A Comparative Study of Willa Cather's Literary Technique

Topics: Willa Cather, Mexico, O Pioneers! Pages: 6 (2479 words) Published: April 14, 2006
Willa Cather was born in Virginia and moved with her family to Nebraska when she was nine. Here she got the inspiration to describe the American West of that time, and she succeeded thanks to her talent and a strong sense of the place. Her unique ability of presenting people's relationships, their fates, and the beauty of the nature harmonically, made her name famous and her novels captivating. More than that Willa Cather's works express the penetrating global idea of intercultural dependency intertwined with the universal story of the rise of civilizations in history. This particular literary technique became a matter for many discussions by many critics and the topic for many research works. Having read several novels by Willa Cather we also realized this distinctive feature – her peculiar way in depicturing history being very clear, simple, and accurate. This pushed us to identify and later compare it with other academic works and improve it with further research. We decided to make a parallel between her two very famous novels O'Pioneers and Death Comes for the Archbishop, the histories of the American frontier and the American West, and emphasize the peculiarity of author's technique. Awards came to Cather during her life time -- honorary degrees from numerous universities, the Pulitzer Prize for "One of Ours," a medal by the American Academy for "Death Comes for the Archbishop," and the gold medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters for a writer's lifetime achievement. Following her death, her reputation has grown steadily and, in the last fifteen years, exploded with activity, with over a hundred articles and several books appearing each year on her. In 1990 "A Lost Lady" was included among the Encyclopedia Britannica's "Great Books of the Western World," and Cather is now widely recognized as a major American writer, and the US foremost woman writer. And the explosion of critical recognition means only that the experts have realized what her readers have known all along -- that Willa Cather's novels and stories, in such apparently simple style, provide companionship for a lifetime. The world is a mosaic made up of various cultures, religions, landscapes, and people. Different cultures value different things based on their history and experience. They have different beliefs and traditions and interpret events or facts their own way. Members of one culture do not always feel comfortable with another culture; they do not always share similar Beliefs, and sometimes do not even support the ideas of another culture. These kinds of misunderstanding can bring different groups to a conflict. But what happens when three absolutely dissimilar nations meet together and try to change each other? Whose influence will be the strongest? Finally, will the confrontation on the encounters change each of them? These are the first questions I had when I started reading Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. New Mexico is the historical and unique place where this novel happens and where three absolutely uncommon cultures, Indians, Mexicans, and Europeans, clashed and affected each other. Indians, or Native Americans, being the inhabitants of North America value nature and try to be spiritually close to it. It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape, not to stand out against it. The Hopi villages that were set upon rock mesas were made to look like the rock on which they sat, were imperceptible at a distance. ~ Book 7, Ch. 4 Mexicans also have the long history dating back to Maya and Aztec civilizations, which were subdued and later Europeanized. Since Catholicism that was imposed in Mexico, which is far away from Rome, acquired a new shape it remained Catholic in its essence. Mexicans themselves try to make their religion close to "human nature", not necessarily spiritually saint and pure, but happy and enjoying life. As for Europeans, "the most civilized", with a wide background of Catholic Church and...
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