The Professor's House

The Professor's Release in Cather's The Professor's House

The 1920s is an era somewhat paradoxically described as an anachronistic one rife with social upheaval. Willa Cather's The Professor's House sheds light on this awkward time as she details the life of Godfrey St. Peter, an academic caught between the past and the future, between austerity and materialism, between permanence and transience. As he rejects the modernity thrown at him, St. Peter finds solace in memories and in the earth - in short, in what cannot be tempered by time, but that which fixedly stands alone.

The death of Tom Outland, a representative of purity and brilliance for St. Peter, affords Cather an opportunity to contrast the excesses of the 20s with the blatant superficiality that Louie, St. Peter's charming but oblivious son-in-law, displays. Using Outland's death and his position as heir as an excuse to aggrandize his own wealth, Louie says, "We feel it's our duty in life to use that money as he would have wished - we've endowed scholarships in his own university here, and that sort of thing. But our house we want to have as a sort of memorial to him." (The Professor's House, p.31) St. Peter, instead of confronting Louie about the propriety of naming his house after his...

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