Cognitive Dissonance in Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin: An Evaluation of Rhetorical Technique and Cultural Impact

Student Author(s)

Anthony Bednarz

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. William Pannapacker

Document Type


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Throughout its history, the United States has seen itself as an exemplary nation, a paragon of democracy, and an example that others should follow. The United States have also been characterized by a persistent division. Possibly the greatest example of such a division came in 1861 with the Civil War. The dissonance—the conflict of identity—of the nation was uniquely expressed by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. By examining the methods through which Stowe created dissonance in her reader and comparing them to the reactions of both Northern and Southern critics, it becomes possible to evaluate the impact Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on American culture. Examining Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a psychological framework provides a common ground upon which to discuss Stowe’s rhetorical and literary technique, as well as examine its effectiveness.

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