A New England Nun And Other stories
Mary E. Wilkins
"A New England Nun And Other stories," is a collection of short stories about nostalgic New England small town & village life, showcasing Wilkin's basic beliefs.
The "Nun" of the title story is Louisa Ellis, a woman who has lived alone for many years. She is considered eccentric; keeps her house meticulously clean, wears multiple aprons, & eats from her nicest china every day. Her old dog, Caesar, she keeps chained because he bit a neighbor 8 years ago as a puppy. Louisa promised Joe Dagget, 14 years ago that she would marry him when he returned from Australia. He has returned & it is time for her to fulfill her promise.
One night, as Louisa is enjoying a stroll, she overhears a conversation between Joe Dagget & Lily. Louisa learns that Joe & Lily have been seeing each other in the short time that Joe has been back, & that Joe is in love with Lily, but refuses to break his promise to Louisa.
The next day, Louisa releases Joe from his promise without letting him know that she is aware of Lily. Louisa is thankfully left alone to maintain her lifestyle.
The last line of the story is: "Louisa sat, prayerfully numbering her days, like an un-cloistered nun."
Mary Wilkins Freeman (1852-1930), produced two dozen volumes of short stories & novels. Her stories deal with small town New England life & are among the best of their kind.
Her work has enjoyed renewed interest. Critics feel her women characters, when confronted by unreasonable & dominating male demands, muster latent, unexpected strengths, revealing an impressive spirit of independence. These are women who, stranded in economically floundering towns, have divined for themselves a life that is not dependent upon marriage, maternity, mothering, or taking on the role of housewife or home-keeper in a patriarchal family. Her major themes reflect the issues that were her life: the inner sanctum of women, Puritanism, religion & the effects it has on the psyche, poverty & degradation, marriage, and the supernatural mysticism found within the history & natural beauty of her New England home.
In April 1926, She became the first recipient of the William Dean Howells Medal for Distinction in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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