In Willa Cather's A Lost Lady, we are confronted with many examples of love and personal growth, two themes that Cather seamlessly intertwines by utilizing her technique of elucidation of complex emotion through use of nature and landscape throughout the novel. In this essay, I argue that Cather defines love and personal growth of Marian Forrester through three distinct scenes: the drunken long distance call between Mrs.Forrester and Ellinger after she learns of his elopement, the story of how Mr. and Mrs.Forrester met and fell in love (told at the boys' dinner party after the death of Captain Forrester), and the scene where Neil discovers that Mrs.Forrester found a happily ever after, after all. I chose these specific scenes because they explicate Mrs.Forrester's romantic ideals of love and her personal growth as she struggles in vain to find the life she's looking for, that is, a life of both wealth and true love.
Though some may view Marian Forrester's long-standing affair with the masculine Frank Ellinger as a fatal character flaw, I contend that its existence and its abrupt demise via long distance telephone call illustrate a vital stepping stone along her journey of personal growth, and give us an important piece of the puzzle that is her evolving ideal of love. As soon as Marian Forrester storms into Neil's house in the middle of the night, we learn that she has braved the rain, mud, and (especially), the ford crossing that was “'up to a horses belly'” with flood water (Cather 123). In her drunken state, nothing will distract her from her present mission, which is, to give Frank Ellinger the telling off he'll never forget for betraying her trust. Presumably, she had meant to marry Ellinger herself, after the death of Captain Forrester, but Ellinger had been forced to choose otherwise when a mysterious feminine illness – that is, pregnancy – happened to befall the very lady whom Mrs.Forrester had been the source of introduction. We learn of this only...
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