The Country of the Pointed Firs | Study Guide

Sarah Orne Jewett

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The Country of the Pointed Firs | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Early Summer

The Country of the Pointed Firs is not a plot-driven work. It chronicles the events of a single summer that the narrator spends in the town of Dunnet Landing and its main focus is on the interesting characters the narrator meets.

The novel opens as the narrator describes her return to Dunnet Landing after a short visit a few years prior. She chose this locale for her summer writing retreat having been taken with it on a past excursion. The narrator finds lodging in the home of Mrs. Almira Todd, a provider of herbal remedies for the townsfolk. It is prime herb-gathering season when the narrator arrives at Mrs. Todd's so the narrator is put to work handling Mrs. Todd's customers while she is out gathering wildflowers and plants. This becomes a problem because the narrator is there to write so she books the use of the local schoolhouse that is vacant in the summertime. Such a place provides the narrator with quiet to focus on her writing. One day the narrator is in the schoolhouse when an eccentric elderly man named Captain Littlepage comes to visit. He tells the narrator a story about being shipwrecked and meeting another shipwrecked man who claimed to have seen an island of ghosts.

Mrs. Todd tells the narrator about her mother Mrs. Blackett who lives with her brother William Blackett on Green Island. Mrs. Todd and the narrator go to Green Island to visit and the narrator is quite taken with Mrs. Blackett and even William who is very shy.


A woman named Mrs. Fosdick comes to visit Mrs.Todd, and the two ladies tell the narrator the story of Joanna who is long since deceased. Joanna was a woman so brokenhearted that she decided to live away from society in a cottage belonging to her deceased father on Shell-heap Island. Mrs. Todd explains that Joanna was her husband's cousin and so she and the local minister Rev. Mr. Dimmick went out to visit Joanna while she was living in isolation on the island. Joanna, however, did not really desire any human interaction and was content in her isolation. She rejects the gift of a coral pin Mrs. Todd brought and instead gives it back to Mrs. Todd.

The narrator is so intrigued by the story of Joanna Todd and Shell-heap Island that she gets her friend Jeremy Bowden who captains a small vessel to take her to Shell-heap Island. She explores the island and the home where Joanna once lived.

Late Summer

Mrs. Blackett and Mrs. Todd are members of the Bowden family to which many townspeople also belong. Their annual event is a large family reunion at the family's ancestral home. The narrator, Mrs. Todd, and Mrs. Blackett attend this event and have a wonderful time eating and enjoying the company of the many Bowdens in attendance. Some time after the reunion the narrator meets a man named Elijah Tilley. Elijah Tilley is a fisherman, knitter, and widower who tells the narrator about his loneliness after the death of his wife.

The narrator leaves Mrs.Todd's home at the end of the summer and the two women have a sorrowful parting. Mrs. Todd gives the narrator the coral pin that she once tried to give Joanna as a token of the friendship between the two women.

The Country of the Pointed Firs Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 The narrator arrives in Dunnet Landing.

Rising Action

2 The narrator rents a schoolhouse to work on her writing.

3 Captain Littlepage tells the narrator his story.

4 Mrs.Todd and the narrator visit Mrs. Blackett and William.

5 Mrs. Fosdick visits and Joanna's story is told.

6 The narrator visits Shell-heap Island.


7 The ladies attend the Bowden family reunion.

Falling Action

8 The narrator visits Elijah Tilley.


9 The narrator leaves Dunnet Landing.

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