Being the only Northerner to take a focal role in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Miss Ophelia is a realistic adaptation of the ideal woman that Harriet Beecher Stowe proposes with the images of the other perfect women. She is educated, single, independent, ambitious, and motivated by a certain sense of duty. Unlike the other women in the novel, she is the one with the most masculine mannerisms: she relies on her thoughts rather than her emotions to make decisions about her life and political beliefs. However Miss Ophelia also appears to be the audience that Stowe is partially addressing -- those who feel like they know something about slavery, but who haven’t truly analyzed their own mind about their prejudices. This was one of the reasons why Stowe wrote her book: to connect with people who hadn’t yet decided what side of the Mason-Dixon line they fell on. Ophelia is the perfect example of either Northerners or Southerners who at first don’t have a strong opinion about slavery but after an encounter, experience, or a revelation finally find their voice. For Miss Ophelia, she discovers herself with the help of a little girl.
Little Eva attempts to explain to Ophelia about how they should love all and follow Jesus’ love for everyone. “Don’t you know that Jesus loves all alike? He is just as willing to love you, as me. He loves you just as I do, -only more, because he is better. He will help you to be good; and you can go to Heaven at last, and be an angel forever, just as much as if you were white. (p.245-6)” Even though Jesus loves both black and white folks, that can’t necessarily persuade Miss Ophelia to kiss and hug the slaves.
“’It puts me in mind of mother,’ he said to Ophelia. ‘It is true what she told me, if we want to give sight to the blind, we must be willing to do as Christ did, - call them to us, and put our hands on them.’
‘I’ve always had a prejudice against Negroes,’ said Miss Ophelia, ‘and it’s a fact, I never could bear to have that child touch me; but I didn’t think she knew it. (p. 246)”
Even though Miss Ophelia has people trying to persuade her to fully embrace the other race, for one reason or another she just can’t bring herself to do it. She believes that it is wrong because that is what she was raised to think. On the other hand, St. Clare is the polar opposite t...
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... the horrid souls to an afterlife in hell.
Feminism is an unmistakable theme in this novel. Stowe portrays women as strong, independent characters and gives all of them very effective roles. In the end, it is the women who are the most religious. When readers are first introduced to Miss Ophelia they encounter a Vermonter who has beliefs about slavery but no emotions to back up her words. For all of her duty and religious piety, she must have love, emotion and feeling to back up her words for them to be of any significance. Then through interaction with other characters in the book, Miss Ophelia’s morals and beliefs slowly begin to solidify. By the end of the book she is deeply rooted and emotionally connected to everything she says. This is exactly the type of reader that Stowe wished to reach. Someone who maybe wasn’t too sure on how they felt about paying money for someone’s life would hopefully, once finished with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, realize their own ideals and opinions about life for Negroes in the South and then try to do something to help them leave their lives of horror.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. W.W. Norton & Co, Inc. New York, 1994
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