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Published: 03-11-2019

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The Question of Northern Responsibility

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in reaction to her personal epiphany regarding the immorality of slavery, which accompanied the passing of the Fugitive Slave Law. Indeed, she developed a novel worthy of protest literature. With every character and scene depicted throughout the book, Stowe leaves no stone unturned as she appoints blame for the immoral situation across the United States. The author’s use of a character from the North, Miss Ophelia, aids in the novel’s potential to effectively protest slavery as properly as the deep-seated prejudice against blacks in America. Miss Ophelia acts as an powerful instance of the validity of Stowe’s argument that it is not the solely the responsibility of the South to remove the system of slavery, but also that of the North.

Miss Ophelia St. Clare is, with out a doubt, the most complex female character in the novel. She is Mister St. Clare’s pious, hardworking, abolitionist cousin from the North and she is educated, independent, ambitious, and motivated by a particular sense of duty. Because she is single, and beyond marrying age, she agrees to accompany Mr. St. Clare to his Louisiana residence to care for his daughter Evangeline and attend to the housekeeping whilst his wife Marie St. Clare is “ill.” The reader initial begins to develop a connection with Miss Ophelia as she arrives in the South and meets the servants on the St. Clare plantation. She states that she is horrified by small Eva’s potential to kiss African Americans as she “afterwards declared fairly turned her stomach” (193). Miss Ophelia admits that she is prejudiced when she says to Mr. St. Clare, “Well, I want to be kind to everybody, and I wouldn’t have something hurt but as to kissing-“ (193) she claims she could by no means bring herself to come in such close personal contact with a slave. Even even though she considers herself an abolitionist, Miss Ophelia is nonetheless prejudiced against blacks. Readers may possibly initially respect Ophelia’s perform ethic and devotion to principle as they adhere to her about the St. Clare property exactly where she “in a couple of days, completely reformed every division of the property to a systematic pattern” (236), but Stowe utilizes her to satirize the subtle racism of the North. Stowe seems to believe that there had been numerous individuals like Miss Ophelia who did not like slavery but could not believe of blacks as folks. She is in a position to create about such problems through Miss Ophelia. The author recognized that many Northerners were eager to tell the South how to manage the institution of slavery and quick to condemn Southern practices, but those identical Northerners had been frequently unwilling to personally interact with blacks. For instance, upon hearing the story of Prue’s life and death, Miss Ophelia interrogates St. Clare, “Thought so! –an’t you going to do something about it? Haven’t you got any selectmen, or anyone, to interfere and appear soon after such matters?” (244), but she does not truly intend to do something about it herself. It appears to be Stowe’s opinion that also many abolitionists want the slaves to be freed, but sent away or otherwise kept at a distance. In other words, they are content material with black people as lengthy as they aren’t necessary to meet any of them personally. Stowe has pointed out that the abolitionists of the North are also racist and utilizes the character of Miss Ophelia to symbolize the hypocrisy of the Northerners in regards to slavery in the South.

On different occasions, Miss Ophelia discusses slavery with Marie and Mr. St. Clare. She questions them as to why they hold slaves and reminds them of their Christian duty in regards to the remedy and education of their slaves. In the course of her initial conversation with Marie regarding the servants, she asks, “Don’t you think that the lord created them of 1 blood with us…Don’t you think they’ve got immortal souls?” (201). She is specially curious as to why Mr. St. Clare continues to hold slaves regardless of the reality that he believes carrying out so to be wrong. Miss Ophelia even goes so far as to divulge her own philosophy on the therapy of slaves: “You ought to educate your slaves, and treat them like affordable creatures, — like immortal creatures, that you have got to stand ahead of the bar of God with. That’s my mind” (204). At some point, St. Clare offers Miss Ophelia a young slave girl to educate, Topsy. The woman’s initial repulsion at the sight of Topsy can be viewed as a criticism of the hypocrisy of Christians. “–Something [about her look], as Miss Ophelia afterwards mentioned, ‘so heathenish,’ as to inspire that excellent lady with utter dismay” (261). At first, she is unsure about taking portion in the upbringing of a slave girl, but she quickly decides that it is her duty: “’Well, it may be real missionary function,’ said she, seeking rather a lot more favorably on the child” (262). It is a strange experiment in which St. Clare teaches Ophelia about slavery by providing her a slave of her personal. St. Clare permits Miss Ophelia to educate and treat Topsy according to her personal philosophy without any interference.

