Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Through the descriptions of the topography, the hardships of the farmers, and the plight of the Brays, Sarah Orne Jewett comments on the decline of rural New England. Having her characters reflect on the past and the present enables Jewett to criticize and idealize former days. Because Mrs. Trimble is the only independent character in the story, the only one able to influence positively the town leaders, Jewett is extolling the virtues of self-sufficient women.

At the same time, Jewett recognizes the importance of sisterhood and cooperation. Mrs. Trimble provides transportation for Miss Wright and has made arrangements for Miss Wright to stay in the Trimble home for the night. Both women have great sympathy for Mrs. Janes’s complaints. Both demonstrate great sympathy for the Brays. In fact, the visit to the Brays forces Mrs. Trimble and Mrs. Wright to give greater material and emotional support to their disabled friends than they have previously given. The discussions about the Brays explore right and wrong behavior. Ann Bray reinforces the themes of sisterhood and cooperation when she comforts her sobbing sister, Mandana.