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The Minister's Wooing: 07/28/08
Although I had learned about Harriet Beecher Stowe's most famous book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, in high school, the first book I read was The Pearl of Orr's Island (1862): a delightful novel set in a fishing village in Maine. It's also vastly different from her most famous novel. Last February when I had $100 to spend at Powell's, I made a bee-line to for Stowe's novels and found a lovely 1883 edition of The Minister's Wooing (1859).
The Minister's Wooing is a mixture of the political evangelizing of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the sentimental romance of The Pearl of Orr's Island. The Wikipedia article compares Stowe's novel to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850) but the similarities are superficial at best. Hawthorne's historical fiction set in the 1600s exposes the inhumane consequences of theocracy. While Mary, the heroine of The Minister's Wooing is raised as a devout Christian, she never has the opportunity to sin. Mary Scudder is about as Mary Sue< a character as one can get in a book.
Since Mary Scudder is really secondary to the plot even though her adult life is being plotted by everyone else in the novel, Stowe pads out the novel with a number of treatises ranging from thoughts on Calvinism, slavery, abolitionism, faith, family, marriage, and gender equality. These lengthy asides are fairly common in novels of the time; think of the many chapters on whaling in Moby Dick (1851).