A New England Nun

A New England Nun Study Guide

"A New England Nun" is a short story published in 1891 by American author Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman. The short story was published in one of Freeman's most acclaimed books, A New England Nun and Other Stories. The story is set in a rural New England town, situating it firmly in the local color genre.

For much of the twentieth century, scholarly interpretation of the text focused on aspects relating to that genre: the particularities of the New England characters, the influence of the Puritan ethic, and the lush, wooded landscape of New England in summer. In recent years, however, literary scholars such as Leah Blatt Glasser and Martha J. Cutter have begun to examine Freeman's work—and, in particular, this text—through psychoanalytical and feminist lenses. Some of these readings have construed the lesson of the text as a negative one, positioning Louisa as an obsessive and sexually repressed protagonist. Others have analyzed Louisa's refusal of marriage as a repudiation of societal expectations. Either way, "A New England Nun" is a seminal example of Freeman's local colorist style and the women-focused themes she explores in all of her body of work.