The Country of the Pointed Firs Essay - Critical Evaluation

Sarah Orne Jewett

Critical Evaluation

When The Country of the Pointed Firs was published, Sarah Orne Jewett’s friend Rudyard Kipling said, “I maintain (and will maintain with outcries if necessary) that that is the reallest New England book ever given us.” Willa Cather wrote in 1925 that this book, along with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850) and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), would stand up to the tests of time.

Jewett wrote four short sequels to this novella: “The Queen’s Twin” (1899); “A Dunnet Shepherdess” (1899), in which she introduces William’s fiancé, Esther Hight; “The Foreigner” (1900); and “William’s Wedding” (1910). In all of these stories, as in the novella, one of Jewett’s main themes is the centrality of friendship to a meaningful life. The narrator goes to Dunnet Landing to isolate herself in order to write. She finds that isolation is not really what she needs, although she does need to escape what she characterizes in “William’s Wedding” as “the hurry of life in a large town, the constant putting aside of preference to yield to a most unsatisfactory activity.” The narrator discovers that what she really needs is to cultivate friendships, to be let into the confidence of the people of Dunnet Landing, and to learn to know them. She is somewhat reluctant at first and a little impatient to get on with her work, but as she gets to know the often eccentric but delightful people such as Captain Littlepage, the Blacketts, and Susan Fosdick,...

(The entire section is 626 words.)