The unique play of opposites demonstrated in Neighbor Rosicky shows how core beliefs and individuality are always fundamental and necessary regardless of the environment or people surrounding an individual. Rosicky is a charismatic individual who is admired by all people because of his value of hard work and compassion. The settings Rosicky found himself in were not always as welcoming as the comfortable farm he ends up in, but even so his values ultimately bring him to a place he feel he belongs. These contrasts help highlight the similarities among the main character’s fundamental beliefs. Even though they are from different cultures, age, gender, and societies, the family’s core values are what unify them.
Rosicky’s personality greatly contrasts with the environment in his early years. In Rosicky’s youth, he lives in thrilling and eventful New York and London. While in New York, he enjoys the excitement of the night life. In his youthful prime there is nothing more enjoyable than being on his own with a world of entertainment to observe and a variety of people to meet. But this youthful excitement clearly runs dry fast for Rosicky. The temporary excitement fades when there is lack of nature. "Those blank buildings, without the stream of life pouring through them, were like empty jails. It struck young Rosicky that this was the trouble with big cities; they build you in from the earth itself, cemented you away from any contact with the ground." (p.846) The cold unnatural environment of city life makes Rosicky feel as if he has lost part of himself. The city was like a jail cell to him, keeping him from breathing the untainted natural air. Without being surrounded by what is real (nature) Rosicky begins to lose happiness, but not his values. " His roots were in rural Czechoslovakia, although he had temporarily resided in London and New York. He as other immigrants possessed a "rooted homelessness.” (p. 845) This homelessness caused Rosicky to get out of the city as fast as he could. By remaining hardworking as a tailor, he was able to earn enough money to escape the urban world. To Rosicky, urban life represented poverty, lack of freedom, and loneliness. Although Rosicky believed at one time in his life that the city life may be the right choice for himself with all the excitement and energy, it was an unsuited fit for the humble and down to earth character.
Rosicky grows up in a rural area and ends his life there as well. The contrast between country and city is very prominent. In the country, Rosicky is most happiest; it is where he at one time felt like he had a home therefore he creates his own in the country. This deep rooted connection to his homeland fills him with the desire to return once more. He feels the most free and at peace in nature. Even though the country is the opposite environment to New York or London, it is the most comparable to Rosicky’s personality. The country represents the character’s free spiritedness and joy to work in the environment that feels most natural and comfortable: nature. Even the graveyard near his home is very tranquil and lovely. This is unusual since graveyards are typically seen as mysterious and somber locations. “Over yonder on the hill he could see his own house, crouching low, with the clump of orchard behind and the windmill before, against the white field.” (p.842) This is definitely not your typically graveyard, but then again, Rosicky is not your typical character. Rosicky’s ultimate death is neither depressing or disappointing for the reader because we see he has lived his life according to values and morality. The peaceful country represents how through hard work and dedication we all learn to find ourselves. Rosicky’s final resting place was where he was happiest and felt most at ease with his life, therefore through death he literally becomes one with the nature he loves so dearly.
Another contrast in Neighbor Rosicky is between the young and old. Rosicky is young while living in the city and old when he resides in the country. He also marries a significantly younger women. “He was fifteen years older than Mary, but she had hardly ever thought about it before. He was her man, and the kind of man she liked. She was rough, and he was gentle”. (p. 844) Not only was their age different, but so was their general personalities. Nevertheless neither character’s differences cause instability within the relationship. Rosicky is kind and city bred with the desire to put effort into his work, and compassion into his family life. Since Mary has the same values and comes from the same culture their relationship works. Some of these priorities in both Mary and Rosicky’s life include self-help, family-commitment, honesty, and hard work which is part of the identity that distinguishes the two European immigrants. Cather gives us confirmation of these values, "The only things in his experience he had found terrifying and horrible; the look in the eyes of a dishonest and craftyman, of a scheming and rapacious woman." (p. 846) These old-world values are what tie the family together regardless of age or personality difference.
Another example of age difference is between Rosicky, the cashier, and his daughter-in-law. Both of these women are young, slim, American women with unnaturally thin eyebrows. The cashier is in disbelief that Rosicky is willing to buy candy for his wife every time he stops by. This same disbelief is found in his daughter-in-law when Rosicky offers to let her and her husband take the night off from housework and go on a proper date. This again demonstrates Rosicky’s core values. He is always a good hearted gentleman who is unbothered to present acts of kindness to those close to him. These acts of kindness always reward Rosicky in the end whether it be through simply gaining a new friend (the cashier) or inspiring someone to courageously save his life from a heart attack (the daughter-in-law).
The doctor’s examination of Rosicky’s physical “bad heart” also contrasts with the overwhelmingly massive emotional heart he contains. Mary recalls that Rosicky has never treated her harshly in all their years of marriage, which has been successful because they both value the same things. They have both raised their children to have these same values as well. “They had been at one accord not to hurry through life, not to be always skimping and saving. They saw their neighbors buy more land and feed more stock than they did, without discontent. Once when the creamery agent came to the Rosickys to persuade them to sell him their cream, he told them how much money the Fasslers, their nearest neighbors, had made on their cream last year.” (p.844) Mary responds to this by stated how she would rather her children be well fed and happy than wealthy and miserable. They are not like other farmer’s who jump at any chance to make some extra money. At the end of the story, Rosicky imagines the future of his children and hopes that they do not suffer like he did throughout the beginning part of his life. Rosicky’s physical heart leads to his physical death, but it is his emotional heart that prolongs his life eternally in the hearts of others.
Rosicky is a character many people admire and would enjoy meeting for themselves. The contrast and comparisons in the the story helps the reader realize that no matter where we go in life, with the right attitude and love in our hearts we can too have our own “country farm life”. Nature brings us back to our roots and helps us experience what we are in our soul. Since nature is untainted, it contrasts with city life that has been created by people. This naturalness lets us understand what we are essentially when we are not corrupted by society. The story as a whole though contrast and comparison helps us to realize that happiness can be found anywhere and through anyone when one makes the most out of hard work, honesty, and family commitment.