The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896)
In her tour de force, Sarah Orne Jewett transcends the question of a woman’s role, creating a refined and nuanced work about friendship and community, one of which women are the strength and the center, and—wholly independent of men—are steeped in purpose.
The unnamed narrator, a writer and descendent of Jewett’s earlier freedom-seeking heroines, already enjoys a liberated career life. Coming to the small village determined to write and so shutting out distractions, she at first resists the pull of friendship with Mrs. Almira Todd, healer and keeper of oral tradition. Eventually, though, the narrator is drawn into the kind of “transfiguring” closeness about which Jewett wrote to her own friend, Sally Norton, and an epiphanal experience of community.
Almira Todd is one of, if not the strongest of Jewett’s sage women. Rooted in the natural and mythical worlds, she is the torchbearer of female bonding, with an eye to the practical. Embarking on a trip to see her mother, she tells the narrator, “We don’t want to carry no men folks havin’ to be considered every minute an’ takin’ up all our time. No, you let me do; we’ll just slip out an’ see mother by ourselves.” – Sarah Orne Jewett (VIII. “Green Island,” “The Country of the Pointed Firs”, 1896)