Simple Aesthetics in Jewett

Sometimes when the world starts to spin out of control, axis-shifting polarity, and the birds flock north; truth melds into a fictional sphere, a gelatinous mess of absurdities and stream of conscious informational overload, the only thing that seems to remain constant is beauty. It seems simple: consciously viewing the qualities of a person, place, or thing that exalts the mind or spirit. Everyone can distinguish between something beautiful
and something that isn’t, it just is or it isn’t.

But the question of defining beauty, true beauty, snakes like a lifeline through the veins of history, pumping through Plato’s ventricles, “what if man could see Beauty Itself, pure, unalloyed, stripped of mortality, and all its pollutions, stains, and vanities, unchanging, divine” (The Symposium), and Nietzsche, “The slow arrow of beauty. The most noble kind of beauty is that which does not carry us away suddenly…but rather the kinds of beauty which infiltrates slowly, which we carry along with us almost unnoticed, and meet up with again in dreams” (All Too Human, Section 149). These philosophers create paradigms that call into question our preconception of what truly is beauty.

What Jewett has created in The Country of the Pointed Firs is a vessel for mental aesthetics, creating
a vibrant aura of beauty that wraps Dunnet Landing in its essence. In a “queer little garden” full of “blooming things, two or three gay hollyhocks and some London-Pride” (1) we construct the scenery in our minds eye, splashing the canvas with floral hues doused in fragrances of “sweet-brier and sweet-mary…balm and sage and borage and mint, wormwood and southernwood” (1). The diction tweaks our senses and invokes a reality separate from our own. A space that does not exist physically in front of us but one that we come to understand is  beautiful, simply because the words exist. Jewett’s literary framework autonomously guides the paintbrush within oneself, inviting you to see the world through the narrator’s eyes, hypersensitive and saturating the senses
through the thinly pressed pages.

Sometimes discussing themes and trying to unearth the undercurrents of meaning flowing throughout the novel can muddle the aesthetic simplicity of Jewett’s writing. Sometimes we have to take a step back and just appreciate
an artist at her peak, creating beauty in the minds of anyone that delves into the environment of Dunnet’s Landing. Sometimes it’s the words themselves that exalt the mind, elevate our consciousness into the Jewett’s fictional sphere. Letting the splendor of her words infiltrate slowly into the landscape of our reality and strip away the morality of being, carrying us into the lucidity of our dreams.

– Mickey G.


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