Background & Local Color


Local Color

 Local color writing, which became popular just after the Civil War, focused on the characters and features specific to an area by incorporating the customs, dialects, and other features that made the area unique. The traditional form of local color writing was the character sketch or short story. Some critics have described the weakness of local color writing as a tendency toward nostalgia or sentimentality.


  • “Regional writing, another expression of the realistic impulse, resulted from the desire both to preserve distinctive ways of life before industrialization dispersed or homogenized them and to come to terms with the harsh realities that seemed to replace these early and allegedly happier times.” Norton Anthology, Vol. C, pg. 12. local color and regionalism


Mary Wilkins Freeman’s writing, primarily short stories and some novels, are local color examples of the New England area in which she was born. Her writings incorporate the New England dialects and traits, elements of the area’s Puritan roots, and descriptions of life in rural and sometimes impoverished New England. At the time that Freeman was writing, many farmers had begun to migrate west, particularly with the spread of railroads and the Erie Canal, and the rural New England population dropped tremendously. Farms and factories were abandoned and left vacant. Freeman’s protagonists are primarily young women of marriageable age or elderly women of families who stayed behind in this New England post-Civil War environment.



Themes /Common Sources of Conflict in Freeman


Social Custom/Dictates


Common Themes of Freeman


Rebellion of the long-suffering
Domestic space
Women and the arts
Female psyche


Compiled from:

Reichardt, Mary R. A Mary Wilkins Freeman Reader. Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1997.

Westbrook, Perry D. Mary Wilkins Freeman. New Haven: Twayne Publishers, 1967.


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