The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) is considered by many critics to be the masterpiece of Sarah Orne Jewett, one of the greatest “local color” writers of the nineteenth century. Jewett wrote stories and novels set in coastal fishing and shipbuilding towns of her native Maine. As in many of Jewett’s stories, The Country of the Pointed Firs addresses themes of nostalgia, memory, and storytelling, as well as community, family, and friendship. Her character sketches of the aging population of seamen and the widows of seamen are inflected with the local Maine dialect, which she captured with accuracy and liveliness. In recent years, Jewett’s works have been praised for their strong, independent, elderly female characters, of which her greatest creation is Mrs. Todd in The Country of the Pointed Firs.
In The Country of the Pointed Firs, the unnamed narrator is a writer from Boston who has rented a room for the summer in the home of Mrs. Todd in the fictional town of Dunnet Landing, Maine. Throughout the summer, the narrator is captivated by the quaint community of Dunnet Landing, populated by the elderly men and women of the declining shipping industry. Most of the people she meets are between the ages of sixty and ninety, and they all have stories to tell about the town, the sea, and the families who inhabit their tiny community.