Critical Evaluation

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 301

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The provincial characters in DEEPHAVEN (Jewett’s first collection of tales) do not yet possess the universality that they would acquire in Sarah Orne Jewett’s latest stories and novels; but the author acutely observes this small fishing village, clearly defining its social gradations and representative types. Equally well detailed are the varieties of “fashion” adopted by the inhabitants of Deephaven. Yet it is the people themselves—their faces, their speech, and their lives—that the reader best remembers.

Life in Deephaven moves slowly, so that even the details of common existence assume importance and become leisurely and pleasant activities. The narrator details with obvious relish the housekeeping routine and the quiet day-to-day village life. Always, a gentle humor pervades the book.

Memories constitute much of DEEPHAVEN’s narrative. The old sailors, their widows, village spinsters, old bachelors, everyone seems to live at least half of his or her life recollecting the past; and the “ancient mariners” of the village are the heroes, if the book has any. Sometimes they romanticize the past, sometimes they view it clearly, but always it is present before them, as real as the ever-changing bay and the tides. The ships remembered by the old skippers assume vivid personalities. The rich history of bygone days is preserved by the people who lived it. Jewett saw history as basically the story of human beings and the events of their lives. This vision dominates and shapes DEEPHAVEN.

The whalers and seafaring men and their families have had more contact with the world than most villagers and are not as narrow-minded as many small-town people. They possess more than folk wisdom; along with trinkets from foreign ports, they have picked up an awareness of the larger issues that face humanity. Sarah Orne Jewett especially loved and respected these people.