The Professor's House

The Professor's House Summary and Analysis of Chapter 16, Section 1: "The Family"

One day in the spring when the Professor is at work in the old house, Louie comes up to his work-room and asks him to come to a drive to the lakefront with him and Rosamund. He admires Outland’s Mexican blanket and expresses a desire to have known Outland while he was alive.

During the drive, Louie announces he and Rosamund are going to give up their house and move all their furniture to Outland while they’re in France. He says he plans to let Scott and Kathleen pick out any furniture they might want but Rosamund vetoes the idea. Husband and wife begin to discuss the grudge Rosamund says the McGregors have against them. Louie says it’s nonsense but Rosamund tells him Scott blackballed Louie for membership in the Arts and Letters. Louie laughs it off and the Professor tells her it’s probably just a rumor.

After dropping Rosamund off at the Country Club, the men drive on. The Professor apologizes to Louie for Rosamund and Scott’s behavior and tells Louie he is a splendid fellow. Louie, good-natured as ever, says there is nothing to forgive.


In this chapter, the Professor realizes anew what an outstandingly generous, warm-hearted and good-natured man Louie is, a realization that should perhaps compound his guilt over refusing Louie’s invitation to France for the summer.

Rosamund, as usual, is being mean and stingy about her sister Kathleen and her husband Scott, and when Louie attempts to soften her attitude, she lets him have it with both barrels, insisting Scott blackballed Louie for membership in the Arts and Letters. Louie feels the full force of her words but laughs it off, refusing to believe it of his brother-in-law.

Later, when the Professor apologizes to Louie for Rosamund, Scott, Kathleen, and basically his entire family, Louie insists there is nothing to forgive, marking him as one of those rare people who continually believe the best of people despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Professor St. Peter is described as having the warmest possible feelings towards Louie at this point, yet he still retreats from any unnecessary interactions with him, as he retreats from unnecessary interactions with all the members of his family.

Through this episode, Cather shows that the Professor’s withdrawal is reaching unusual dimensions; retreat from a person as generous and charming as Louie must be viewed as unusual, no matter how antisocial someone is. This development foreshadows events to come.

Perhaps the saddest conclusion that can be drawn from events in this chapter, aside from the Professor’s continuing decline, is that the St. Peter sisters each imagine themselves to hate each other. This leads each to hate the other. Cather uses a good deal of imagery to convey Rosamund’s feelings about the McGregors in this chapter, including the image of her lip coming down “like a steel curtain.” St. Peter is apparently powerless to reverse this trend, as well.