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The Shoulders of Atlas A Novel   By: (1852-1930)

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Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman’s novel, The Shoulders of Atlas, delves into the depths of human emotions and societal expectations in a way that is both captivating and thought-provoking. Set in a small New England town during the late nineteenth century, the story follows the life of protagonist Annixter Stacy, a young woman grappling with the burdensome weight of her family’s obligations and the desire to live a life true to herself.

One of the most notable aspects of this novel is Freeman’s exquisite writing style. Her descriptive prose transports readers to the heart of New England, immersing them in the quaintness and simplicity of small-town life. Freeman’s attention to detail is impeccable, allowing the reader to visualize the characters, their surroundings, and even the smallest of gestures with vivid clarity. Through her eloquent writing, she masterfully captures the essence of the time period, effortlessly painting a picture of a society shackled by tradition and expectations.

In the character of Annixter Stacy, Freeman presents a protagonist who defies the conventions of the era. Annixter is a complicated and multi-dimensional character, torn between her duty towards her family and her desire for personal fulfillment. Her internal struggles are palpable, and the reader cannot help but empathize with her predicament. As she navigates the various challenges and obstacles in her path, Annixter’s strength and resilience shine through, making her a truly commendable and relatable character.

Another compelling aspect of The Shoulders of Atlas is its exploration of societal norms and the constraints imposed on women during the late nineteenth century. Freeman delves into the expectations placed upon women, their limited choices, and the often suffocating nature of societal conventions. Through Annixter’s journey, she sheds light on the subtle yet impactful ways in which societal norms shape individual lives, forcing readers to question the roles and limitations placed on women in their own lives.

While the novel beautifully captures various themes and issues relevant to its time period, it may fall short in terms of plot progression. At times, the narrative seems to meander, losing its focus and stretching its storyline thin. Some readers may find themselves wishing for a more tightly woven plot, with a stronger sense of forward momentum. However, this flaw does not diminish the overall impact and value of the novel; rather, it serves as a reminder that life is often filled with unexpected detours and unanticipated turns.

Overall, The Shoulders of Atlas is a poignant and thought-provoking novel that delves deep into the human experience. Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman’s masterful storytelling, coupled with her beautiful prose, transports readers to a different time and place. Through Annixter’s journey, the novel explores themes of societal expectations, personal fulfillment, and the quest for self-discovery. As readers accompany Annixter on her journey, they will find themselves pondering their own choices, questioning societal norms, and ultimately grappling with the weight of their own metaphorical atlas.

First Page:

The Shoulders of Atlas

A Novel

By Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Author of "By the Light of the Soul" "The Debtor" "Jerome" "A New England Nun" etc.

New York and London Harper & Brothers Publishers MCMVIII

Copyright, 1908, by the New York Herald Co. All rights reserved. Published June, 1908.

Chapter I

Henry Whitman was walking home from the shop in the April afternoon. The spring was very early that year. The meadows were quite green, and in the damp hollows the green assumed a violet tinge sometimes from violets themselves, sometimes from the shadows. The trees already showed shadows as of a multitude of bird wings; the peach trees stood aloof in rosy nimbuses, and the cherry trees were faintly a flutter with white through an intense gloss of gold green.

Henry realized all the glory of it, but it filled him with a renewal of the sad and bitter resentment, which was his usual mood, instead of joy. He was past middle age. He worked in a shoe shop. He had worked in a shoe shop since he was a young man. There was nothing else in store for him until he was turned out because of old age. Then the future looked like a lurid sunset of misery. He earned reasonably good wages for a man of his years, but prices were so high that he was not able to save a cent. There had been unusual expenses during the past ten years, too... Continue reading book >>

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