Themes

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

There a few themes that are present throughout Sarah Orne Jewett's The Town Poor. The Bray sisters, who are facing serious economic and food insecurity and poor living conditions represent the economically declining state of rural New England. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and rural spaces were no longer able to support stable economies as people moved to the cities for industrial jobs. The sisters' desperate living condition, and their father's loyalty to financially supporting his church over his daughters' quality of life, is symbolic of the hypocrisy that often runs rampant within Christianity. This hypocrisy of following a religion that preaches support for the poor, while choosing to ignore the poverty of one's own family is certainly present in this story. This religious hypocrisy is perhaps a less major theme, but still a potent part of the storyline.

Additionally, sisterhood, in a literal and political sense, is a strongly represented theme throughout this fictional story. The Bray Sisters, while in difficult circumstances, are still supportive of one another and continue to offer hospitably and kindness to the women who visit them. The visiting women, Mrs. Trimble and Miss Wright, are determined to help the Bray sisters, even though the rest of the town has turned away from them, because the town does not want to face the reality of increasing rural poverty. While the women are of different socioeconomic statuses, they still band together in a strong, independent display of sisterhood to provide aid for the Bray sisters.

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