Misrepresentation Of Native Americans In The Professor's House

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The misrepresentation of Native Americans in The Professor’s House is a prime example of how early American literature chooses to falsely romanticize the southwest. Willa Cather follows this pattern with the characters Father Duchene, Tom Outland, and the professor, Godfrey St. Peter. Together these characters create a dangerous false narrative outside the novel. The problematic characterization of Native Americans is initiated by Duchene, lived by Outland, and is preserved by the professor. Although the novel pays little attention to Native Americans in the novel, the little it does share is enough to understand Cather’s lack of historical awareness.
Duchene is the source of the mischaracterization of existing Native Americans in the novel.
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Missionaries came to the southwest with the purpose of assimilating Native Americans and converting them to western religions. Priests like Duchene would never see existing Native Americans as anything but unruly and savage. Doing so would defeat the purpose of religious missions. Any lesson from Duchene on Native Americans would act as a justification of his own interactions with Native Americans. His interactions, or the interactions of religious institutions, involved kidnapping, or coercing, young Native American children and forcing them to assimilate through physical and mental abuse. Duchene’s teachings stick with Outland and plays an important role in Outland’s interpretation of Cliff …show more content…
He shares his stories with the St. Peter family who, with the exception of Godfrey, have little to no knowledge of the southwest. The professor had spent two summers in the southwest for research, however, the content of his research favors the explorers. Whenever Outland shares his stories he is in complete control of the narrative and has the power to say whatever he wants to regarding the southwest and Native Americans. These stories, of course, are heavily influenced by Duchene’s perception of the ancient people and Native Americans. The reader gets glimpse of the stories Outland used to share when Kathleen finds her father in his study. The professor confesses that he wished he could travel to New Mexico and search for Blake. Kathleen responds by saying that she also wanted to go to New Mexico and that it was her “romantic dream” growing up (Cather, chap.11, para. 24). This romantic dream is of course fueled by Outland’s time in Cliff City and is a far from accurate portrayal of the southwest. “I used to swim rivers and climb mountains and wander about with Navajo” (Cather, chap.11, para. 24). Unfortunately, for Kathleen, she would not have been able to wander with the Navajo because they were living on reservations. Of course, it is not Kathleen’s fault for thinking New Mexico was a romantic adventure because she had no idea. It

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