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Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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Many 19th-century authors dealt with significant social matters.Émile Zola’s novels depicted the world of the working classes, which Marx and Engels’s non-fiction explores. In the United States slavery and racism became topics of far broader public debate thanks to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which dramatizes topics that had previously been discussed mainly in the abstract. Charles Dickens’ novels led his readers into contemporary workhouses, and provided first-hand accounts of child labor. The treatment of the subject of war changed with Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1868/69), where he questions the facts provided by historians. Similarly the treatment of crime is very different in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866), where the point of view is that of a criminal. Women authors had dominated fiction from the 1640s into the early 18th century, but few before George Eliot so openly questioned the role, education, and status of women in society, as she did.

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