The Universal Particular

by Timothy Lusch

A Unique Commonality

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) is mostly remembered for her short stories. This novella is a series of connected tales along the lines of Sherwood Anderson’s later Winesburg, Ohio. In it, Jewett recounts the people and places of Maine’s coast. Considered a writer of literary regionalism, Jewett transcends any geographic categorizations with her subtle depictions of humanity in a beautiful and at times forbidding place. She featured stories of women but the universal appeal of her work is not limited by gender just as it is not limited by geography. Jewett, in the nineteenth-century tradition of Hawthorne, gives us a wider view of humanity precisely because it is deeper.

“In the life of each of us, I said to myself, there is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness; we are each the uncompanioned hermit and recluse of an hour or a day; we understand our fellows of the cell to whatever age of history they may belong.”