Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Miss Ophelia Character Analysis

A stern and religious woman from Vermont, Miss Ophelia is St. Clare's cousin. She moves to New Orleans to live in the St. Clare household and look after Eva, because Marie is often sick. Miss Ophelia believes that slavery is wrong but initially has trouble interacting with, or even touching, black people. She learns through Eva to become a better, more loving mentor to Topsy.

Miss Ophelia Quotes in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The Uncle Tom's Cabin quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Ophelia or refer to Miss Ophelia. 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:
Slavery and Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Bantam Books edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin published in 1981.
Chapter 20: Topsy Quotes

But, of course, I didn’t want you to confess things you didn’t do . . . that’s telling a lie, just as much as the other.

Related Characters: Miss Ophelia (speaker), Topsy
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

A complicated section in the novel. Miss Ophelia says that she will go about "civilizing" Topsy, attempting to make her less of a "heathen" and more of a "good Christian girl." This teaching, of course, requires a great many assumptions on Miss Ophelia's part. She believes that Topsy is naturally inclined to evil or wickedness, just as Eva is naturally inclined to goodness. And it is hard to read those "natural" inclinations as anything other than outgrowths, for Miss Ophelia, of the skin color of those two girls. Thus, although Miss Ophelia seems genuinely to want to help Topsy, her teaching is also inflected with the idea that white Americans are superior to African Americans, and that it is the duty of white Americans to "help" slaves whenever they can.

This notion of beneficent teaching, as above, is an aspect of the novel that has not aged well over the years - that is now seen as a paternalistic or condescending view of the relationship between black and white Americans. 

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Miss Ophelia Character Timeline in Uncle Tom's Cabin

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Ophelia appears in Uncle Tom's Cabin. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15: Of Tom’s New Master, and Various Other Matters
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...“sick-headaches” and other illnesses. Thus St. Clare travels north with Eva to meet with Miss Ophelia, a relative on his uncle’s side, in the hopes of asking her to come south... (full context)
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Miss Ophelia is a severe northern woman, deeply religious and organized, and convinced that a strong work... (full context)
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...stops in New Orleans, and the three enter St. Clare’s large, opulent estate, which Miss Ophelia finds impressive but “heathenish.” St. Clare’s domestic slaves are introduced. Mr. Adolph, a boisterous footman,... (full context)
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...Marie a present from his journey, Marie complains that her husband neglects her, and Miss Ophelia settles into life in the house. (full context)
Chapter 16: Tom’s Mistress and Her Opinions
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At breakfast, Marie declares to her husband, Eva, and Miss Ophelia that the slaves are really the masters of their owners, that no one understands her... (full context)
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St. Clare tells Ophelia that Adolph, his footman, has been taking too much of his clothing. Ophelia decries the... (full context)
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...though St. Clare defends it. Marie and Eva leave for church, and St. Clare and Ophelia stay behind. (full context)
Chapter 18: Miss Ophelia’s Experiences and Opinions
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...his body and soul poorly. St. Clare promises not to drink so much again. Miss Ophelia assumes management of the household and reorganizes the storage and arrangement of materials throughout the... (full context)
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Miss Ophelia reports to St. Clare on the state of chaos in his home. St. Clare replies... (full context)
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Ophelia believes that some of the slaves might be tricking St. Clare, stealing from him, or... (full context)
Chapter 19: Miss Ophelia’s Experience and Opinions (Continued)
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...owner in a cellar, on account of her drunkenness, and left there to die. Miss Ophelia is outraged to hear this and reports it to St. Clare, who accepts it resignedly... (full context)
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...system, when whites guilty of protecting the institution will be made to pay penance. Miss Ophelia finds this attitude, by which she is surprised, deeply radical. (full context)
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St. Clare relates to Miss Ophelia the story of his family slave ownership. He and his twin brother, Alfred, grew up... (full context)
Chapter 20: Topsy
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...purchases an eight- or nine-year-old slave with very dark skin named Topsy, so that Miss Ophelia might teach her manners. Miss Ophelia is upset, feeling that there are too many slaves... (full context)
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When Miss Ophelia asks Topsy about her family and origins, Topsy replies that she has none; she has... (full context)
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Miss Ophelia wonders that St. Clare lets Eva play with Topsy—she thinks it will harm Eva’s development,... (full context)
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Miss Ophelia tries to teach Topsy the Bible, but Topsy learns the passages only by rote, and... (full context)
Chapter 22: “The Grass Withereth—The Flowers Fadeth”
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...has seen angels and expects to be in heaven soon. Uncle Tom remembers that Miss Ophelia has spoken more frequently of Eva’s cough, seemingly signaling an illness. Beecher Stowe hints that... (full context)
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Miss Ophelia confides in St. Clare that she fears Eva is getting sick, and he responds that... (full context)
Chapter 24: Foreshadowings
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After their holiday on Lake Ponchartrain, Eva grows sicker. Marie initially does not believe Miss Ophelia’s reports that Eva is unwell, thinking that only she, Marie, can be sick in the... (full context)
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Eva’s condition appears to improve for a time, although Miss Ophelia and the doctor do not believe it. Eva finds comfort in the Bible, believing she... (full context)
Chapter 25: The Little Evangelist
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...than the one who cares for Eva to attend to her. Eva, Tom, and Miss Ophelia return from a Methodist prayer service and Ophelia finds that Topsy has destroyed her cloth... (full context)
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...Topsy says no one can love her because she is black; Eva disagrees and says Ophelia will love her if she is good, but Topsy says Ophelia refuses even to touch... (full context)
Chapter 26: Death
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Tom and Miss Ophelia sense that Eva will die soon. For her part, Eva seems content. Tom, St. Clare,... (full context)
Chapter 27: “This Is the Last of the Earth”
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...Eva’s room in white, where she lies. Topsy comes to pay her respects, and Miss Ophelia, moved by Topsy’s apparent change (inspired by her contact with Eva), promises to love her... (full context)
Chapter 28: Reunion
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Miss Ophelia is “softened” after Eva’s death, and Topsy has taken to reading a collection of Bible... (full context)
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...meaning. He plays a hymn, the Dies Irae, on the piano, and resolves to Miss Ophelia that he will proceed more bravely, and more actively, as a Christian in the future,... (full context)
Chapter 29: The Unprotected
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About two weeks after the funeral, the slave Rosa asks Miss Ophelia to speak on her behalf, since Marie found Rosa trying on one of her dresses... (full context)
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Tom relates to Miss Ophelia the promise St. Clare made him, to grant him freedom on his death. Miss Ophelia... (full context)
Chapter 43: Results
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Miss Ophelia and Topsy move to Vermont, where Topsy becomes a Christian and eventually serves as a... (full context)