Miss Ophelia

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 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 heaven…a Christian whom a majority of the
characters yearn to become alike to.

After Eva’s 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
Topsy…did 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 Eva’s 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 virtue…The callous
indifference was gone; there was now sensibility, hope, desire, and the striving
for good. (p. 266-7)”



Miss Ophelia came into her cousin’s household naïve 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
Ophelia’s type of religious conversion. While St. Clare finds God, Miss
Ophelia discovers her heart again. Prue