Murray, Donald M.
M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of English
Cather; Willa; 1873-1947
Many of Willa Cather's early short stories and two of her most successful novels—O Pioneers! and My Antonia-—deal with the Nebraska immigrant and his problems. However, the immigrant characters in her early stories contrast sharply to those in the novels which followed. The earlier characters tend to be pathetic and defeated, while the later characters tend to be strong and triumphant. The mature Willa Cather rejected her Initial literary conception of the immigrant and made strong efforts to suppress the publication of early short stories which presented the immigrant in a manner uncomplimentary to him. The more highly cultured immigrants of O Pioneers! and My Antonia better served Miss Cather's literary purposes. Throughout her life, Willa Cather struggled with two major conflicts, conflicts which she never fully resolved. They are the Old World versus the New and the urban versus the rural. In O. Pioneers! and My Antonia, she attempted to solve her conflicts by placing European protagonists with urban backgrounds on the prairies of Nebraska. But Miss Cather soon discovered that the Nebraska frontier passed too quickly and rugged pioneers became wealthy, materialistic farmers. European culture was quickly dissipated and diluted in the Nebraska environment. Disillusioned and embittered, Willa Cather retreated from contemporary Nebraska to the past and to worlds which were more subject to her artistic control.
Jacob, Katherine, "Willa Cather's attitude toward the Nebraska immigrant" (1967). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 6725.
Northern Illinois University
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