Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poets: Analysis of SARAH ORNE JEWETT

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Analysis:             Poet's Biography

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849–1909) was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet, best known for her local color works set in or around South Berwick, Maine, her native town that she fictionalized as "Deephaven." Although she is not primarily known for her poetry, Jewett’s contributions to American literature are significant, particularly for her vivid portrayals of the landscapes and characters of rural New England.

Literary Background

Born into an affluent family, Jewett was encouraged in her literary pursuits by her father, a country doctor, who also provided her with a broad education. This background, combined with her keen observations of rural life in New England, deeply informed her writing.

Early Influences

Jewett's earliest literary influence was her father, who took her along on his patient visits, exposing her to the stories and speech patterns of people from various walks of life. These experiences influenced the richly detailed and empathetic characterizations in her writing. She was also influenced by the works of Harriet Beecher Stowe and was mentored by the editor and critic William Dean Howells, a proponent of realism in American literature.

Poetic Schools or Movements

While Jewett's poetry does not belong to a specific school or movement, her writing is often associated with the local color tradition in American literature, which flourished after the Civil War. This movement emphasized the particularities of regional speech, customs, and landscapes, aiming to preserve the distinctive qualities of regional life against the homogenizing forces of urbanization and industrialization.

Poetic Oeuvre

Jewett’s poetry is relatively less known than her prose, and her verses often reflect the same themes found in her novels and short stories. Although the volume of her poetry is limited, her poems share the contemplative nature and attention to nature and place found in her prose. These works are characterized by a simplicity of expression and a deep sense of connection to the landscapes of Maine.

Themes in Jewett’s poetry and prose include:

*Regionalism and Place: Jewett’s work often reflects her deep love and understanding of the Maine countryside and its inhabitants.

*Nature: Many of her writings, including her poems, show a strong sense of natural beauty and a detailed observation of the environment.

*Community and Isolation: Her characters frequently navigate the tension between community ties and individual isolation, a theme that emerges in the sparse and often solitary settings of rural New England.

*Gender Roles and Limitations: Jewett frequently addressed the roles of women in her society, examining their independence and the constraints placed upon them.


Jewett's influence lies primarily in her contribution to local color literature and her depiction of New England life. Her best-known work, "The Country of the Pointed Firs" (1896), is often cited for its craftsmanship and its portrayal of a vanishing way of life. Her work has been influential in studies of regionalism, feminist literature, and environmental writing.


During her lifetime, Jewett was respected as a writer and was part of the literary elite of her day. While she did not receive significant honors specifically for her poetry, her overall literary achievements have been recognized posthumously with the Sarah Orne Jewett House being designated as a National Historic Landmark.


Sarah Orne Jewett’s contribution to American literature is substantial, especially within the local color tradition. While her poetry might not stand out as her primary achievement, it complements her prose in its evocative depiction of New England’s landscapes and characters. Her work captures the spirit of a particular time and place, offering insight into the complexities and nuances of rural American life in the late 19th century. As a woman writing about the lives of women and the intricacies of local cultures, Jewett made a quiet yet profound impact on the literary landscape, one that continues to be appreciated by readers and scholars alike.

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