Sarah Orne Jewett

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What are the different parts of the plot in "Miss Esther's Guest"?

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The Freytag's pyramid model of how plot is structured divides a story into five separate parts:

Introduction or exposition: the section which introduces the reader to the context of the story and its protagonist;

Rising action, or rise: the section which drives the plot towards the climax, or sets up elements which will allow this climax to happen;

Climax: the most momentous part of the story, where the conflict takes place;

Falling action: the consequences of this challenge or conflict;

Denouement or conclusion: the final outcome of the action of the story, where the reader receives some resolution and an indication of what will happen to these characters as a result of the action.

This story can be divided quite neatly into these five sections.

The introduction and exposition in this story can be found in the opening scene, in which we are introduced to Miss Esther Porley and her place in the community. The scene in which Esther goes to visit Mrs Wayton is also part of the exposition: we can determine this because Miss Esther's speech, in which she explains her circumstances to Mrs Wayton and explains why she would like to open her home to Country Week, gives the context we need in order to understand the story. This sets the scene for what will happen next.

The rising action of the story is neatly contained in section II, where we see the Committee for the Country Week receiving Miss Esther's note and determining who to send to her. We, the reader, know that Esther has requested a lady: by determining that they will send her an "old Englishman," we are led to anticipate a conflict.

This conflict comes in the following scene, the climax, in which Mr Rill arrives at Daleham and meets Esther on the station platform. This is the moment of conflict in that it presents Esther with a challenge: she is "enraged" at first to discover that she has been sent an older gentleman instead of the lady she expected, and the initial conversation she has with Mr Rill is rather tense.

The falling action of the story is what follows this initial conflict. As soon as Esther has determined to bring Mr Rill back to her house, the direction of the story has changed. In section IV, we see her preparing the house for her guest, showing him to his room, and working hard to change her own attitude to the situation, discovering Mr Rill to be "gentle and kind" and generally good company.

The denouement or conclusion to the story is given in the final scene, when we learn the outcome of Mr Rill's stay with Esther. Far from it being a difficult experience, Esther declares herself to be lonely without her visitor, whom she affectionately calls her "old lady." In the final sentence of the story, we learn that Mr Rill has "left the bird," which provides a satisfactory resolution because it indicates to us that Mr Rill is going to return. The story will have a happy ending; it is "settled."

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