Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp

From Academic Kids

Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp is the second novel from American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Released in 1856, the novel did not sell as well as her previous, and more famous, novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was less popular (although it enjoyed better initial sales than did UTC because it was of a more documentary nature than Uncle Tom's Cabin and thus lacked a character like Uncle Tom to evoke strong emotion from readers. It was also largely a rehashing of UTC's themes and characters in a less affecting way (Adams pp. 67-70).

Dred is the story of Nina Gordon, an impetuous young heiress to a large southern plantation, whose land is rapidly becoming worthless. It is run competently by one of Nina's slaves, Harry, who endures a murderous rivalry with Nina's brother Tom Gordon, a drunken, cruel slaveowner. Nina is a flighty young girl, and maintains several suitors, before finally settling down with a man named Clayton. Clayton is socially and religiously liberal, and very idealistic, and has a down-to-earth perpetual-virgin sister, Anne.

In addition to Harry (who, as well as being the administrator of Nina's estate, is secretly also her and Tom's half-brother), the slave characters include the devoutly-Christian Milly (actually the property of Nina's Aunt Nesbith), and Tomtit, a joker-type character. There is also a family of poor whites, who have but a single, devoted slave.

Dred, the titular character, is an escaped slave whose name is clearly meant to evoke Dred Scott. He lives in the Great Dismal Swamp, preaching angry and violent retribution for the evils of slavery and rescuing escapees from the dog of the slavecatchers.


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