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Untitled Essay

2074 words - 9 pages

Write what you know. These are words that Willa Cather lived by. In the novel, The Professor's House, Cather's life is directly parallel to the life of the main character, Professor Godfrey St. Peter. Through St. Peter, the reader is able to observe the struggles as well as triumphs that occurred at that point in Willa Cather's life. Her struggle with materialism versus idealism, discovery of religion, and her own mid-life crisis are all shown through the character of Godfrey St. Peter. In 1922, Cather became " increasingly distressed with the growing mechanization and mass-produced quality of American society" (Norton). This was the time her writing took a new direction and became ...view middle of the document...

St. Peter did not want to succumb to the materialism that he was increasingly seeing in his family. He seemed to be unsure as to which situation was worse: his moving to the new house or his keeping both houses to make everyone, including himself, happy. St. Peter also reflects that his younger self was more what he aspired to be than the man he had become. He observes that "life with this Kansas boy, little as there had been of it, was the realest of his lives" (240). St. Peter seems to appreciate his young self more because he was primitive and seemingly above material things. St. Peter fights a never-ending battle with his wife, Lillian: her materialism versus his idealism. "They had been young people with good qualities….but they could not have been happy if Lillian had not inherited a small income from her father….it had made all the difference in the world" (233). St. Peter hints that whereas he would have been happy with what they had between them, Lillian would not have been happy without her servants, doing housework and things as the wives of his colleagues did. Another demonstration of St. Peter's idealism is his firm belief in fate. He "thought he had fared well with fate. He wouldn't choose to live his life over-he might not have such good luck again" (234). St. Peter claims that "he had had two romances: one of the heart, which had filled his life for many years, and a second of the mind-of the imagination" (234). Through his two romances, he was able to experience again the fascination of things that he had previously taken for granted. This fed his idealistic mind and brought a bright spot to his otherwise ordinary existence. Cather herself was a Protestant. She came from a strongly religious family and, in her search for spirituality, joined the Episcopal church in 1922 (Norton). Cather was concerned with the decline of spirituality in what she considered an "increasingly materialistic American society" (Norton). This concern led her to explore the nature of faith, religion, and spirituality through the character of Godfrey St. Peter. Cather's discovery of religion is shown mainly throughout Tom Outland's story, though it is first seen in the beginning of the novel. St. Peter goes swimming with his son-in-law, Scott, and there are subtle inferences into Cather's search for spirituality. "He drew up at the bit of beach St. Peter had bought for himself years before; a little triangle of sand running out into the water, with a bath-house and seven shaggy pine trees on it" (57). The triangle of sand represents the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The water represents baptism, or a cleansing of sins, while the seven pine trees are a reference to the seven deadly sins. Throughout Tom...

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