While not one of Jewett’s best-known stories, “A Native of Winby” is typical of her better work. Jewett carefully presents four scenes of return, showing different kinds of welcome received by Senator Joseph K. Laneway when, after about fifty years, he visits Winby, the New England town where he was born and where he lived for thirteen years before his family went west. Laneway has been an enormously successful businessman, a Civil War general, and a leading United States senator from an influential western state. He is at first surprised and a little pleased to find that no one recognizes him in Winby. His anonymity allows him to make three quiet pilgrimages before the public can lionize him.
First he visits the country school he attended as a child. The story opens from the point of view of the young teacher, Marilla Hender, struggling to get her students to work on a warm May afternoon and inspiring them with reminders of their distinguished schoolmate, Senator Laneway. She and the students do not recognize him in the elderly visitor who asks to observe them for awhile. After he has enjoyed evoking his childhood memories, he identifies himself and gives them a short speech admonishing them to be brave and good.
As he walks on his second pilgrimage, he reflects that the first was not entirely satisfactory, even though it had its moments—noticing that his speech really inspired a few students and seeing the amusing caricature of...
(The entire section is 534 words.)