Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe have long been heralded as complementary contemporaries, working towards the similar goal of transforming antebellum society through abolitionist literature. This essay explores the ways in which their relationship is complicated by reading Douglass’ only work of fiction The Heroic Slave as a response to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This argument is predicated on the separate argument that Uncle Tom's Cabin is its own revision of Douglass’ first autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave: specifically, I find that Stowe’s insistence on a Christian framework of abolition in her revision of Douglass' Narrative results in the erasure of black agency and voices from the abolitionist narrative, in direct contradiction to Douglass’ vision of a secular, black-led abolitionist movement. As such, I argue that Douglass stages a revision of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in his novella The Heroic Slave, which aims to correct Stowe’s Christian revision of himself, as well as restore his own agency as an abolitionist and author by establishing his influence over the literary narrative. In arguing for a revisionist reading, I do not undertake to undermine the significant evidence that Douglass criticizes others, such as Martin Delaney and William Lloyd Garrison, in the novella; rather, I find that both criticisms are legible in the text, as well as a qualified support of Stowe’s utility as an abolitionist figure.
Phan, Isabelle, "A Revision of a Revision: Reading The Heroic Slave as a Response to Uncle Tom's Cabin" (2020). Scripps Senior Theses. 1424.