Mightier than the Sword by David S. Reynolds
Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America

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Synopsis

“Fascinating . . . a lively and perceptive cultural history.” —Annette Gordon-Reed, The New Yorker


In this wide-ranging, brilliantly researched work, David S. Reynolds traces the factors that made Uncle Tom’s Cabin the most influential novel ever written by an American. Upon its 1852 publication, the novel’s vivid depiction of slavery polarized its American readership, ultimately widening the rift that led to the Civil War. Reynolds also charts the novel’s afterlife—including its adaptation into plays, films, and consumer goods—revealing its lasting impact on American entertainment, advertising, and race relations.


 

About David S. Reynolds

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David S. Reynolds is the Bancroft Prize-winning author of Walt Whitman's America and a Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at the City University of New York. He lives on Long Island.
 
Published June 13, 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company. 368 pages
Genres: History, War, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Mightier than the Sword

Kirkus Reviews

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In showing how that sentiment played out not just in the novel and plays but in Shirley Temple films, Mickey Mouse cartoons, magazines ads, Roots and more, Reynolds defends Stowe’s influence, even if that influence was frustratingly slow.

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Publishers Weekly

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In 1868, a writer in the Nation coined the phrase the great American novel to describe Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1851 Uncle Tom's Cabin. Distinguished historian Reynolds (Waking Giant: America in the

Apr 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

The New York Times

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Yet it belongs to the very short list of American books (including, say, “The Other America” by Michael Harrington and “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson) that helped create or consolidate a reform movement — in Stowe’s case, the most consequential reform movement in our history.

Jun 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

The New York Times

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An account of the writing, reception and modern reputation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which taught whites to see slaves as human.

Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

Publishers Weekly

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By highlighting the book's immense impact and literary value, and by showing Tom as not subservient but a strong, dignified man who sacrificed his life in defying his cruel master, Simon Legree, Reynolds shows Stowe's novel to be a passionate, powerful, acid-etched critique of slavery that remain...

Apr 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

The Wall Street Journal

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For the first time in American literature, slaves were depicted as complex, heroic and emotionally nuanced individuals.

Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

The Washington Times

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Is "Uncle Tom's Cabin" the most influential work of fiction ever written in America? In all likelihood, yes. Not only was it an overwhelming best-seller - more than 300,000 copies were sold in the year after its publication - but it addressed the most divisive issue in the country: slavery.

Aug 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

City Book Review

In the introduction, for instance, the author treats the reader to this glowing phrase: “No book in American history molded public opinion more powerfully than Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” It may have been more accurate to state “novel” instead of “book” for in American History the many books of the Bible...

May 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

California Literary Review

According to Reynolds, “The derogatory Uncle Tom epithet survives but now rings hollow, because Stowe’s actual, original Uncle Tom is being understood.” To fully engage Reynold’s text, it is helpful to have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but ours may be the most Tom-ignorant generation since the book’s ...

Jun 13 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

The Moderate Voice

The influence of the anti-slavery novel, the best selling book of the 19th century after the Bible, was immense and 200 years after Stowe’s birth it remains a lightning rod for controversy, praised by white scholars for its far-reaching influence and more often than not disparaged — unfairly, in ...

Sep 08 2011 | Read Full Review of Mightier than the Sword: Uncl...

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