From Egypt to the Arizona Desert to Places Still to Come: The Ongoing Meta-literary Journey of Eliza’s Escape to Freedom in "Uncle Tom’s Cabin"

By Kenneth DiMaggio.

Published by The International Journal of Literary Humanities

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Published online: June 8, 2016 Free Download

Next to the Bible, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is considered to be one of the best-selling books of all time. The appeal of enslaved men and women trying to free themselves from bondage has universal appeal. One harrowing scene is the slave Eliza’s escape to freedom. Learning that her son will be sold to another master, she takes him to the free state of Ohio, for which she must cross over a river with its dangerous ice flows. Eliza’s flight has historic, religious, and contemporary parallels, reflecting the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, Harriet Tubman’s efforts to bring fugitive slaves to freedom, and twenty-first-century examples of undocumented immigrants crossing over the Arizona desert for a life free from the violence and poverty of their homelands. While scenes depicting Eliza’s escape have dramatic power in their own right, they also have a “meta-literary” connection that continues to this day, giving Stowe’s nineteenth-century novel a contemporary presence beyond personal readership or academic study.

Keywords: Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Holy Family, Flight into Egypt, Harriet Tubman, Undocumented Immigrants, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Eliza’s Escape to Freedom

The International Journal of Literary Humanities, Volume 14, Issue 3, September 2016, pp.41-49. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 8, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 511.225KB)).

Kenneth DiMaggio

Professor, Humanities, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA