Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stowe--The Two Altars

                The Two Altars are two short stories written by Harriet Beecher Stowe depicting two completely different lifestyles. The first story is written in 1776 and tells the story of the Ward family. The father of the family is away at war, fighting for the country. This brings up the main point of the story and of the time, which is that liberty is the most important thing in life. The story starts with Grace and Dick playing outside. Dick is emulating his father and making a shrine towards liberty. We later learn that two commissioners are coming to pick up items to send to the soldiers. The family is willing to give up just about anything for the soldiers:  grandma gives up her wedding blankets (her most prized possession), the children, even little Grace whose stockings can’t be used by the grown male soldiers, all give up their stockings. When the men leave, the children ask Mrs. Ward what she gave up, and she replies, “All that I have…my husband and my children.” This just shows how important people felt the war was and how much they supported their soldiers. Even though the family had little to spare, they gave up a lot of sentimental and important items.
The second story of The Two Altars is quite a different story from the first. In this story, we are placed into the happy home of a black family. Henry, the son, has just returned from school and has received good marks from the teacher; his sister has been taking care of the baby of the family; and the mother is completing household chores, namely making biscuits. Soon, the father arrives. The family gathers around the dinner table, converse about their newfound financial stability, laugh in amusement at the baby, and begin to read from the Bible. As they began reading, two men burst into the home and seize the father from his family, arresting him on account of Mr. B. of Georgia. The family is devastated. Next we are taken to the court-room, where the father learns he is to be sold back into slavery to the south, never to return to the north again.
The first work seems to be pretty self-explanatory. The main purpose of the first story is to show just how important liberty was to Americans during the war. Which war was it, though? I think it ties in well with the second story because the second story is about a black man, George, who bought his own freedom is forced back into slavery. The same liberty that everyone held so dear in the first story, the liberty George is supposed to be entitled to, is unfairly stripped from him and devastated a perfectly respectable family.
Aside from that comparison there were a few things I wanted to point out. In the first story, Dick argues with Aunt Hitty about being a man. He says, “If I ain’t a man, I soon shall be; my head is up to my mother’s shoulder, and I can fire off a gun, too.” Do these things make a man a man? What constitutes manliness now versus then? Also, I originally got the vibe Aunt Hitty disagreed with the war because on page 2 Dick tells Gracie not to cry because “…it’s glorious to give up everything for liberty” to which Gracie replies, “Aunt Hitty won’t think so.” Who was Mehetabel? Why did the second story not have a complete title? Its title was The Altar of –– (left blank). Also, was the father able to be taken back because of the Fugitive-Slave Act mentioned in class?


  1. These are good questions to bring up in Friday's discussion! The definition of "man" is something that continues to be explored. Why is this idea so important?

  2. Whether we like it or not, we live in a patriarchal society. The definition of a man is abstract and can mean many things. Some think being a man consists of power and control, while others think being a man is a balance between strength/power and being sensitive and caring. These traits could easily apply to women, as well. I think being a good man is being a good person in general, kind of like Ben Franklin and his attempt with his virtues.