Mary E. Wilkins Freeman Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207188-Freeman.jpg Mary E. Wilkins Freeman Published by Salem Press, Inc.

While Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s current reputation rests almost exclusively on her numerous collections of short stories for adults, her thirty-nine published works also include poems and stories for children, novels, and a play, Giles Corey, Yeoman (1893), a historical tragedy which, in part, dramatizes her ancestors’ involvement in the Salem witch trials of 1692. Some forty stories, together with a handful of articles, magazine verse, and other fugitive pieces, remain uncollected.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

In August, 1890, Critic magazine conducted a public opinion poll to establish “Twenty writers whom our readers deem truest representative of what is best in cultivated American womanhood.” Mary E. Freeman was included among the twenty, along with Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Rose Terry Cooke. Seven years later the same periodical conducted another poll to determine the twelve best American short stories. The winning list included Freeman’s “The Revolt of ‘Mother,’” and the second best list included “A Humble Romance.” In still another display of public favor, the New York Herald‘s 1908 “Anglo-American Competition” awarded Freeman five thousand dollars for The Shoulders of Atlas (1908). Perhaps the two most significant recognitions of her literary accomplishments were awarded in 1926: Freeman became one of the first four women to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and she won the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Fiction awarded by the American Academy of Letters.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Daniel, Janice. “Redefining Place: Femmes Coverts in the Stories of Mary Wilkins Freeman.” Studies in Short Fiction 33 (Winter, 1996): 69-76. Discusses the many images in Freeman’s stories that suggest covering or containing women. Argues that the women in the stories reject restrictive places imposed from the outside, choose their own places, and enclose themselves in choices that are conducive to their own affirmation of self.

Feinberg, Lorne. “Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s ‘Soft Diurnal Commotion’: Women’s Work and Strategies of Containment.” The New England Quarterly 62, no. 4 (1989): 483-504. “How is women’s work to be valued in the marketplace” is the question Feinberg struggles with as she looks at Freeman’s short stories dealing with the conception of “women’s sphere” and the economics of women’s work. To help answer this question, Feinberg discusses Catherine Beecher and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ideas on the ways value was assigned to women’s work. Stories mentioned are: “A New England Nun,” “An Honest Soul,” “A Humble Romance,” “A Church Mouse,” and “The Revolt of ‘Mother.’”

Freeman, Mary E. Wilkins. The Infant Sphinx: Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, edited by Brent L. Kendrick. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985. Kendrick suggests that although the author’s letters were written for practical literary reasons and are a bit mundane, they are a valuable source for autobiographical information. Kendrick warns that it may be difficult to recognize and appreciate the autobiographical details tucked away that reflect her external and internal life, but he insists that they do exist for the patient reader.

Mann, Susan Garland....

(The entire section is 770 words.)