The events depicted within the story take place in the course of a summer, which the narrator decides to leisurely spend in the quiet fictional coast-side town of Dunnet Landing, Maine. We know little about this participant reporter of the quotidian events, and it is therefore reasonably safe to assume that, in some aspects, the narrator is a projection of the writer (who herself lived in similar places and was acquainted with similar people). There is as much action in the story as one should expect from a regularly typical 19th century seaside village, and that amounts to little action indeed: The focus is thoroughly kept on the characters, their vicissitudes and dialects. and if we consider that the main character is the community as well as the locality, then it’s a character that the reader only really gets to know after all the branching stories have been exposed, and the narrative is finished.
The main actual events are Mrs. Beggs’ funeral near the beginning and the Bowden Family Reunion, towards the end. otherwise, the rest of the narrative is imbibed, trough the rapport of the characters’ own personal stories, which permeate the daily routine of the nameless narrator. All in all, most moments are relaxing and quiet, there is scarcely any tension: or so it would appear, after a superficial interpretation.
The majority of the characters are female, who were either stranded by their husbands (or fianc, in the case of Joanna Todd), or widowed by time or the sea (or the channels, in Mrs. Todd’s case), and left to handle their own households. Besides being alone, most of them are also advanced in age, hinting for an overall aged population, which quite makes sense once we consider the story is set in a time where industrialization was steadily revolutionizing the fishing business, thus causing places like Dunnet Landing to be abandoned in favor of bigger centers ("Wrecked on the lee shore of age." – 15). Despite the genuine peacefulness that pervades the atmosphere, Dunnet is a place that Death looms over, and this is something that the characters invariably must reckon with. But Death is a natural, ineffable consequence of Life, and the inhabitants of the quiet seaside town fairly realize that, as they lead on their lives of quiet resignation to a high standard of human dignity: Plain and simple, these people find in nature, their innermost comfort and nurturing.
This quiet commitment to a simple, ephemeral life expresses a silent wisdom which is the reason that causes the narrator to admire that place so. The female characters with whom the she seems to be impressed the most are Mrs. Todds and Mrs. Blackett, as well as Mrs. Fosdick. and of course, Dunnet Landing itself. In all