A Lost Lady

A Lost Ideal: Perspective in Willa Cather’s A Lost Lady College

Willa Cather has artistically crafted the ending of A Lost Lady so that Marian Forrester comes out a survivor rather than a lost lady as the title suggests. This use of irony is very important because it opens up questions about the nature of the novel’s title, thus leading to the illumination of how Marian was only a lost lady from the perspective of the male gaze. When looking beyond the male gaze and through to Marian’s unfiltered character, the double standard, which Neil places on the protagonist, becomes apparent. Mrs. Forrester is only lost in the compartmentalization of her whole being on behalf of Neil’s perspective, and to understand her true character is to acknowledge that she encompasses many different traits and characteristics. In analyzing the varying perspectives offered throughout the novel it becomes especially clear that in the end Marian is not a lost lady and that this irony serves to make a thematic statement about women as whole and complex beings rather than characters of isolated ideals.

Neil grapples with the two ideas of Mrs. Forrester that he comes to know throughout the novel. From the beginning, Neil places Mrs. Forrester on a pedestal: “He had never found one so attractive and distinguished as...

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