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Uncle Tom's Cabin became so much more than a play, or a novel; it became an American icon, both within the nation and overseas, and nothing that Stowe could do would stop it from being used to amuse audiences or highlight the oppression of the Irish people. The name, the idea, had power, to be used in whatever way a producer, artist, or politician desired. It was an engine for social and political commentary, to be used by all sides to represent their perspective on the slavery issue and racism in general. This might seem good, but it actually is not because it does not prompt societal dialogue (based on reading the same book, or watching the same play), but polarizes the population and kills any debate, as well as the opportunity for compromise and societal growth. This did not occur in Baltimore, because there were so many different groups of people and ideas that Baltimore society could not support a single adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin. But the danger was on the national level, where debate and opinions quickly polarized into pro-slavery versus anti-slavery and South versus North. This national polarization killed the chance for any debate as well as the opportunity for compromise and societal growth as a nation. By having different versions of the play, the imagined community that is the United States is being split apart. If people's concepts of society, their imagined American communities, are fundamentally different, separate, and hostile to each other, then the actual society cannot long endure without splitting in two or purging itself of its inherent contradictions. The Astor Place Riot was a result of the contradictions between the imagined community of the Bowery Boys and the imagined community of the New York elite,13 and the Civil War stemmed partly from the contradictions between the imagined community of the North, without slaves and full of immigrants and factories, and the slave-holding, plantation system imagined community of the South. Baltimore society did not suffer the same result as American society as a whole, civil war, because Baltimore has its own distinct imagined community, from the diversity of its population, politics, and economics, that allows stage versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin to promote social welfare instead of social unrest.


13 On May 10, 1849, a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 people rioted outside the Astor Place Opera House in New York City. Although the apparent cause of the riot was a feud between American actor Edwin Forrest and English actor William Macready, the underlying causes are more important. The riot drew from deep divisions within New York society, class conflict between Astor Place elite and working class "Bowery Boys," after the working class Bowery Theatre, and a frustration over the lack of a purely American cultural identity, distinct from the hated English.
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