’s main goal with Uncle Tom’s Cabin was to convince her large Northern readership of the necessity of ending slavery.” http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/uncletom/context.html
Stowe’s work was a major contributing factor in influencing the Civil War.
“Upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe for the first time, Abraham Lincoln reportedly said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” Stowe was little—under five feet tall—but what she lacked in height, she made up for in influence and success. Uncle Tom’s Cabin became one of the most widely read and deeply penetrating books of its time. It sold hundreds of thousands of copies and was translated into numerous languages. Many historians have credited the novel with contributing to the outbreak of the Civil War.” http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/uncletom/context.html

Stowe used this fiction writing to inspire a nation to take up arms. Uncle Tom’s Cabin may not have been a true story, but it gave a very accurate portrayal of what life was like for blacks living in slavery. She used fiction writing to influence people into seeing her point of view. Stowe did this in very blatant ways. She was blunt and obvious when painting her picture of what is right. Others have also used fiction writing to influence others. Many, like Stowe, did this through writing very realistic fiction works. The most impressive to me, however, are those who influenced by writing in more indirect ways. The absolute master of this was Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

Theodor Seuss Geisel


Dr. Seuss had a great influence on the world. He achieved this through a very innovative idea. Instead of trying to persuade grown adults, which are pretty well settled in their beliefs, he primarily focused on children as his main audience. Adults are often stubborn and close minded, but children’s minds are ready to be molded. Children are inquisitive about everything and eager to learn. “If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children.” -Gandhi
While most write about serious issues to a more grown up crowd, Seuss ingeniously discussed these same serious topics through children’s books. He created an entire made up world with made up creatures living in it. His imaginative cartoon like stories have enthralled children for over a half century now. He used these stories, set in a creative and friendly world, to educate young minds on very large issues. These issues ranged from Cold War relations to racial prejudices.

One of his most famous works was Green Eggs and Ham.
“Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss’ best-selling book, is about more than green eggs—but it is still, most certainly, about color. Although less elaborate than some of his other analogous stories, Green Eggs and Ham is, at least on the surface, about the power of perseverance in the face of stubborn resistance. (“You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may.”) But it is more than coincidence that his Green Eggs and Ham was published the same year President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act, which mandated federal oversight of elections in the South. It may be a stretch to imagine, but when Sam-I-Am is pressing his neighbor to try a strange gastronomic concoction, Seuss is pressing his readers to consider the goodness in things previously untried—like integrated schools systems and churches. At the very least, Green Eggs and Ham is about navigating life with an open mind and, at its best, it’s Seuss’ way of saying, “Don’t judge a book, or an egg—or a man—by its color.”” http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/books/features/28468-what-dr-seuss-was-really-up-to
This is a clear example of what I discussed above. He is using a simple fictional kids tale to inform children they should not judge others. This helped create a country that is now much more equal than in the past. The children of that time grew up to be less prejudice than the previous generations so Seuss obviously got his point across.

Green Eggs and Ham


Animated version of Green Eggs and Ham


Seuss’ work The Lorax has become very popular in recent years with the release of an animated movie. It is also my favorite of his works.
“This “post enviro-pocalyptic” fable is clearly about the fragility of nature and the consequences of reckless human industry. Resources are pillaged, animal species banished and moderation is thrown to the wind by the greedy Once-Ler who disregards the grandfatherly Lorax’s warnings. The fact that readers never see the Once-Ler’s face (only his money-grubbing and cigar-wielding hands) reinforces the idea that business corporations are faceless and, in the case of the Once-Ler and his “Thneeds that everyone needs,” soulless and destructive—taking whatever they want no matter how it affects the planet. Critics have scolded Seuss’ fable as being too simplistic and negative. But seeing how this is a children’s book, and 20th-century manufacturing didn’t exactly get an A on its report card of environmental stewardship, Seuss can be forgiven his opaque symbolism. Seuss’ greater point: When you are entrusted with something, don’t squander it; take care of it, and speak up for what’s right even if you get shouted down.”
Here Seuss is more negative and serious than normal. He instills in his reader the necessity of managing our resources carefully and appropriately. Now, manufacturers and other industries are much more conscious of resource consumption and pollution’s effect on the environment. Seuss masterfully taught a generation to take care of its surroundings which has, in turn, created a much more environmentally friendly world.

The Lorax


Animated version of The Lorax


Another work by the politically savvy Seuss was The Butter Battle Book. It was so controversial for its time that it was banned from all public libraries.
“The Butter Battle Book (theme is silly conflicts can escalate into a dangerous situation) was written in response to the arms buildup and nuclear war threat during the Reagan administration. Published in 1984, Butter Battle shed light on the growing threat of war between Yooks and the Zooks. The threat stems solely from the way Yooks and Zooks choose to eat their bread: butter-side up and butter-side down, respectively. The story ends with a blank page, leaving a cliffhanger ending that is open to interpretation.” http://www.teachpeace.com/drseussbutterbattle.htm
This book taught children about the seriousness of war. It also pointed out that often the reason for the fight is no reason to fight at all. We shouldn’t be scared and build up arms against one another over silly issues. We now live in a post Cold War world. That generation grew up to democratically find its way out of the Cold War and create peace.

The Butter Battle Book


Animated version of The Butter Battle Book, part 1 and 2.


Amongst the most interesting of Seuss’ stories was Yertle the Turtle.
“If you haven’t read the story, here’s a little overview: Yertle is the king of the pond, but he wants more. He demands that other turtles stack themselves up so he can sit on top of them to survey the land. Mack, the turtle at the bottom, is exhausted. He asks Yertle for a rest; Yertle ignores him and demands more turtles for a better view. Eventually, Yertle notices the moon and is furious that anything dare be higher than himself, and is about ready to call for more turtles when Mack burps. This sudden movement topples the whole stack, sends Yertle flying into the mud, and frees the rest of the turtles from their stacking duty. Dr. Seuss actually said Yertle was a representation of Hitler.” http://mentalfloss.com/article/28843/10-stories-behind-dr-seuss-stories
Here, Seuss shows he is not afraid to cover even the biggest and most touchy subject matter. He writes about the most tyrannical, brutal, and famous dictator of all time, Adolf Hitler. He warns us to be wary of those in charge, and sometimes we have to question and even rebel against authority.

Yertle the Turtle


Animated version of Yertle the Turtle


I became intrigued with Dr. Seuss last year when I worked at a local elementary school. As I read his stories to different children I became aware of his intentions. While the kids loved the entertaining stories, they also learned valuable morals, ethics, and lessons. Dr. Seuss was one of the most influential writers of all time. He forced us to be open minded and question what is accepted. He inventively did this through the young minds of children. He used fiction writing to influence people to make the world a better place. He emphasized the importance of speaking up and the difference that just one person can make. He taught that every person is important and matters, “A persons a person, no matter how small .”-Seuss (Horton Hears a Who). The virtues and values Seuss taught are universally applicable and will remain that way forever. He was great at using fictional stories to influence and educate others about very serious issues. Dr. Seuss was an iconic literary figure whose work will continue to be cherished for generations to come.


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