Course Hero. "The Country of the Pointed Firs Study Guide." Course Hero. 31 Aug. 2020. Web. 25 Sep. 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Country-of-the-Pointed-Firs/>.
Course Hero. (2020, August 31). The Country of the Pointed Firs Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Country-of-the-Pointed-Firs/
(Course Hero, 2020)
Course Hero. "The Country of the Pointed Firs Study Guide." August 31, 2020. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Country-of-the-Pointed-Firs/.
Course Hero, "The Country of the Pointed Firs Study Guide," August 31, 2020, accessed September 25, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Country-of-the-Pointed-Firs/.
The Country of the Pointed Firs examines themes of isolation, death, and the interplay between humans and nature. Set along the beautiful coasts and islands of Maine, the novel brings characters into multiple settings. The narrator and the many people she meets during this summer on Dunnet Landing explore their surroundings and hold multiple conversations about life's great mysteries such as death and loss.
The characters experience various levels and types of isolation. Some of it is self-imposed and some is not. For example, Captain Littlepage is thought to be eccentric and thus has few people around to hear his adventure stories. Mrs. Todd, Mrs. Blackett, and Mr. Tilley have similarly not chosen their isolation since their spouses predeceased them. Joanna chose her isolation after a love affair ended disastrously. She had thoughts "wicked towards God" that she believed required her to live on an island apart from all others.
The narrator provides some respite from the isolation of the many elderly residents of Dunnet Landing. She is a listening ear to Captain Littlepage and Mr. Tilley and a friend and companion to Mrs. Todd and Mrs. Blackett. This companionship unfortunately lasts but a brief time since the narrator is only a visitor who must eventually return to her home.
Most of the characters are elderly and death is a constant reality. Mrs. Begg was an elderly resident of a farm outside the Dunnet area. Her death and funeral causes Captain Littlepage to consider the mystery of what happens after death. Throughout the novel there is also a reflection upon the many people that have predeceased the living: Mrs. Todd's husband Nathan, Joanna, and Mr. Tilley's wife. The characters in Sarah Orne Jewett's (1849–1909) novel are alive but they retain ties to their dead loved ones and think and speak of them often. Their own advanced age might account for part of their frequent references to death since they realize that their own deaths are not far away.
The residents of Dunnet are connected to the natural world for their livelihoods. It is a fishing community and Jeremy Bowden and Mr. Tilley make their living on the water. Mrs. Todd makes her living collecting herbs and making home remedies for her neighbors. Mrs. Blackett and William survive on an island by fishing and farming. These characters are intimately connected with nature and would be unable to sustain themselves without it.
The narrator sees nature in a different way since she is not beholden to it for her livelihood. She sees the innate beauty in the ships' sails on the water and the flowers in the fields. The appeal of Dunnet for her is its aesthetics not its natural resources. This provides a contrast with the way the setting is perceived by Dunnet's permanent residents.
The elderly residents of Dunnet Landing have seen much change. Most have lived through the Civil War (1861–65) which pit Maine and other northern states against an army from the southern United States. They have also seen a shift in Maine's economy from international shipping to local fishing and farming. Many of Jewett's characters resent these changes and see the past as a glorious time where people were smarter, more worldly, and even more interesting. They see young residents of Dunnet as lacking in the good qualities their ancestors possessed, and they are very willing to speak out about this at every opportunity.