A study of human connections through terministic screens and narrative strategies in selected works of Sarah Orne Jewett
Nineteenth-century American author Sarah Orne Jewett provides a voice for undervalued cultures and illustrates the significance of these cultures in her narratives. This study examines human connections in Jewett’s masterpiece, The Country of the Pointed Firs, and six short stories. A Dunnet Landing story, “The Foreigner,” three Irish stories, “The Gray Mills at Farley,” “Bold Words at the Bridge,” “A Little Captive Maid,” and two stories that have a setting outside of Maine, “Tame Indians,” and “Jim’s Little Woman.” Twentieth-century rhetorician Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical theories of terministic screens and identification are applied to the selected works by Jewett to examine Burke’s rhetorical theory of terministic screens. Burke asserts that terministic screens are a type of lens made up of terms that select, reflect, and deflect one’s reality. Consequently, one’s language is a representation of how one interprets the world. Additionally, this study analyzes the narrative structure in Jewett works through James Phelan’s narrative as rhetoric in which he asserts that “texts are designed by authors to affect readers in particular ways conveyed through occasions, words, techniques, and structure forms” (Phelan, Narrative Theory 5); and Wayne Booth’s communication concept of telling and showing. Jewett utilizes various strategies in her narratives to illustrate human connections, which include episodic narrative structures, embedded tales, long quotations, dialect, folkloric elements, and a sense of place. The first chapter of this study includes an introduction to Jewett and the selected works; it further introduces Burke’s term terministic screens. Chapter two of this study examines the function of folkloric elements in the selected works by Jewett. Chapters three through five examine human connections, terministic screens, identification and division, and narrative strategies utilized by Jewett in the selected works. The study concludes with an examination of the vital role of terministic screens and how these screens are significant in understanding Jewett’s folk communities. Jewett was aware of her audience, and she possessed the skill of acquainting readers with the undervalued cultures of the nineteenth century.