A New England Nun Essay

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Pryse offers a feminist reading of "A New England Nun," interpreting Louisa Ellis's rejection of marriage—a conventional, expected role for a woman of her era—as a positive, self-affirming choice to make for herself a way of life that ensures her the greatest personal happiness and freedom.

In his biography of Mary Wilkins Freeman [Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, 1956], Edward Foster writes that "'A New England Nun' . . . has been considered Miss Wilkins' definitive study of the New England spinster." Yet because the spinster has traditionally carried such negative connotations, critics and historians have either phrased their praise of Freeman as apologies for her "local" or "narrow" subject matter, or deemed her depiction of Louisa Ellis in "A New England Nun" as ironic. Jay Martin views her as "an affectionately pathetic but heroic symbol of the rage for passivity." He judges that protagonists like her "have no purpose...

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This section contains 3,303 words
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Buy the A New England Nun Study Guide
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