What are the differences and/or similarities between Minnie and Miss Wilcox and how they see the world? How does Miss Wilcox see the world, and what is Minnie's point of view?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The views of the world that Minnie and Miss Wilcox share represent fundamental forces on Mattie. They help shape how Mattie will view the world because of their shared points of convergence and their fundamental differences.

One way in which Minnie and Miss Wilcox are similar is that both are women at the turn of the century who find themselves articulating the growing choices that women face. At the same time, both women are similar because they fervently believe in the path they have chosen.  Minnie is quite traditional in how she approaches being in the world.  She is a dutiful wife and defines herself in accordance to her love for Jim Compeau. Minnie believes in her function as a wife, in giving birth to the twins, and embracing the domestic life. In contrast to this, Miss Wilcox believes in the power of literature.  She embraces writing and words, seeing them as a way to carve out one's place in the world.  As a poet and teacher, she understands the transformative capacity of writing, and wishes to enhance this passion that exists in Mattie:  "Cripes Miss Wilcox, they're not guns,' I said. No, they're not Mattie, they're books. And a hundred times more dangerous.”   For Miss Wilcox, her view of the world is a transformative one.  It seeks to make what should be from what is.  She views the world as an agent of change.  Minnie is more accepting of the Status Quo and believes it through her choices.  In contrast to this, Miss Wilcox ends up going to France, reflecting her embrace of the transformative view with which she views the world and her place in it.   While both viewpoints are different, both women believe in the authenticity of their beliefs.

Both women are shown to believe their fundamental precepts about being in the world.  Mattie remarks that "Things are never as they seem."  This is a reflection on how she sees both women.  She understands more about each as the narrative progresses.  Mattie recognizes the limitations that exist in Minnie's and Miss Wilcox's views of the world and their respective places in it. It is through seeing both, analyzing both, and then deciding for herself what path to take that Mattie is able to fully emerge as her own person.

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A Northern Light

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