The Professor's House

The Professor's House Summary and Analysis of Chapter 14, Section 1: "The Family"

In February, the Professor, at the insistence of Lillian, accompanies the Marselluses to Chicago in order to see Louie off for a family reunion in New York and to help Rosamund pick out Spanish furniture for her new house. Louie meets up with his brother in Chicago, and after the four lunch together, takes a train with his brother.

A short time later, Scott comes upon the Professor asleep in the train from Chicago to Hamilton and not looking at all well. It appears that Rosamund is still on her shopping expedition in Chicago but that the Professor has decided to go home. Scott privately resolves to try to look after the Professor more, and to tell his family members to do the same.

Lillian anxiously awaits the Professor at home and reproaches him when he arrives on foot for not taking a cab. He pronounces himself fatigued and goes upstairs to take a bath. Lillian follows him and elicits the information that the shopping trip was a success in terms of the pieces acquired but that the Professor laid out a good deal of money for the furniture and got very tired.

After dinner, while the Professor is reading and Lillian is watching him, he smiles and Lillian asks him why. He says because he wonders whether Euripides decided to live as a hermit because he had had enough of women at the end of his life.


This chapter marks the first time the reader observes that St. Peter is in declining health. In the chapter before, he was merely thinking how fatigued he is; now he is looking fatigued. Perhaps his decline, as foreshadowed at the end of the last chapter, is beginning.

It turns out that it is not only the high level of activity the Professor undertook in Chicago that put him in a disagreeable mood; it is the fact that he had to lay out a lot of money for Rosamund’s furniture. For someone who purports not to care about money, this is a strange reaction for the Professor to have.

On the other hand, the Professor has never been described as generous. On the contrary, Cather makes clear earlier in the novel that he is self indulgent as far as food, alcohol and creature comforts go. He has his preferences and does not deny himself anything he feels he must have.

Cather, scholars have recognized, was an authority on ancient Greek and Roman literature, including Virgil, Ovid, and various other authors. She displays this knowledge in this section as the Professor compares himself to Euripides, an ancient Greek playwright.

The Professor’s reason for comparing himself to Euripides is to underline the fact that he wishes he didn’t have to deal with so many women. This is quite clearly directed at his wife, but doubtless also refers to his daughter Rosamund, with whom he has just spent an exhausting time in Chicago buying furniture for the new house. The Professor once again appears to be retreating from his family.