A New England Nun

by

Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

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Lily Dyer Character Analysis

Lily Dyer is Joe Dagget’s mother’s caretaker. Lily is strong and proud, and well-liked around town. She and Joe have fallen for each other since Joe has returned from Australia, although neither is willing to break up Joe and Louisa’s engagement. A week before the wedding is meant to take place, she and Joe meet at night along the same path where Louisa is taking a walk. Without knowing that Louisa can hear them speaking, Lily informs Joe that she is leaving town, that she won’t “fret” after a married man, and that even if Joe were to leave Louisa for her, she wouldn’t accept it. She says all this firmly, however she softens a little when she admits that she’ll never marry, because she’ll never feel about another man the way she feels about Joe. Lit in the moonlight, Louisa thinks Lily looks almost like a princess. The two women never disrespect each other over the issue of Joe’s affection. Though the story does not follow Lily’s fate, a reader can presume that she and Joe are free to marry after Louisa breaks off her engagement.

Lily Dyer Quotes in A New England Nun

The A New England Nun quotes below are all either spoken by Lily Dyer or refer to Lily Dyer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender Roles for Women  Theme Icon
).
A New England Nun Quotes

He came twice a week to see Louisa Ellis, and every time, sitting there in her delicately sweet room, he felt as if surrounded by a hedge of lace. He was afraid to stir lest he should put a clumsy foot or hand through the fairy web, and he had always the consciousness that Louisa was watching fearfully lest he should.

Still the lace and Louisa commanded perforce his perfect respect and patience and loyalty. They were to be married in a month, after a singular courtship which had lasted for a matter of fifteen years.

Related Characters: Louisa Ellis, Joe Dagget, Lily Dyer
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

“If you should jilt her to-morrow, I wouldn’t have you,” spoke up the girl, with sudden vehemence.

“Well, I ain’t going to give you the chance,” said he; “but I don’t believe you would, either.”

“You’d see I wouldn’t. Honor’s honor, an’ right’s right. An’ I’d never think anything of any man that went against ’em for me or any other girl; you’d find that out, Joe Dagget.”

Related Characters: Joe Dagget (speaker), Lily Dyer (speaker), Louisa Ellis
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

She sat at her window and meditated. In the evening Joe came. Louisa Ellis had never known that she had any diplomacy in her, but when she came to look for it that night she found it, although meek of its kind, among her little feminine weapons. Even now she could hardly believe that she had heard aright, and that she would not do Joe a terrible injury should she break her troth-plight. She wanted to sound him without betraying too soon her own inclinations in the matter. She did it successfully, and they finally came to an understanding; but it was a difficult thing, for he was as afraid of betraying himself as she.

Related Characters: Louisa Ellis, Joe Dagget, Lily Dyer
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lily Dyer Character Timeline in A New England Nun

The timeline below shows where the character Lily Dyer appears in A New England Nun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A New England Nun
Gender Roles for Women  Theme Icon
...Louisa asks about work and about Joe’s mother. When Louisa asks after Joe’s mother’s caretaker, Lily Dyer, Joe appears to blush. They each exchange positive words about Lily Dyer, about her... (full context)
Honor, Decorum, and Restraint  Theme Icon
...recognizes one of the voices: it is Joe Dagget’s. Louisa realizes that Joe is with Lily Dyer. Lily is lit by the moonlight, and Louisa notices how lovely Lily looks, full... (full context)
Gender Roles for Women  Theme Icon
Honor, Decorum, and Restraint  Theme Icon
Thinking they are alone, Lily and Joe begin to speak. Lily says that she’ll be leaving town, and Joe replies,... (full context)
Honor, Decorum, and Restraint  Theme Icon
Joe again insists that he is not leaving Louisa. He and Lily’s emotions are heightened and their voices “almost angry.” Louisa continues to listen. Joe does admit... (full context)
Honor, Decorum, and Restraint  Theme Icon
After Lily says this, Louisa hears a “soft commotion” from where Joe and Lily are sitting. Then... (full context)
Gender Roles for Women  Theme Icon
Honor, Decorum, and Restraint  Theme Icon
...the fact that she is happy to break the engagement, and she does not mention Lily Dyer, only saying that she couldn’t see herself making such a change as to marry... (full context)
Gender Roles for Women  Theme Icon
Honor, Decorum, and Restraint  Theme Icon
Restriction, Freedom, and Art Theme Icon
Later, Louisa does her needlework completely at peace. Lily Dyer passes Louisa’s window, and Louisa feels no ill-will towards her. She sees the days... (full context)