The Professor's House

The Professor's House Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7, Section 2: "Tom Outland's Story"

In the morning, Outland goes into Tarpin in search of Blake. He learns Blake has gone to Arizona on the train and enlists Father Duchene to get the word out that Outland is looking for him.

When he returns to the Mesa, he studies Spanish and Latin. He also realizes that he feels he owns the mesa, and begins to absorb its beauty, history and excitement in a religious way. Everything comes together for him that summer at the Mesa.

In the winter, he goes back to Pardee to stay with his adoptive parents, the O’Briens, and be tutored by Father Duchene. He is also working on the railroad again.

He continues and redoubles his efforts to find Blake, and begins to feel guilty about how he treated him.

The following spring, he walked into the Professor’s garden with the aim of studying at the University.


As Outland spends time on the Mesa in the wake of his failed trip to Washington, he reaches a personal connection with the landscape and the relics that transcends his academic, archaeological interest in the site.

This connection is as intense as it is unique and personal to him. He refuses to touch Blake’s money, the material rewards of his academic excavations, and the similarity between his character and that of the Professor, always marked throughout the novel, takes on a new facet: both characters, the Professor and Outland, reject the monetary proceeds of their academic life’s work; indeed, as St. Peter states earlier in the novel to Rosamund, accepting money for one’s academic life-blood would be to cheapen the entire intellectual endeavor. St. Peter rejects his new house, built with the proceeds of his 8-volume history, while Outland rejects both the money Blake made off the artifacts by choice, and the money flowing from his patent by default, for he is dead by the time his invention’s potential is realized.

It is slightly ironic that Outland can only fully enjoy the Mesa when his mission to do his duty by the Mesa’s former inhabitants seems to have failed. He is preoccupied for months with the necessity of involving scientists and archaeologists in the study and revival of the Mesa, but it is only when this mission proves fruitless that Outland can enjoy the Mesa for itself. In a sense, the pressure is off, and he can finally enjoy the Mesa simply for its beauty.

Indeed, this appreciation exemplifies another triumph of Cather’s ideal: art over science, in the form of the absent archaeologists.

Critics have recognized that Outland’s Cliff City and the Professor’s office bear a close relation to one another. Both become places of study, regions where the life of the mind is cultivated to the exclusion of other activities, both are physically elevated above the areas others inhabit, both are areas of retreat and renewal, and both are highly solitary spaces. This relationship further strengthens the comparison between Outland and the Professor.