Works of literature are able to influence all forms of society, and the authors of said literature are the forces behind it. Sarah Orne Jewett is a notable author from the nineteenth century and wrote many short stories and novels. Most of these works directly reflect Jewett’s early life in the New England countryside, and the characters take on Jewett’s childhood characteristics. Sarah Orne Jewett is an important author because she displays the many aspects of early country life to the reader. Sarah Orne Jewett was born in 1849 in rural Maine.
This date is very important because she was in her late teen years during the Civil War. Being from Maine, Jewett was not affected a great deal by the war, but the economic hardships the union faced during the war affected her and her family. Jewett’s environment growing up was a monumental factor in her writing of novels and short stories such as “The Country of the Pointed Firs” and “A White Heron”. Her writing often contains settings in rural environments and this is accentuated in her short story “A White Heron”.
This short story emulates Jewett’s early childhood quite accurately, as the story portrays a young girl growing up in a poor country area near the coast. The main character, Sylvia, depicts Jewett herself and her love for nature. Not only is she able to describe the countryside effectively, Jewett can make any of her characters with seemingly normal lives become interesting. Shackford stated that “All of her stories are loosely woven narratives, picturing homely lives, yet she has so faithfully portrayed their strength, their tenderness, their response to primal duties, that she has lifted their existence to a high level of meaning.
Her sea-captains, her fishermen, her housewives are like the persons in Sophoclean drama, deeply, ironically, aware of Fate. Their lives and their speech are shadowed by a consciousness of eternal truths. Only an artist, sensitive and meditative, endowed with the poet’s vision, could have been content to suggest so quietly the meagre externals and the brooding inner life of these uninstructed, prim itively real people” (Shackford). The poor economy is reflected in the story when the ten dollars the hunter offers is said to be able to change Sylvia’s family’s life.
Jewett’s early childhood environment heavily influenced her writing. Sarah Orne Jewett was one of the most prominent authors in the American Regionalism and Local Color Fiction movements of the nineteenth century. Local color or regional literature is fiction and poetry that focuses on the characters, dialect, customs, topography, and other features particular to a specific region (Campbell). “Her tales are disconcerting, tiresome to those whose logical powers are developed at the expense of their imagination and their love of romantic waywardness.
The very lack of conspicuous ‘efficiency’ of method is one of her greatest charms, in this hour when the over-macadamized short story sends the reader smoothly, swiftly, monotonously along, without a bump or a sight of grass-grown irregularity. Doubtless Miss Jewett’s work might have been improved by more technique, but she had something better than formal skill, wisdom, matured understanding of life, individual insight” (Shackford). Sarah Orne Jewett was one of the most important writers of Local Color fiction.
Her vivid descriptions of the New England countryside make her literature some of the most important pieces of New England writing of the time. “The wisdom won from slow pondering of life is found on the lips of her men and women. And these persons speak the very thoughts and the very language of their region; thoughts expressed in a shrewd, picturesque, colloquial fashion, in a dialect directly true to life, not a romantic make-believe. But the best part, perhaps, of her delineation of these people is in her record of their silences.
Miss Jewett has interpreted the impulse to reticence, has accounted for the temperament of these watchful, guarded folk who imitate the granite impenetrability of their natural surroundings. Also she has shown the extraordinary sense of justice to be noted in this district. So bound up with nature are these people that they feel accountable for nature’s doings; they must help atone for nature’s ravages and aberrations” (Shackford). What Shackford meant by this was that the story is told directly from the characters, using period specific dialect and ideology.
This provides the reader with a better understanding of the concept or idea that Jewett is trying to convey. Jewett did not have many influencers, however local writer Annie Adams Fields was influential to her. Fields became close with Jewett due to their close proximity and being able to relate due to their similar environment. Jewett is one of the most descriptive writers of American literature. Martha Hale Shackford stated in an article on Jewett that “As a describer of the shore life of the state of Maine she is without an equal.
The clear austerity of the air of northern New England is everywhere in these tales set among rocky shores and gray islands. The stimulating tang of salt breezes and the cool breath from the illimitable east meet here; for those who know it she pictures the visionary beauty of the northland’s clarity of light, its mysterious distances touched with receding shades of blue and dim green glimmering and fading into crystalline colorlessness” (Shackford). In “A White Heron”, Jewett is able to place the reader into the position of a poor young girl living in the countryside.
She is able to give the reader the perspective of the world as seen through a child’s eyes. This perspective is arduous to replicate without having the experience of being a child in the countryside and experiencing the world as a young girl. Jewett’s rural childhood setting is apparent in multiple works including “The Country of the Pointed Firs”. The peculiar thing about this work is that it is said to “Have no plot” and the beauty of this work is Jewett’s ability to illustrate an image in the reader’s mind (Carolina).
It is said that Sarah Orne Jewett’s stories are “always stories of character. Plots hardly exist in her work; she had little interest in creating suspense or in weaving together threads of varied interests” and that her stories are based on illustrating an image to the reader rather than using a plot to keep the readers intrigued (Shackford 23). It is clearly assured that Sarah Orne Jewett is one of the most important authors of her time and literary movement.
Her fictional works of the New England countryside are immaculately illustrated in the minds of the readers. The perspectives the readers are instilled in are perspectives experienced by few. Jewett’s writing provides depth to her characters by humanizing them. Using a juvenile narrator provides a unique perspective on adult society. Being able to understand the world from Jewett’s childhood surroundings are the most important influences on her writing and it has a profound effect on the reader.