Abstract

In 1889, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman published a short story called “An Idyl of a Berry Pasture” in Once a Week, an early imprint of Collier's Weekly. Since that time, the story has been lost. Rediscovered, the tale depicts a meeting between the impoverished Viola Bell and the upstanding Elisha Burney and Viola's unsuccessful attempt to win his heart. Besides realistic dialect, careful descriptions of nature and village life, and pointed observations about the domestic lives and attitudes of New England men and women, Freeman revisits themes of poverty and class distinctions, and the polarities of freedom and safety, masculinity and femininity, authenticity and conformity, and individual and community. Published at a time when Freeman had established herself as a writer of the New England soil, and containing hallmarks of her best work, “An Idyl of a Berry Pasture” deserves placement among Freeman's strong and evocative New England stories.

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