Miss Ophelia: The Ideal Woman

Being the only Northerner to take a focal role in Uncle Toms 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 havent truly analyzed their own mind about their prejudices. This was one of the reasons why Stowe wrote her book: to connect with people who hadnt 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 dont 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. Dont 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 cant 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. Ive always had a prejudice against Negroes, said Miss Ophelia, and its a fact, I never could bear to have that child touch me; but I didnt 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 cant 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 to Ophelia. He is less ruled by what he should do and more so directed by what he feels. Little Eva is this way as well. Guided by her love for God and knowledge of the Bible she lives the life of a model Christian bound for heavena Christian whom a majority of the characters yearn to become alike to. After Evas death Miss Ophelia comes to a higher understanding of slavery.

Suddenly she realizes that it is wrong, in a rather real sense to her, because it does not give the slaves a chance for salvation. Her wall of feelings of racial superiority is finally broken down by the friendship she had formed with Eva. Miss Ophelia felt the loss; but, in her good and honest heart, it bore fruit unto everlasting life. She was more softened, more gentle; and though equally assiduous in every duty, it was with a chastened and quiet air, as one who communed with her own heart not in vain.

She was more diligent in teaching Topsydid not any longer shrink from her touch, or manifest an ill-repressed disgust, because she felt none. She viewed her now through the softened medium that Evas hand had first held before her eyes, and saw her only an immoral creature, whom god had sent to be led by her to glory and virtueThe callous indifference was gone; there was now sensibility, hope, desire, and the striving for good. (p. 266-7) Miss Ophelia came into her cousins household nave and untainted with much true knowledge nor contact with the frowned upon race.

Submerging herself into the Southern culture, she notices and can categorize two types of white people: those who loathe and hate Negroes and those who attempt to free them from their suppressed and captive lives. Now Ophelia knows that she is prejudiced and must have love for Topsy in order to help her. This is Miss Ophelias type of religious conversion. While St. Clare finds God, Miss Ophelia discovers her heart again. Prue is another character who helps her undergo her conversion. She is an illustration of a system that is meant to shock the reader.

Prue shows the problems when slaves have gone bad, when their masters have been so horrid to them they have no cloice but to turn to lying, cheating, and drinking. Miss Ophelia now discovers how bad slavery is, it never gives the slaves a chance for salvation. She realizes this in a very real and vivid sense. Slaves are forced into hopeless worlds and never have a chance to escape. This is exactly the same note that Stowe tries to hit with her readers. Even if they do not have any certain problem with slavery, they should at the least want to condemn all of 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 Ophelias 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 wasnt too sure on how they felt about paying money for someones life would hopefully, once finished with Uncle Toms 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.

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