Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “The Courting of Sister Wisby,” Jewetts employs the formula of a first-person narrator repeating a story told by another. Mrs. Goodsoe, the central narrator, is a born storyteller—with seemingly total recall of events. Her speech patterns combine directness, pathos, and rural humor, and include folksy grammar mangling. Mrs. Goodsoe’s gossip about one neighbor after another is reminiscent of dialogue in regional humorists from Mark Twain to William Faulkner. Its apparent wandering aimlessness conceals a solid structural unity. Her first tale concerns the natural goodness of Jim Heron. He materialized out of the dark forest to play restorative music. His last name echoes the title of Jewett’s most popular short story, “The White Heron” (1886). The name Goodsoe is deliberately close to “good soul.” By contrast, Brimblecom’s exploitative quack religiosity is vilified, together with Eliza Wisby’s hardly different failings. The two “lovers,” if they may be so designated, survive for a time, and Eliza becomes humble and generous. Silas, the dependent male spouse, earns the nickname “Brimfull” pinned on him by critical neighbors.

By contrast, Mother Nature is brimful of gifts for those who love and respect her. Aspects of the landscape—sloping fields, nearby evergreens, vines, fences, wind off the coast, pennyroyal and a half dozen other named herbs, dangerous swamps, and berries—all harmonize as in an impressionistic painting...

(The entire section is 428 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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