Regions of Identity: The Construction of America in Women's Fiction, 1885-1914

By Kate McCullough | Go to book overview

1 (Re)Drawing Boundaries
LOOKING BACK AT A BOSTON MARRIAGE IN 'THE COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS'

At its most compelling, American local-color realism thus points toward an imaginative sociology that is at once objective and visionary. The images it yields up compose the fragments of a book of the people, an essential history of their lives' common conditioning. Paradoxically, at this level of realization the particular local circumstances begin to appear incidental. The same stories are told, in more or less detail, on all sides. Indeed, it is in the nature of American life, heterogeneous and disorderly and yet oppressively uniform, that any sector of it, honestly examined, is likely to reveal a logic of occurrence (or nonoccurrence) that holds true for the whole national experience. Yet at different times, different particular sectors seem to lie nearer the center.

-- Warner Berthoff, The Ferment of Realism

Like a web, which consists of strands radiating from a common nucleus, The Country of the Pointed Firs at its largest level begins with, constantly returns to, and ends in the relationship between the narrator and Mrs. Todd.

-- Elizabeth Ammons, Conflicting Stories

As in all of Miss Jewett's writing, the touches are delicate rather than striking, and the tone is subdued and quiet. . . . But the work is very fine and very true. The Country of the Pointed Firs is a story of wholesome, simple, rural life, with the breath of the sea for tonic and the sunshine of summer for warmth.

--Anonymous, The Bookman ( 1897)


Reading Critical Readings of Jewett

To open this study with Sarah Orne Jewett ( 1849- 1909) is both to open with a focus on the region of America most often read as representative of America itself--New England--and to begin with perhaps the

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