Life Alone in Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's A New England Nun

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Life Alone in Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's A New England Nun

It is hard to imagine a life in American society without first picturing marriage in a church, white picket fences, and babies. Life alone for those who turn from marriage and children can be seen as a promise of loneliness. Yet choosing not to get married or to have children does not mean unhappiness. In the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh: “There is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before” (qtd. in Family Circle 184 ). One may suppose that she too read “A New England Nun” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. In this short story, Freeman makes a statement that transcends the eleven pages, and that statement suggests life alone and uninterrupted with no children or a marriage can be as wonderful and rich as a life with another.

To establish a context for isolation, Freeman first introduces the reader to the character of Louisa Ellis at peace in her neat home. A woman of immaculate nature, Louisa values neatness as well as patience and calmness. An excellent representation of her character is her house which Freeman describes in these lines:

The little square table stood exactly in the centre of the kitchen, and was covered

with a starched linen cloth whose border pattern of flowers glistened. Louisa had

a damask napkin on her tea-tray, where were arranged a cut-glass tumbler full of

teaspoons, a silver cream–pitcher, a china sugar-bowl, and one pink china cup and saucer. (63)

Louisa’s organization in the house shows that she is as organized on the inside as well. That is to say, her emotions and thoughts are compartmentalized. As a ...

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... those people. Though there is no one present in her community to look down upon her for her choice, she has still made a risky move by letting Joe Dagget go. She was ready for marriage and had even waited fourteen years for it only to find that matrimony was not something that would make her any happier or feel more fulfilled in her life. Louisa already feels fulfilled by the life she leads, a life in which she is not only in control but can experience everything life has to offer from the sunrises to the sunsets without sharing them with another. A woman who stands alone is never alone for she has life’s gifts and beauty to keep her company.

Works Cited

Family Circle. 8 Nov. 2005. 184.

Freeman, Wilkins Mary E. “A New England Nun. Great Short Stories by American

Women . Ed.Candace Ward. New York: Dover Publications 1996. 62 – 72.

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