English III's work with

Sarah Orne Jewett's

A Country Doctor

Interdisciplinary Connections

Recurring Topics (big picture) Reading Questions Per Chapter
Major Characters American Literary History
American Realism Regionalism and Realism
Female Regional Writers Boston Marriage

Recurring Topics:

Major Characters:


Dr. Leslie: influences: Emerson; Shakespeare's Prospero; fairy tale father figure; Jewett's own father.

Nan Prince:

Mrs. Thacher (Grand)Mother:

Miss (Nancy) Prince of Dunport:

Mrs. Meeker:

Regionalism and Feminism:

Click on the title of the following essay to appreciate how female authors had to navigate the business of writing and publishing with a different perspective.


(Opening of essay) Harriet Beecher Stowe--the "mother of us all," according to Sarah Orne Jewett--was highly influential to a school of New England women writers who practiced in the local color tradition. Stowe is frequently associated with the village tradition, a form which links her (and the women who followed) to a long line of writers both in America and abroad. The village sketch lent itself particularly-- though not exclusively-- to the literary productions of white, middle-class women. The genre's capacity of to foster sympathy and understanding between differently-situated groups of readers is a quality intimately associated with the village tradition as well as with the highly related genre of domestic realism. Jewett affirms this connection in the preface to her first novel, Deephaven.

Reading Questions Per Chapter

Below are assignment guidelines and questions to consider while reading Sarah Orne Jewett's A Country Doctor. Be sure to respond to the question as you encounter the answer. When you finish the whole reading assignment, you can go back and review the whole assignment as well as past assignments. You could also preview upcoming material. Ouch! Two study tips in a row.

Assignment #1: read chapters 3& 4.

Chapter 3 NB: Exposition work here. Reflect on how much we learn about the main characters. That information is more important than the exact names of each minor character.

1) Explain how Jake's and Martin's lives intertwine. (Doubling motif beginning right here!)

2) What are the brothers doing together in this chapter?

3) What do they tell us about Ad'line?

Chapter 4
1) Describe the Doctor.

2) What does Addy request of the Doctor? Why?

3) Explain Mrs. Meeker. Why does she appear?

4) Who's laughing during this death scene? How does Jewett compare city and country attitudes (Regionalism) towards death in this chapter?

5) Explain the character: Miss Prince of Dunport? Make a tree showing how the characters relate to Nan.

Assignment #2: read chapters 5, 6 and 7.

Literary concept for this night's reading: Fairy tale model/pattern for daughters/children. Based on Bruno Bettleheim’s The Uses of Enchantment

Chapter 5
1) The first paragraph overflows with examples of synecdoche. Pick one and explain it.
2) What was the comment about that apple tree?
3) List two significant moments from Nan's visit to Dr. Leslie's house. Explain.

Chapter 6
1) Why does Dr. Leslie prescribe wine and cigars to Captain Finch? What kind of doctor is this guy?
2) What significant information do we learn from Dr. Leslie's and Mrs. Meeker's conversation/interview?
3) What region makes Mrs. Thatcher anxious about Nan's safety and well-being?
4) Describe Nan's imagination. Use an example from the chapter.

Chapter 7
1) In what way does Jewett compare Dr. Leslie to a clergyman? (Ouch: keep this in mind when we read about Gaston Cleric in My Antonia. Also recall the doctors in Huck Finn; they seemed to be two sensible people in some chaotic situations: verifying the King and the Duke’s legitimacy to Peter Wilks’ estate and keeping the thugs off of Jim when Tom was being treated for the gunshot wound. Nothing like a good ol’ country doctor.
2) Describe Dr. Leslie's reflection at the end of the chapter.

Assignment #3: read chapters 8 & 9.

Chapter 8
1) Describe and explain the significance of the conversation between Nan and Mrs. Meeker.

2) Describe Nan's transition from Mrs. Thatcher's house to Dr. Leslie's house.

3) Where are these golden apples now? From where did they come?
4) Describe and explain the significance--in terms of the novel's overall plot (and title)--of the conversation between Nan and Dr. Leslie.

Chapter 9
1) Through conversation with Dr. Ferris, what significant information do we learn about Leslie?

2) Ouch *&%$#@ we have more doubling here with characters. Explain.
3) Outline this important conversation. Concentrate on the important topics that you think will deepen our understanding of certain characters and shed light on some of their future actions.

Assignment #4: read chapters 10 & 11.

Chapter 10
1) The authorial voice reflects on Dr. Leslie's vision. This voice compares the doctor's vision to a figure in a work of art. Describe and explain the significance of this passage.

2) Who sets Dr. Leslie straight about Nan's disastrous fashion flaws? By what method? NB: Fashion becomes a regional element.

3) Describe Mrs. Graham’s reaction to the doctor's idea of helping Nan develop a vocation for a medical career?

4) Where did Nan run off to after having a bad day? Explain the location's significance.

5) Why does Mrs. Graham refer to country doctors as historians?

Chapter 11
1) How did the Sunday visit to Mrs. Graham’s turn out for Nan? Explain. How would you rate Mrs. Graham on our fairy tale goodmother/badmother scale?
2) How do we get the suggestion from Jewett's "voice" that the trip to Boston represents a threshold crossing for Nan? Explain.
3) Explain the uncanny character sighting in this chapter.

Assignment #5: read chapters 12 & 13.

Chapter 12
1) What’s all this business with hats. Why does Jewett take the time here(she did before, too), to delineate so much information and exposition about Nan hats and Marilla and hats?

2) What does Nan think about the state of marriage and home-life? As her mentor, what does Dr. Leslie think about Nan encountering these ideas during her development?

3) When Nan is having her moment, her revelation, her epiphany by the river bank, we sense and read passages hinting and directly stating the presence of Addy. Cite and explain.

4) Oh, by the way, explain in your own words Nan’s revelation at the river bank.

5) When Dr. Leslie returns to Nan after his house call, he claims that his patient and the patient’s family didn’t know how close the illness was to death’s door. How is this comment and his subsequent comments similar to those of an author?

6) Why is Dr. Leslie more patient with Nan’s development of her vocation? (I’m sorry, was that a medical vocation or a subtextual hint about Jewett’s vocation to be a country writer? Did I mention that this book was her first novel?)

Chapter 13
1) What wisdom does Dr. Leslie teach Nan?
2) Why does Dr. Leslie remain a country doctor? Why not go to the city and open a practice?

3) Reread pages 144-147: reflect on this passage and reread (yes, again) the paragraph that begins “If a young man…” What is significant?

Assignment #6: read chapters 14 & 15.

Chapter 14 & 15
Chapter 14
1) Ah Boi! This novel spills over with mentor and protege figures: Dr. Leslie/Nan; Dr. Ferris/the other doctor. Explain Miss Anna Prince's relationship to her protege.

2) Ouch! What was the name of Miss Prince? Do you see a pattern in the names with some doubling characters?
3) Eunice Fraley. After you get up from tripping over the etymology of her name, list some characteristics of her personality.

4) What's the significance of the memory Miss Prince experiences in the upper room of the house?

Chapter 15
1) Describe Nan's emotional state as she approaches her Aunt's house.
2) Explain the Aunt's first impression/reaction to meeting Nan.

3) How is Nan like the Prussian blue on a painter's palette? (local color?)

4) How does the silver cup expose Nan's and Aunt Nancy's ambivalence in this scene?

5) What is your first impression of George?

Assignment #7: read pp. 176-207; in other words, chapters 16, 17 and half of 18.
Chapter 16
1) What does Nan think of George?
2) What does Aunt Nancy think now of Nan?
3) Explain George's and Aunt Nancy's reaction to Nan's career choice.

Chapters 17&18: As the world of life in Dunport turns...
Chapter 17
1) Put Mary Parish on your character web.
2) Captain Parish (who by the way doesn't have a ship to sail on) shows Nan the docks as well as George's office. Do you find any significance in the description of George or his office?
3) Describe Nan's social interactions with the young people of Dunport, especially during the boating part.

4) Briefly outline Nan's and George's adventure at the farm. How does it make George feel? What is the significance of his feelings?

Chapter 18
1) Explain the simile (caged bird) associated with Eunice.

2) Why does Nan not worry about Eunice's warnings?

Assignment #8: read pp. 207-238; in other words, chapters 18, 19 and some pages into 20

Chapter 18 continued
1 ) Who wants to hide in the sugar bowl? Why? How does this
desire relate to/foil with Nan?

2) Paraphrase in your own words Nan's most significant response(s) to Mrs. Fraley's (oh, by the way, we must analyze the names in this family) opinions.

3) Explain the status of Nan's and George's relationship at the chapter's close.

Chapter 19 & 20 Life in Dunport Closes
Chapter 19
1) Explain Jewett's simile concerning George. Is there any connection/association to the ship in the Dunport harbor?
2) When did George first find Nan attractive? Does this scene echo another from the novel?
3) What does George think about Nan's career choice? Why do you think he posses such a reaction?
4) Jewett's "voice" informs us that Nan won the battle with Mrs. Fraley. With respect to George, however, there seems to be a new battle. Explain. Does this battle add depth to the novel and its characters? Add a realistic dimension?

Assignment #9: read pp. 238-261; in other words, finish chapter 20 and all of the last chapter, 21.
Chapter 20 continued
1) What does Captain Parish say to Nan in the Garden? Ouch@*&^%$...gardens are typically seduction settings...what's going on here?

Chapter 20 & 21
2) On page 239 in the "Dear Aunt Nancy" paragraph, find a theme or idea and respond. No wrong answers here. Just explain your thoughts clearly. Curious to find out your reactions.
3) In your own words, describe Nan's "dis" to George. Explain, also, George's response and reaction.

Chapter 21 Goodbye Nan... but forever?
1) We have discussed in class how this novel can be considered to be vocational guide to young people--young women especially--as they confront not only the discovery of their calling but also its reception in their world. Nan has had some obstacles to her choice to become a country writer&%$£, I mean country doctor. With these ideas in mind, reread the scene about Dr. Leslie’s visit to the sick little girl. What is a larger interpretation/reading of this scene?

2) Describe the changes that have occurred in Oldfields.
3) River bank. Need I even write a question here? React!


Boston Marriage

Women Living Together in the 19th Century
An article by your Women's History Guide, Jone Johnson Lewis
With the advent of the David Mamet production, "Boston Marriage," a term once obscure surfaced again to the public consciousness.
In the 19th century, this term was used for households where two women lived together, independent of any male support. Whether these were lesbian relationships -- in the sexual sense -- is debatable and debated. The likelihood is that some were, some weren't. Today, the term "Boston marriage" is sometimes used for lesbian relationships -- two women living together -- which are not sexual.
Sexual and gender identity, as many feminist theorists have documented, is in large part constructed -- that is, the details of what are called "male" and "female" behaviors depend significantly on social definitions, experience and training.
The term "Boston marriage" came to be used, apparently, after Henry James' book, The Bostonians, detailed a marriage-like relationship between two women -- "New Women" in the language of the time, women who were independent, not married, self-supporting (which sometimes meant living off of inherited wealth or making a living as writers or other professional, educated careers).
Perhaps the best-known example of a "Boston marriage," and one which may have been a model for James' characters, is the relationship between the writer Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Adams Fields.
Several recent books have discussed possible or actual "Boston marriage" relationships. This new frankness is one result of the greater acceptance today of gay and lesbian relationships in general. A new biography of Jane Addams by Gioia Diliberto (see below) examines her marriage-like relationships with two women at two different periods of her life. Radical Politics, Radical Love: The Life of Dr. Marie Equi mentions Dr. Equi's relationship with Bess Holcomb and the legal ramifications of its "outing." Less known is the long live-in relationship of Frances Willard with her companion.