Willa Cather's The Sculptor's Funeral: Review

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Belonging Nowhere

Willa Cather does a tolerable job shaping the story of “The Sculptor’s Funeral.” There are many characters with hidden meanings that flow through the story. Set in the early 1920’s, Cather tells of a young artist’s deceased body adventuring home with a mysterious follower. She speaks of the hidden meanings of the townspeople. Although the beginning is somewhat dry and slow, the scheme shifts toward the middle and end.

Cather begins the story by outlining the men awaiting the sculptors body by train. There seemed to be several men standing around, but no one man seemed detached from the group besides the local lawyer, Jim Laird. Cather sticks Laird separate in the beginning to make Laird’s ending in the story, seem stronger and more important.

The moment Mr. Merrick, the deceased sculptor, arrived at the station, Cather sat him apart from the group. She explained the palm leaf which laid across the black cover of the coffin. She stated that the townspeople never saw a similar coffin. When reread, Cather made it seem that Merrick had money. When picturing the leaf as a fancy part of the coffin, it just stuck out as shouting “Look at me, I’m rich!”

It was very surprising how Cather explained the puzzling “pupil” that rode in with Mr. Merrick. Cather presented Henry Steavens as a young Bostonian who looked up to Mr. Merrick for his work as an artist, or possibly a father figure. This was a revolting part. When one eventually figures out that Steavens was actually Mr. Merrick’s lover, it’s a shock, yet irritating. Cather should have hinted more throughout the story of this secret relationship because she didn’t make the love between the two men feel strong at all. Cather made it seem that the town and its people had won the battle between heterosexuals and gays. The story should have shown more openness. Cather should have shown that the townspeople definitely knew of this forbidden relationship. That would have made the story more...
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