Abstract: Harriet Beecher Stowe, in Uncle Tom's Cabin, used two different and conflicting rhetorical stiategies in her novel's appeals to end slavery. To elicit sympathy for the slaves, she used persuasion, a process relying upon the perception of a sameness of substance among persons. To induce fear of damnation in Northerners who condoned or passively accepted Southern slavery, she used conversion rhetoric, a process relying upon the conviction that personal identity and value are derived entirely from the moral and social “system” that produces the individual. Because the novel projects Northern and Southern whites as belonging to the same system, and since its persuasive processes, by eliciting sympathy for slaves, bring them into the system, their suffering proves the system's corruption, whlie the Southerners' lack of sympathy proves their difference of substance—their lack of humanity. Since the logic of conversion requires condemning the corrupt self, the novel ultimately prepared Northern readers to condemn Southern whites, even though such condemnation went against Stowe's intentions.
- Copyright 1994, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric