Throughout a person’s life, money has always been the determining factor in a certain situation. From one’s career, to one’s possessions, money has directed where one goes. Not only that, but money makes one think any decision seems rational and morally justifiable. Trethewey’s novella, Bellocq’s Ophelia, details Ophelia being pushed to prostitution, because of her unfortunate need for money. Also, detailing how Ophelia tries to justify her choice in becoming a prostitute.
Immediately, Trethewey provides Ophelia’s profile: educated, young, and most importantly, black. Considering her time, 1910’s, society would dismiss her age and intelligence just one the basis of her pigmentation. Being conceived in a racist society limit Ophelia’s options and considering how her “purse thins” (Trethewey, 7), pursuing a respected profession does not seem economically wise. Acknowledging her economical problems and the fact that “no one needs a girl” (Trethewey, 7), any job would be accepted with open arms; pushing her to become a prostitute. Although one would think that Ophelia would take time to think over her decision, she only takes a month to decide to become a prostitute, showing how quickly money can sway a person.
Apart from making Ophelia work where “one glass of champagne is twenty” (Trethewey, 11), Storyville, the need of money seems to make her glamorize prostitution. Ophelia places an elegant façade over the grotesque profession “the perfumed soaps and fine silk gowns we wear”(Trethewey, 17), hindering any sense of regret. Ophelia then goes on to say that the money is being spent for a good cause “I have bought my mother new teeth” (Trethewey, 15), which is another way she tries to justify her decision. Although one would dismiss this as Ophelia’s appreciation for her new life, Trethewey explains Ophelia’s new mindset, “Empty your thoughts—think, if you do, only of your swelling purse”(Trethewey, 11). In other words, money demands Ophelia to diminish any sense of regret, since she will be paid at the end of all the dismay.
Retrospectively, Ophelia’s turn to prostitution is not only based on her limited options, but also on the fact of the universal need for money.