A New England Nun


Louisa Ellis

Louisa Ellis, the protagonist, lives in a quiet home in the New England countryside. Louisa is known for her cool sense and sweet, even temperament. Her world is her home, and everything from her aprons to her china has a use and purpose in her every day rhythm. She is engaged to Joe Dagget for fourteen years while he is off to Australia to make his fortune. However, after listening to Joe and Lily discuss their affection, she resolves to “keep her inheritance” and disengage herself from her long-standing engagement. In the end, she is content to spend her life as a spinster.

Joe Dagget

Joe Dagget is the fiancé of Louisa and beau to Lily Dyer. He is a man of great wealth for he traveled fourteen years to Australia for his fortune. He currently works his large farm to care for his mother and himself. Joe is described to walk around with “heavy step” and carries dust wherever he goes. After returning from Australia, he meets Lily and in the short months before his marriage to the protagonist, falls in love with her. After being released from his engagement, there is no real textual evidence that he and Lily marry, but his admiration for Louisa never changes.

Lily Dyer

Lily Dyer is the darling of Joe Dagget and his mother’s caretaker. Louisa describes her as "tall and full-figured, with a firm, fair face, her strong, yellow hair braided in a close knot". Her reputation among the village was praiseworthy. Her honor would not allow Joe to leave Louisa: "I've got good sense an' I ain't going to break my heart nor make a fool of myself; but I'm never going to be married, you can be sure of that. I ain't that sort of a girl to feel this way twice." While there is not a solid ending saying whether or not Joe and Lily wed, there is enough evidence to suggest they do. She is the better match for Joe with her sensibility and courage.[1]


Caesar is Louisa’s “veritable hermit of a dog.” For most of his life he resided in the small hut, which Louisa’s dead brother built for him, eating only corn-mush and cakes for food. The dog is not crucial to the plot, but brings insight into the internal affairs of the Ellis home. Just like the dog, Louisa has not permanently left the home in over 14 years, as he is chained up after biting a neighbor. Caesar is a foreshadowing for Louisa in his example of what will come of her if she should not marry. For example, there is no fear or sadness with the dog, but a simple acceptance of life as it passes before the front gate. The dog is also a warning for Joe, for the only reason he is allowed outside the limits of the land is to walk with his mistress as she leads him by a heavy chain.[2]

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