I would like to direct my post to the topic of what Professor Steele referred to as ‘the natural rhythm of life’ in The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett, and look closer at the narrator’s natural rhythm while at Dunnet Landing. Professor Steele repeatedly described this theme in the novel, and pointed out that in life, everything has a beginning, and must eventually end. This point is most prominent in the final chapter of the book: the outline of Dunnet Landing begins to fade in with the sea, and then finally “Dunnet Landing and all its coasts were lost to sight” (139).
The reason that this topic really resonated and impacted me is because I will be graduating from UW in May, and I have not truly accepted this fact yet. Like the narrator, I arrived in Madison not even knowing where to go for a walk, but now I know that there are many delightful things to be done and done again (paraphrased from page 136). In a few short months (which are sure to fly by), Madison and college will fade away for me, just as Dunnet Landing did for the narrator.
I believe that this book could be interpreted in the same way for many other people; I am struck by how relatable it seems, even though it is old and in a pretty different world from ours. Still, the rhythm is easy to spot and relate to when one considers the main points of the book. At first, the narrator must learn about her surroundings, and begins to know what Mrs. Todd is doing based on the sounds she makes in her garden. Next, she begins to fit in and get to know her neighbors, such as Captain Littlepage or Mrs. Todd’s mother and friends. Then, she truly feels that she belongs when she experiences Joana’s old surroundings, and goes to the reunion: “I came near to feeling like a true Bowden, and parted from certain new friends as if they were old friends; we were rich with the treasure of a new remembrance” (117). Finally, she knows she must go and experiences a sad and solemn goodbye and separation from this place.
Despite this being a New England setting with characters that are over a century old, I know how this narrator feels and can relate to her experiences; it probably helps that she is unnamed, making her seem like anyone else.
This may not be the most insightful reading of the text, as none of it seems especially shocking or hard to deny/argue about, but I do think it is important to draw parallels from it to our own lives, because it shows why this book has so much staying power. Plus, it can be kind of fun and interesting to think about how our lives in college are surprisingly similar to a woman taking a summer stay in a new place.
I think it would be great to comment about what kind of parallels you may have found when reading this text, and would like to know if anyone else agrees with my ‘college’ comparison.
– Amanda E.