The Country of the Pointed Firs | Study Guide

Sarah Orne Jewett

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The Country of the Pointed Firs | Character Analysis


Mrs. Todd

Mrs. Almira or "Almiry" Todd is a fixture in the small town of Dunnet Landing. She makes natural remedies from plants that she gathers throughout the Maine countryside and provides them to members of the community. She is a widow who lost her husband Nathan at sea some years ago. She reveals to the narrator, however, that Nathan was not her true love and that another man she knew in her youth holds this title. That relationship did not work out because he was from a wealthy family and she was not. Like her mother Mrs. Blackett, Mrs. Todd is admired by all and has many friends in and around Dunnet. She is extremely welcoming to the narrator and invites her on many excursions. The two develop a close friendship that causes them to feel very sad when the summer ends and they must part.

The narrator

Sarah Orne Jewett gives few details about the narrator's background or personal life. Her ability to spend a summer away suggests that she has no family but her age is never revealed. She befriends elderly people quite easily so she may herself be elderly, though there is no specific evidence of this. In using a first-person narrator who is only a visitor to Dunnet, Jewett is able to provide a unique, outside perspective on its residents. The narrator is introspective and thinks often of the deeper things she encounters such as death, isolation, and heartbreak yet she doesn't judge those she encounters. She is portrayed as herself a kind and forgiving woman which makes her in good company with Mrs. Todd and Mrs. Blackett.

Mrs. Blackett

Mrs. Blackett is void of all flaws. She is kind and compassionate with her son William who is shy and dislikes interacting with people. She is an amazing hostess even in her island home that is somewhat removed from the resources of the mainland. Everyone who meets Mrs. Blackett takes an instant liking to her and she is warmly received by everyone she encounters. She is 86 years old but still active and attends the annual Bowden family reunion which requires a boat ride followed by a lengthy carriage ride.

William Blackett

William Blackett is a somewhat eccentric man who chose to remain on an isolated island with his elderly mother instead of moving away and starting a family. He has a good relationship with his mother Mrs. Blackett and the two spend all of their time together. William's sister Mrs. Todd dearly loves her brother but she wishes he could or would participate in more social activities. It is unclear as to whether William has some sort of psychological or developmental disorder and Jewett only reveals that he is extremely shy. This extreme desire to avoid social interactions has existed even from his youth since Mrs. Todd reveals that he refused to come inside the house during her wedding because of the large number of people. William is, however, able to interact with the narrator and even shows her around the island during her visit.

Joanna Todd

Joanna Todd is one of Jewett's characters who chose to live a life contrary to what was expected of her. She once loved a man very deeply who broke her heart. This led her to lose all faith in God and all hope for the future. She chose to isolate herself on Shell-heap Island for the remainder of her life after this tragic event. The narrator is fascinated by the story of Joanna and visits the island on which she lived after hearing her story from Mrs. Todd and Mrs. Fosdick.

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