Although Miss Ophelia is teaching Topsy how to make a bed in the manner that she prefers, she catches Topsy stealing and demands a confession. Nonetheless, she is horrified to find out that Topsy will lie even in confessing to items she hadn’t really carried out, “Why, Missis stated I have to ‘fess and I couldn’t think of nothin’ else to ‘fess” (268). Later, Miss Ophelia is humbled when Topsy admits that she knows Miss Ophelia can not stand to really like her or be touched by her even even though tiny Eva is in a position to: “No she can’t bar me, ‘cause I’m a nigger! -she’d quickly have a toad touch her!” (302). In the course of her interactions with Topsy, Ophelia learns the issues involved in teaching slaves who have been brutalized and subjugated their entire lives. She also rapidly discovers her personal secret racism, “I’ve constantly had a prejudice against Negroes… and it is a reality, I in no way could bear to have that youngster touch me but I don’t believe she knew it” (302). Miss Ophelia attempts to do the ideal she can in teaching Topsy household expertise and the catechism, but is in reality totally disgusted by the little girl and hates touching her. As a result, all of her strict discipline fails. The child only starts to adjust when little Evangeline offers Topsy her unconditional adore.

It becomes clear that, aside from her individual contradictions, Miss Ophelia is truly an truthful woman. She realizes exactly where she is in the incorrect, understanding that Evangeline’s innocent really like has succeeded in curbing Topsy’s wild methods exactly where all her stern discipline has failed: “Well, she’s so loving! Right after all, although, she’s no far more than Christ-like… I wish I have been like her. She might teach me a lesson” (303). Topsy is rendered despondent after Evangeline passes away because the only individual who has ever shown her love and kindness is gone, and Miss Ophelia promises that she will try to enjoy her: “Topsy, you poor child,’ she said, as she led her into her space, ‘don’t give up! I can love you, though I am not like that dear tiny child. I hope I’ve learnt some thing of the enjoy of Christ from her. I can really like you I do, and I’ll try to aid you grow up a good Christian girl” (317). It is in that moment that she wins Topsy’s heart.

Miss Ophelia demands that St. Clare fill out the paperwork essential to sign Topsy over to her in order to safe Topsy instantly as Ophelia’s legal home. She declares that she wishes to sooner or later take Topsy back to New England and make her a free of charge woman: “I want her mine, that I may possibly have a proper to take her to the free of charge states, and give her her liberty, that all I am attempting to do be not undone” (326). After St. Clare’s untimely death, Miss Ophelia returns to Vermont with Topsy in tow the young girl becomes a pious, dedicated member of a Christian community in the North, and at some point a missionary. Miss Ophelia lastly becomes a correct Christian as her attitude towards Topsy changes. She recognizes the evil of a method that inflicts such emotional and physical damage on human beings such as Topsy. Stowe’s message to her Christian readers becomes clear they are hypocrites until they realize that enabling slavery to exist in their country is a reprehensible sin.

In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Miss Ophelia clearly comes to represent “the very very best of Northern people” as she is the only Northerner to take a focal part all through the novel. In other words, she stands for these who pride themselves on being virtuous, hardworking, and clean of conscience. Nevertheless, Stowe displays these folks as somewhat harsh and lacking really like or warmth. They insist on following a strict moral code, but do not do so in a sort or loving manner. As an instance, Miss Ophelia is a Christian, but not Christ-like the way Tom and Eva are. She relies on her rationalized thoughts rather than her emotions to make decisions about her life and political beliefs.

Miss Ophelia’s character also functions in the story in yet another important way, by demonstrating how slavery threatens women’s household concerns. The scene exactly where Miss Ophelia attempts to reorganize and set Marie St. Clare’s house in order becomes pivotal in understanding Stowe’s vision for a morally appropriate universe. In Stowe’s globe, slavery was incorrect since it was an outrage on the family life. Just as the waste in Dinah’s kitchen offends Miss Ophelia’s sense of an appropriately organized household, so slavery offends her morality. As a result of Miss Ophelia’s character, it can be argued that kitchens turn out to be a metaphor for social conditions in the North and South. In Ophelia’s mind, kitchens in the North are an epitome of economy and cleanliness, corresponding to the North’s moral stance on slavery. Nevertheless, in the South, kitchens seem to be disorganized and wasteful just like the institution of slavery, which is bound to be ultimately destructive for everybody involved in it. It can then be mentioned that Stowe utilised the character of Miss Ophelia to link the political sphere with the domestic sphere. She successfully confronts not only the government in the South, but also the households of the North. Stowe was conscious that her audience would be mostly white females, and she properly plays on their feelings of uneasiness and guilt over the treatment of slaves. With the support of the character Miss Ophelia, she is in a position to particularly address the Northern white women who could assist with the abolitionist movement, but don’t believe that they can make a distinction. Stowe utilized Ophelia’s condemnation of the slavery system to show Northern girls that other people really feel the identical guilt and doubt about the institution.

Miss Ophelia St. Clare efficiently helps Stowe to make her protest against slavery. This character permits Stowe to address white Northern ladies by virtually putting them in her novel alongside the characters in other strands of the narrative. Miss Ophelia’s revelation, inspired by Evangeline and Topsy towards the finish, is the revelation that Stowe is begging her readers to undergo. Miss Ophelia validates Harriet Beecher Stowe’s arguments as an educated Christian lady in favor of not just abolition, but equality as effectively.
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