A Midwife’s Tale

by: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Henry Sewell

Though Martha and Sewell meet only rarely during their lifetimes, Sewell’s diary is a perfect foil for Martha’s. While Martha builds her life on the strength of the people she is connected to and on the worth of her daily accomplishments, Sewell’s highest priority is clearly the philosophies and ideals he most supports. The funeral of a dead president, merely a local event for Martha, becomes for Sewell an opportunity to ruminate on the ideals of the new republic and how Washington had served as a symbol for those ideals. Sewell has a long and bitter feud going with Isaac Foster and contributes wholeheartedly to driving the family out of town, but in none of his entries on Foster does Sewell have anything bad to say about the man as a person. The entirety of Sewell’s very strong dislike is a disagreement with Foster’s religious beliefs. Ideas are Sewell’s focus even when writing about the Purrinton murders. His entry about the funeral focuses less on the tragedy than on the fact that the preacher is a Methodist. For Sewell, people matter far less than what they believe in.


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