Mountains Beyond Mountains

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Ophelia Dahl Character Analysis

An intelligent young British woman who falls in love with Paul Farmer when she’s doing charity work in Haiti. Ophelia Dahl comes from markedly different circumstances than Farmer—she’s the daughter of the famous children’s author Roald Dahl, and grew up in luxury. Although she finds it somewhat difficult to adjust to a life of poverty in Haiti, she finds a friend in Farmer and the two become lovers. Over many years, Ophelia comes to know Farmer very well—sometimes, she’s in awe of his intellect and selflessness, but at other times, she’s exasperated by his Stoicism and willingness to endanger his own life. Farmer proposes marriage to Ophelia, but she refuses: Farmer’s commitment to helping the poor is simply too much for her to handle. In the end, Ophelia becomes Farmer’s good friend and confidant, as well as the treasurer of his charity, Partners in Health.

Ophelia Dahl Quotes in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The Mountains Beyond Mountains quotes below are all either spoken by Ophelia Dahl or refer to Ophelia Dahl . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Random House edition of Mountains Beyond Mountains published in 2009.
Chapter 7 Quotes

For a long time I thought I could live and work in Haiti, carving out a life with you, but now I understand that I can’t. And that’s simply not compatible with your life—the life you once told me you would like to lead even ten years ago.

Related Characters: Ophelia Dahl (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

For many years as a young man, Dr. Farmer is romantically close with a fellow charity worker, Ophelia Dahl. But as he spends more and more time working with his patients, Farmer struggles to spend time with Ophelia. He makes it clear that he'll only be able to pursue a relationship with Ophelia if she can get used to a life of constant travel and work. In this quotation, Ophelia writes Farmer a letter in which she tells him that she can no longer pursue a relationship with him: she's just not ready for the life he wants to lead.

Ophelia's letter reminds us how difficult Farmer's life is—contrary to what he always claims. There are few people who could spend their entire lives traveling the world, meeting with hundreds of strangers a day, and devoting incredible amounts of time to dangerous or thankless tasks. Indeed, Ophelia's letter establishes the basic sacrifice that a "saint" like Farmer must make. Farmer must choose between his family—a small group of people with whom he's very close, such as Ophelia—and his profession—a life spent circling through a huge group of patients, none of whom he's very close with. While most people choose to give most of their love and attention to the small number of people in their immediate family, Farmer takes a different path. Ironically, in choosing a career that, on the surface, seems incredibly noble and loving, he shies away from love for a family—a basic form of love that almost every human being expresses.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Mountains Beyond Mountains quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 9 Quotes

On the way back they laughed about the incident, and yet of all the times she’d eaten things that she could hardly bear to look at, this one occasion when she failed the test stood out for her.

Related Characters: Tracy Kidder (speaker), Doctor Paul Farmer , Ophelia Dahl
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Ophelia Dahl describes an episode from her travels in Haiti when, accompanied by her lover, Farmer, she was offered a traditional Haitian dish. Ophelia politely refused the dish, not realizing that her politeness would be interpreted as rudeness. Farmer irritably corrected Ophelia, showing that he was far more familiar with Haitian culture than she. Ophelia continues to remember this episode for many years. In her mind, it proves that she'll never be an important part of Farmer's life; on the contrary, she'll always be less relevant than his patient care.

A further implication of the passage is that Ophelia feels like a outsider in Haiti because of her privileged life in the United States and England. Ophelia, the wealthy daughter of the famous author Roald Dahl, is occasionally uncomfortable in Haiti because she's reminded of how lucky she was to be born to wealthy, white, Western parents. Incidents like the one described in the passage push Ophelia further away from Farmer while also exacerbating her "white guilt."

Get the entire Mountains LitChart as a printable PDF.
Mountains beyond mountains.pdf.medium

Ophelia Dahl Character Timeline in Mountains Beyond Mountains

The timeline below shows where the character Ophelia Dahl appears in Mountains Beyond Mountains. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Saintliness Theme Icon
...Farmer received from a woman he wanted to marry. In the letter, a woman named Ophelia Dahl tells Farmer that she can’t possibly provide Farmer with the life he wants, despite... (full context)
Saintliness Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Kidder explains that Farmer met Ophelia Dahl in 1983, when they were both working at Eye Care Haiti. Ophelia, a well-to-do... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
As Ophelia spent more time with Farmer, she came to see that he was charming, sensitive, and... (full context)
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Within a few months, Farmer and Ophelia became lovers. Farmer wrote her a poem called “The Mango Lady,” about the woman in... (full context)
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
In late spring, Ophelia headed back to her home in England, having finished her work in Haiti for the... (full context)
Chapter 9
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Science, Magic, and Religion Theme Icon
In 1985, Ophelia flew back to Haiti to see Farmer. By this point, Farmer was comfortable with his... (full context)
Saintliness Theme Icon
Science, Magic, and Religion Theme Icon
Ophelia loved spending the summer with Farmer. And yet she couldn’t help but notice the differences... (full context)
Saintliness Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
During his time with Ophelia, Farmer threw himself into the design of his new hospital. He conducted a new health... (full context)
Chapter 10
Saintliness Theme Icon
For the second half of the 80s, Ophelia visits Farmer in Haiti every summer. Although Ophelia treasures her time with Farmer, she finds... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...shifts to the military, and things remain more or less the same. Once, Farmer and Ophelia are in Port-au-Prince when shots break out: the army is breaking up a political demonstration.... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
In 1988, Ophelia comes to live with Farmer in Boston, where Farmer is busy with his clinical rotations.... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
...weeks in the hospital with a broken leg. In the hospital, he tries to convince Ophelia to come with him to do charity work in Haiti. Ophelia is sure that Farmer... (full context)
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
In the early 90s, Farmer proposes to Ophelia, and she turns him down. Hurt, Farmer tells Ophelia that he can’t see her—it would... (full context)
Chapter 12
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Ophelia travels to Cange in the early 1990s, at the time of Haiti’s military junta. She’s... (full context)
Chapter 19
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...planned all along—he has little money left as he approaches the end of his life. Ophelia, who is now responsible for PIH’s budget, warns of a funding crisis: PIH needs to... (full context)
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
Jim Kim, Farmer, and Ophelia devise a bold new strategy. Using their success with treating MDR, PIH will raise money... (full context)
Chapter 24
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
America, Imperialism, and the First World Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...he tells Kim that there’s “real work” to be done in Moscow. Kim, Farmer, and Ophelia argue, and Kidder is amazed—he can’t remember seeing Farmer lose his temper before. Later, Ophelia... (full context)
Chapter 26
Cost-Efficiency vs. the Value of Life Theme Icon
Saintliness Theme Icon
Nonprofits, Politics, and Compromise Theme Icon
...to be cared for, one would be placing a relative value on human life. Once, Ophelia told Kidder that Farmer’s ”small gestures,” such as his house calls, “add up” over time. (full context)