Study Guide

A Country Doctor

by Sarah Orne Jewett

A Country Doctor Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

One cold winter night, while Mrs. Thacher and two of her neighbors sit around the stove and gossip about neighborhood activities, they are interrupted by a noise at the door. Adeline Thacher Prince lies fallen on the doorstep. In her arms she holds her infant daughter, Nan. Dr. Leslie is sent for at once, but by the next day, Adeline is dead. According to her wishes, Dr. Leslie becomes the little child’s guardian, though she lives with her maternal grandmother.

Nan’s mother left home to work in a textile mill in Lowell. There she fell in love with a young man from Dunport, Maine, and after a short courtship, she married him. The marriage was far from happy. Adeline inherited a wild, rebellious tendency, and it was whispered in Dunport that she eventually started to drink. Furthermore, Adeline resented the strong opposition of her husband’s family to the marriage, and, in particular, the views of her husband’s sister, Miss Nancy Prince. After Adeline’s husband died, she tried for a time to support both herself and the child. When she could do so no longer, she trudged back to Oldfields to die in her mother’s home.

Nan seems to exhibit some of her mother’s traits, for she is mischievous and inclined to pleasure. Her grandmother often thinks her a trial, but to Dr. Leslie she is something quite different. One day, Nan retrieves a fallen bird with a fractured leg and applies a splint, as she saw Dr. Leslie do to his patients. The doctor begins to wonder if Nan inherited some tendency toward medicine from her father. He does not insist that she go to school. He thinks that the training she receives in the woods and the fields is far more beneficial than any she would obtain in the schoolroom.

When Mrs. Thacher dies, Nan goes to live with Dr. Leslie. There is a great feeling of affection between the two. Nan, who continues to go out on calls with the doctor, exhibits much interest in his work. The time comes at last for her to be sent to boarding school. At first, she is shy and rather backward in her studies, but after a while, she makes admirable progress. She would have been completely...

(The entire section is 872 words.)