Freeman uses an omniscient narrator throughout these stories, and the tone is both wryly ironic and sympathetic to the plights of the characters. Freeman’s use of irony undercuts the pathos of her plots; her wry sense of humor saves the stories from becoming too sentimentalized.
Her characters are often outcasts from society who are nevertheless productive, upstanding individuals. Christmas Jenny, who lives alone in the mountains above the village, is the object of unkind village gossip, yet she spends her meager income on rehabilitating injured animals and in caring for an adopted deaf-mute boy. Aurelia Flower also adopts a young girl; she proves her love for the child despite the grandmother’s bias against her profession as a “yarb-woman.” Nicholas Gunn misanthropically rejects all visitors until he realizes Stephen Forster’s need for shelter and companionship.
Many of her women characters are artists, either traditionally or nontraditionally defined—singers, herbalists, quilters, seamstresses, even “A Poetess.” Not only do they support themselves with their art, but they also find fulfillment through these activities. Characters’ names reveal their occupations or personalities: Martha Patch is a quilter, Fidelia Almy has a faithful soul, and Aurelia Flower is an herbalist with a heart of gold.
Freeman’s symbols come from the natural world and ordinary objects. In “A New England Nun,” Louisa Ellis’ dog...
(The entire section is 831 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Selected Stories of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!