Study Guide

Mrs. Whitfield in Heart of a Samurai

By Margi Preus

Mrs. Whitfield

Not much is said about Mrs. Whitfield—she just kind of shows up one day because the captain's decided to marry and create a family for Manjiro—but the little that we do know makes us think she's probably just as swell as her husband. The key moment for her is when she goes on a small tirade about the racism of the various church congregations in town. The church elders want Manjiro to sit in the colored section and Manjiro tells Mrs. Whitfield that he's willing to do so if it'll make things easier for everyone, but Mrs. Whitfield isn't having it. She replies:

"It won't make anybody happier, and you will do no such thing," said Mrs. Whitfield. "The very idea! Why there should be such a thing as a separate pew for colored people—honestly! And in palace of worship that claims to believe in equality for all. I hope we live to see the day when such notions are abolished—along with our country's deplorable institution of slavery." (3.17.36)

Clearly, she's a woman who knows her mind and, like her husband and Manjiro, recognizes the humanity all people share. It should come as no surprise then that her liberal politics also extend to women and the rest of the world as well. She says:

"There's a movement for more rights for women, too. So much happening these days. The country is suffering growing pains, just like some boys around here. Now, are you going to lie abed on such a morning as this? Or are you going to get up and help the world change—starting with our religious institutions?" (3.17.38)

If Mrs. Whitfield weren't bound to the farm and domestic life, we'd like to think that she'd be a political agitator or revolutionary. Hey, for all we know, she might already be one. It's not like the book gives us much background information on her…