The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories

Overview

The Country of the Pointer Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett's masterpiece, established her among the consummate stylists of nineteenth-century American fiction. Composed in a series of beautiful web-like sketches, the novel is narrated by a young woman writer who unfolds a New England idyll rooted in friendship, particularly female friendship, weaving stories and conversations, imagery of sea, sky and earth, the tang of salt air and aromatic herbs into an historically significant 'fiction of community' in which themes and...
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The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories

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Overview

The Country of the Pointer Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett's masterpiece, established her among the consummate stylists of nineteenth-century American fiction. Composed in a series of beautiful web-like sketches, the novel is narrated by a young woman writer who unfolds a New England idyll rooted in friendship, particularly female friendship, weaving stories and conversations, imagery of sea, sky and earth, the tang of salt air and aromatic herbs into an historically significant 'fiction of community' in which themes and form are exquisitely matched. This edition, introduced by Alison Easton, also includes ten of Sarah Orne Jewett's short stories, among them 'The Queen's Twin', 'The Foreigner' and 'William's Wedding'.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jewett's 1896 novel and selected stories about the fictional town of Dunnett Landing in rural Maine. May
From the Publisher
"Immense—it is the very life."
—Rudyard Kipling
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385092142
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/1954
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 833,190
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849 - 1909) was born and raised in South Berwick, Maine. Before publication of The Country of the Pointed Firs, she published the novels A Country Doctor (1884) and A Marsh Island (1885), and nine collections of short stories.

Sarah Way Sherman is Associate Professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and author of Sarah Orne Jewett, An American Persephone (UPNE, 1989) and numerous articles on 19th-century women writers.

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Read an Excerpt

There was something about the coast town of Dunnet which made it seem more attractive than other maritime villages of eastern Maine. Perhaps it was the simple fact of acquaintance with that neighborhood which made it so attaching, and gave such interest to the rocky shore and dark woods, and the few houses which seemed to be securely wedged and tree-nailed in among the ledges by the Landing. These houses made the most of their seaward view, and there was a gayety and determined floweriness in their bits of garden ground; the small-paned high windows in the peaks of their steep gables were like knowing eyes that watched the harbor and the far sea-line beyond, or looked northward all along the shore and its background of spruces and balsam firs. When one really knows a village like this and its surroundings, it is like becoming acquainted with a single person. The process of falling in love at first sight is as final as it is swift in such a case, but the growth of true friendship may be a lifelong affair.

After a first brief visit made two or three summers before in the course of a yachting cruise, a lover of Dunnet Landing returned to find the unchanged shores of the pointed firs, the same quaintness of the village with its elaborate conventionalities; all that mixture of remoteness, and childish certainty of being the centre of civilization of which her affectionate dreams had told. One evening in June, a single passenger landed upon the steamboat wharf. The tide was high, there was a fine crowd of spectators, and the younger portion of the company followed her with subdued excitement up the narrow street of the salt-aired, white-clapboarded little town.

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Table of Contents

Preface by Willa Cather

The Country of the Pointed Firs

The White Heron

The Flight of Betsey Lane

The Dulham Ladies

Going to Shrewsbury

The Only Rose

Miss Tempy’s Watchers

Martha’s Lady

The Guests of Mrs. Timms

The Town Poor

The Hiltons’ Holiday

Aunt Cynthy Dallett

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Reading Group Guide

1. The Country of the Pointed Firs is not so much a novel as small episodes strung together. What do you think Jewett was trying to accomplish using this loose structure? What is she saying about New England country life?

2. Consider the narrator's view of the "quaint" village people in the beginning of the novel compared to her view as she leaves Dunnet Landing. How and when did her worldly view change of the small village and villagers?

3. Some critics argue Jewett was simply romanticizing the idealization of the simple life. However, take into account Mrs. Todd's herb gathering, Captain Littlepage's "quirks, " and the narrator's friendship with the inhabitants of Dunnet Landing. Do you feel the core of this novel is romantic, or humanistic and even religious?

4. The work heavily relies on four symbolic contrasts-the funeral, the sea, the outer islands, and the song sparrows. How do these four symbols work and contrast with each other? Are they relaying the theme of the novel, and if so, what exactly is that theme?

5. Consider Captain Littlepage's "spells, " William's inability to function in society, and Joanna's self-exile to Shell-heap Island. Is Jewett commenting on what small town life can do to a person's mind, or is she simply romanticizing life on the sea?

6. Consider the narrator's reaction to Mrs. Todd's tale of Joanna. Do you feel the narrator relates to Joanna, or is she just simply sympathetic to the shunted woman?

7. In Jewett's time, alternative medicine was vehemently looked down upon while many women such as midwives were persecuted for their practices. Yet, Mrs. Toddworks alongside the village doctor, and even prescribes pennyroyal (a known abortive). Is Jewett trying to give respectability to a dying practice, or is she satirizing a "country practice"?

8. The Country of the Pointed Firs is often branded as local-color literature. Do you feel Jewett was nostalgically writing about her beloved Maine, or was she trying to contrast New England with the rest of America and connect the "good old days" with the more fast-paced, industrial America growing around her?

9. In what ways does Jewett defy the prevailing nineteenth-century gender relations, namely the separation of women's and men's lives and women's sphere in the home and public? In what ways does she embrace those views?

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