Critical commentary on The Country of the Pointed Firs has emphasized the predominantly female world of Dunnet Landing. Male characters such as Captain Littlepage and Elijah Tilley are weak in comparison to the vigorous Almira Todd and cheerful Mrs. Blackett. Recently, Josephine Donovan has argued that "the ultimate transcendence which Jewett presents seems to lie in a kind of women's religion," in which "womanly lore is handed down from mother to daughter in a continuing matrilineal tradition of healing and hospitality ("A Woman's Vision" 367, 377). Pursuing this concept of a women's religion, what Donovan calls "a sort of matriarchal Christianity" ("A Woman's Vision" 367), I would like to demonstrate the function of Esther Hight, a patient and self-sacrificing daughter. In "A Dunnet Shepherdess," a sketch published three years after Pointed Firs, Jewett depicts Esther as a type of female Good Shepherd. In the last Dunnet Landing sketch, "William's Wedding," posthumously published, Esther is portrayed as the second Christ-Mother of Green Island, able to succeed the aging Mrs. Blackett as the community's spiritual mother. Esther's role in this religion of matriarchal Christianity needs to be seen in relation to the distinction Jewett makes, throughout the 1896 text of Pointed Firs, between Mrs. Blackett and her daughter, Mrs. Todd. Although both women are respected by the community, Mrs. Blackett is held in higher regard. The narrator comments, "I had often noticed how warmly Mrs. Todd was greeted by her friends, but it was hardly to be compared to the feeling now shown toward Mrs. Blackett" (147). As Elijah Tilley pronounces, Almiry is "one o' the best of women" because she has had and has "the best o' mothers [emphasis mine]" (204). Mrs. Todd herself recognizes her mother's worth and proudly states that at family reunions "mother's always the queen" (161). Appropriately when people show pleasure at the mere sight of her mother, Almira Todd forgets self-concerns: "Mrs. Todd turned to me with a lovely look of triumph and self-forgetfulness" (160).



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