The Professor's House

The Professor's House Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7, Section 1: "The Family"

As the Professor approaches his daughter Kathleen’s house on a snowy day in November, he sees Rosamund storm out to her waiting car and chauffeur. He stops her and comments on how becoming her fur coat is on her, and then she leaves.

The Professor enters the bungalow and asks a red-eyed and pale Kathleen if he can see the furs she wanted his opinion on. In the middle of trying them on, Kathleen breaks out in tears about how jealous Rosamund makes her with her wealth, her new fur coats, and the animosity Rosamund shows toward her.

The Professor points out Kathleen has criticized Louie and shown some anti-Semitism toward him.

Despite the Professor’s efforts to deflect her jealous criticisms, Kathleen says that all her childhood admiration of Rosamund and her opinions has turned to animosity because she has acquired money and become too much like Louie. She blames her father and Professor Crane, whose laboratory Tom Outland used, for not stopping Outland’s discovery and money from coming to her and ruining her.

The Professor, in return, says that Kathleen shouldn’t be jealous of Rosamund because she will make herself unhappy.

As the Professor walks home, he muses on the special relationship he has with Kathleen. This affinity started when he had to take care of her one summer by himself when she was six and ill with whooping-cough. She was obedient, independent, and didn’t bother him when she wasn’t supposed to. She was also devoted to Rosamund as a girl, but when Rosamund decided to marry Louie, Kathleen’s admiration vanished.

The Professor thinks this development may have been due to the fact that Kathleen believed Rosamund shouldn’t have forgotten Tom so quickly.


This chapter recounts how the Professor witnesses the beginning of the breakup of his family. The bond between Kathleen and Rosamund, once so strong, is close to unraveling, and it is all the fault of Outland’s money and what it has done to Rosamund.

While, throughout the novel, Outland is presented mainly as the Professor’s intellectual savior and a brilliant scholar in his own right, this chapter demonstrates what Cather believes can happen to intellectually brilliant achievements when they are monetized, as happened with Outland’s vacuum. It is not the achievement itself that has this destructive power, but the money that accompanies it.

As this money has accompanied a scientific rather than an artistic achievement, Cather also makes another swipe at science as an unworthy and even dangerous academic field. If Outland’s achievement had been historical or even archaeological, the modern world could not have taken it up and perverted it with money in the same way it could a scientific invention.

It is true that St. Peter’s work has resulted in financial gain, but compared to the proceeds of the Outland patent, the Professor’s material rewards have been small.

The Professor’s musings reveal that Outland came between the girls in another way: Kathleen’s antipathy towards Rosamund began not when Rosamund became rich, but when she decided to marry Louie Marsellus. Both St. Peter girls loved Outland as a family friend, and St. Peter suspects that Kathleen believes her sister shouldn’t have forgotten Outland so soon after he was killed.

Thus, a question is raised: Outland, as a man, has come between the sisters and between St. Peter and his wife; in light of these considerations, is his destructive power within the St. Peter family truly limited to the effect of his money, as Cather insists in such heavy-handed fashion?