Writing in the Discipline of English
October 10, 2012
Central Themes in A Lost Lady
In Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady (1923), the author tells a story of a boy named Neil who’s growth into manhood is molded by the Forresters; the Captain who represented the pioneer spirit of the old west in the United States, and the beautiful Marian whom he idolized to such an extent that her moral downfall initiated his loss of innocence. As he grows up, his family, friends, and his home of Sweet Water change. Where the Forresters were once the pillars of grandeur and dignity, they fall into poverty and sickness. The Captain’s passing signifies the end of a time when those who shaped the country prospered in its unsoiled splendor. Marian’s affair and her surrender to Ivy Peter’s signifies the change to an age when moral compromises became commonplace, and the land is raped of its natural wonder to gain money and power. Loss, change, and growth from change shape his character, just as the relationships of those around him to the land display the changes in society and the end of the pioneer era.
* Of the many themes Cather presents, one of importance is the relationship the characters have with nature. Captain Forrester represents the awe and splendor of progression and advancement that does not spoil the environment. Even though he is a hardy railroad man who made his fortune laying train tracks across the country for man’s use, he takes great pleasure in his home in Sweet Water. He relishes in the untouched exquisiteness of his property, refusing to drain the marsh. He won’t allow hunting on his land, and spends hours at a time caring for and gazing upon his precious roses. The great care the Captain puts in to his roses signifies not only his bond with nature, but also his desire to posses and admire something beautiful that belongs to him. This can be compared to his relationship with Marian. He observes and adores her. He does not have a...
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