…the time will come when she’ll be ranked above Hemingway. ~ Leon Edel

“My God, girl,  what a head of hair!” he exclaimed, quite innocently and foolishly. She stabbed him with a glance of Amazonian fierceness and drew in her lower lip, most unnecessary severity…

…and we are off on a story about Alexandra the only daughter of a Swedish farmer about to die. Alexandra was an unusual heroine of her time, strong, smart, and more, clever. She sacrifices companionship and love to fulfill a promise made to her dying father and leads her family to great prosperity that has her pay a very high price.

From the National Willa Cather Center: While the reading and understanding of Cather’s twelve novels and various other works are the primary attraction, in many ways Willa Cather the person looms large in the critical interest her works have drawn. More than her contemporaries and those figures from the generation which succeeded hers—most especially Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway—Cather’s fiction creates a personal intimacy between writer and reader which both creates a deep bond and feels authentic, special. This bond is borne of Cather’s ability to create on her pages an intimate understanding of characters understood in relation to their personal and cultural places. Cather was a woman way ahead of her time and to read more about her check this link out. Well worth exploring her history.

We spent three weeks studying this book and discussed Cather’s remarkable descriptive ability and then dove into her structure and plot. We wrote up a W chart to see who was the hero and did she go the distance?

The answer is yes. This book falls into the Rebirth plot with Alexandra falling into a sleep to her true longing when accepting the dream of her father to tame the land and grow prosperous. She is truly asleep even when, under her nose, Emil and Marie begin a disastrous affair that will lead to both of their deaths. Alexandra remains asleep/lost to herself all the way to the point of going to see Frank in prison and agreeing to help him in anyway. Then on page 298 Carl returns and she brought back to herself–the self she lost when he left, and lost again when he came home only to be driven away by her brothers. She is saved then by the light other half.

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