By indexing and finding verbal pyramids we have uncovered some of the dynamics of Harriet Beecher Stowe's rhetoric. And perhaps we can show some of the reasons why her book had such a strong effect.


We are presented with a powerful scene of a black woman's baby being sold and the woman later committing suicide. These concrete events are then viewed from two perspectives: One is the perspective of the placid North who are allowing this practice to continue and are justifying it, the other perspective is that of Tom.


From the hierarchy, we may imply that Stowe sees this "cultivated view" of slavery as based on the fear of war (glory of the Union) and a kind of "cultured" decadence which teaches people to ignore their feelings and their conscience (Christian and political perfection).


The rest of the book then goes on to show people the final consequences of such thinking in the martyrdom of Tom. Allusions to Jesus flourish in that part, and Tom is throughout the book the representative of true Christianity and Christian morals, whereas the false Christians who defend slavery are really enabling the devil (personified in Simon Legree) to have free play to do with people according to his desires. Here Stowe cuts to the chase and really lays it on the line. If you are against slavery you are on Jesus's side. If you agree with slavery or do not fight it, you are serving or enabling the devil.


As Mark Mullen has pointed out, the greatest achievement of the American Revolution was a rhetorical coup (41). The Revolutionaries were able to reconfigure the former set lines of loyalty and political authority through their use of language. They moved the boundaries of allegiance from a political figure to a more abstract moral truth based on self-evident "truths."  In a similar way, Harriet Beecher Stowe achieves another rhetorical coup by showing that loyalty to law, order, and even the Constitution are subordinate to obeying natural affection towards other human beings and God's truth. In order to achieve this, she compares the "legal terminology" and constitutional requirements with real human suffering and need. Systems of education and learning to abstract and generalize work to deaden the natural moral impulses of humans until they can see other people as things, commodities, and objects of trade. This view is attacked, analyzed, and taken apart throughout the entire book. It seems like Stowe's main enemy is not slavery itself, but rather the metaphysics which justify it as a practice.


In basing her argument on both experience and self-evident truths, Stowe is using similar rhetorical techniques to Abraham Linoln. As Richard Weaver writes in The Ethics of Rhetoric, Lincoln would constantly answer legal or constitutional defenses of slavery by asking whether or not slaves were humans. He would usually get agreement on that point. With that settled, he could axiomatically argue "then sholdn't we treat them like humans?" In the same way, Stowe does not mainly argue that slavery is wrong, but rather amplifies by description to show how wrong it is and how false all its justifications are and appear in the face of real human suffering.


This could be extended of course, but there you have a brief sample analysis based on indexing. This concludes the practice section.


Mullen, Mark. “Making an Exception: Antebellum Melodrama and National Identity.” Pacific Coast Philology. 32.1.(1997):