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Sample text

The black experience . . ”1 To make their case, the characters restage Stowe’s story. They alter much of the dialogue, insert scenes, and rewrite their endings. Restless in Canada, the escaped slave George returns to the United States at the head of the Black Thunder gang, whose mission is to free slaves and kill their masters. Cassy, whose children have been sold and who has been the prisoner of Simon Legree for five long years (and in Alexander’s version, Legree does rape his newest acquisition, the young Emmeline), sees Legree beating Tom, aims a gun at him, and blows him away.

You just didn’t give me a gun” (88). Tom, listed in the dramatis personae as “a man with an image problem,” is transformed from an aggressively non-violent martyr into a figure resembling the protagonist’s grandfather in Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man. Tom advises Topsy to follow a policy of strategic acquiescence with Miss Ophelia: “Let her think she’s teaching you sumpthin! You’ll have her eatin’ outcho’ hand like a heafer at feeding time” (51). With this scene, in which the irrepressible Tom counsels the young Topsy, Alexander brings the two characters together, which Stowe never does, thus rendering vivid this lacuna in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

21 Unlike the self-indulgent, superstitious fear of damnation that Baldwin sees in the earlier book, the “theological terror” in Dred is moored in the histories of slavery and revolution. 22 In Dred’s swamp, facts are saturated with figures and the nation is on the verge of apocalypse. Stowe sustains the ominous possibilities even after Dred is fatally wounded, offstage, while defending his community. In one of the most resonant scenes, placed at the center of the novel, joining passages from Isaiah, Amos, Joel, and Nahum, Dred addresses the participants in a camp meeting, prophesying divine judgment and desolation.

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