How Shiftless!

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EL266

Alright, I have to admit that the Ophelia got on my nerves a bit, through her constant use of the word shiftless.....ESPECIALLY when she used it completely out of context. There are somethings that just can't be considered shiftless. Like random occurences i.e. Eva kissing Tom, bits of other people's conversation i.e. when Marie suggests that St. Clare doesn't care about her opinion and thus shouldn't ask it, ideas i.e. Topsy's ignorance of the concept of years, and even, apparently, atheism i.e. when Topsy says that no one made her.

There is really only really three things that can be described by the word shiftless: people, occasions (in some cases) and damaged devices that are meant to have shift buttons. i.e "One shiftless Sunday afternoon, I threw my shiftless laptop at a shiftless Best Buy employee who said that a damaged keyboard was not covered by my warranty."

However, because of this peculiarity, it seems obvious that there is some intent behind it. Shiftless tends to be one of the typical racial stereotypes commonly hurled about, and the person who is ALWAYS saying it is the solitary Northerner in the story. Ophelia, despite being a rather dull person, is interesting in that she opposes (more or less) the cruelty of slavery, despite being extremely racist. She seems to consider blacks to be far less human than any of the slave owners, or former slave owners in the story. She even admits to being repulsed by them, and unable to touch them. This is making an interesting observation about hypocrisy at the time. Even Legree, despite being completely sadistic, sees his slaves as people to a greater degree than Ophelia, just people that he owns, tortures, and must dominate. Based on his other actions, and his general temperment, I feel that if he could have owned some white slaves he would have been just as brutal to them. Then in the story, there were several other masters who, in varying degrees, were kind to their slaves, freeing or attempting to free them in some cases.

This is interesting because it kind of shades the historical black and white image a lot of people get suggesting that Southerners of the time were cruel, slave-owning racists and Northerners were all progressive-thinking people who accepted everyone regardless of race. There was a whole lot more grey area than that, which this play makes you think about more.     

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