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The professor s house by willa cather

The Professor’s House Reader’s Guide

Its protagonist, Godfrey St. Peter, might be an older version of Jim Burden. Peter thinks, "he might say with Mark Antony, My fortunes have corrupted honest men. And he would have to learn to, just as, in a Prohibition country, he supposed he would have to learn to live without sherry.

Theoretically he knew that life is possible, may be even pleasant, without joy, without passionate griefs. But it had never occurred to him that he might have to live like that.

It is a house in which no one lives, that has been "dismantled" [3], and that, even when inhabited, was "almost as ugly as it is possible for a house to be. Peter—and, indeed, appear to become more so in the course of the novel?

Willa Cather

Compare her description of St. Peter has pursued a life of the mind, Cather describes him in highly sensual terms: His keenest memories—of his youthful voyage along the coast of Spain and the dahlias he bought as a student in Paris—vibrate with sensuous detail. In what ways does St. Peters initially seem happy, the reader gradually realizes that the family is torn by jealousy and resentment, and that its patriarch has effectively withdrawn from its affairs.

At what points do these characters become aware of their emotional disconnection? Why are they unable—or unwilling—to overcome it? One reason for the divisions in the St. In what ways has Outland fragmented the family, both while alive and after his death, and why did the family let him do so? He was only interested in earth and woods and water. Wherever sun sunned and rain rained and snow snowed…places were alike to him.

To what kind of wisdom is Cather referring in the preceding passage? Peter lose it as he grew older and what did he acquire in its place?

The Professor's House

Alongside the spartan Outland, who refused to contaminate his friendships with any element of self-interest, Cather gives the professor a son-in-law, Louie Marsellus, who is unabashedly materialistic. But wealth alone may be insufficient: In what way does Louie conform to period stereotypes of the social-climbing, luxury-loving nouveau riche?

Peter subconsciously attempting suicide when he falls asleep without turning off the gas stove in his old study? What significance do you find in the fact that he is saved by a woman? How clearly does Cather allow us to know the motives of any of her characters? Yet we should be careful not to read those oppositions too simplistically. Peter mourns the way he has sacrificed his truest self to the demands of society and family, Tom Outland is equally haunted by the way he betrayed his friendship with Roddy Blake, who had committed the crime of selling Indian relics to a German buyer: Does she suggest any way in which her opposing values might be reconciled?

Where does Cather draw analogies between St. To what extent are those differences due to the different the professor s house by willa cather eras in which the two novels are set? Read together, what kind of relationship do these novels posit between towns and the prairie? How do both sets of women confirm or challenge stereotypes about their gender? What significance do you see in the fact that Antonia marries relatively late, and her friends Lena and Tina not at all, while the St.

Peter women have married early? Why is suicide a theme in both novels? Does she seem to associate the act with moral failure or mental breakdown or portray it as a natural, and even honorable, response to intolerable circumstances? What role did suicide play in the age and society in which Cather wrote? You may want to look at such novels as Sister Carrie to see how some of her contemporaries treated the same theme.

Given the evidence of these novels, how does Cather seem to view relations between the sexes? What prospects of happiness and fulfillment do they hold for both men and women? Which of her characters ends up happily married and for what reasons? Why do so many others—from Jim Burden to Godfrey St. Peter—end up regretting their attachments?

The Professor’s House

What similarity do you see between this strategy and the embedded narratives in My Antonia? Where does she employ these different kinds of prose, and to what effect? When she was about ten years old her family moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska, where many of her novels and short stories are set. She eventually left journalism to devote herself to writing fiction full time.