Louise is the protagonist and titular character of "A New England Nun." She lives in a countryside New England village by herself—except for her dog, Caesar, and a pet canary. Over the course of a fifteen-year engagement to Joe Dagget, Louisa has become accustomed to her solitude, and she is fond of it. She takes great pride in her immaculate domestic sphere. She worries about the changes marriage will bring, but she passively accepts her destiny as Joe's wife until she overhears Joe confess his love for another woman. She immediately breaks off the engagement and lives the rest of her life alone.
Joe Dagget is a man from the village where Louisa lives. He and Louisa became engaged fifteen years before the story takes place. During most of that time, he lived in Australia, making his fortune. At the time of the story, Joe has returned home to fix up his homestead, work as a laborer, take care of his elderly mother, and marry Louisa. Despite his love for Lily Dyer, another village girl, Joe is too honorable to call off his engagement with Louisa.
Lily is a young woman from the village who helps take care of Joe Dagget's mother. She is a tall, attractive girl, who is well-respected in the village. Lily and Joe fall in love, but they do not act on their feelings, out of respect for Joe's promise to Louisa. As a result, Lily plans to leave the village, and readers do not find out what happens to her after Louisa breaks off her engagement with Joe.
Cesar is an old yellow-and-white dog who lives alone in a small hut with Louisa and subsists on a diet of corn-cakes. As a puppy, he once bit a neighbor; as a result, Louisa keeps him chained up in her yard. Louisa has a great deal of affection for him because he reminds her of her brother and he is always gentle with her, but she still believes in his lingering ferocity and is very concerned that Joe will release him from his chain when they marry.
Joe's elderly mother lives with him in his homestead in the village. She is frail enough that she requires a caretaker in the form of Lily Dyer. Louisa fears that Joe's mother will be a strict taskmaster once they marry and will not allow her to continue to take so much pleasure in her little domestic tasks.
A New England Nun Questions and Answers
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