The Professor's House Essay

1908 Words 8 Pages
Write what you know. These are words that Willa Cather lived by. In the novel, The Professor’s House, Cather’s life is directly parallel to the life of the main character, Professor Godfrey St. Peter. Through St. Peter, the reader is able to observe the struggles as well as triumphs that occurred at that point in Willa Cather’s life. Her struggle with materialism versus idealism, discovery of religion, and her own mid-life crisis are all shown through the character of Godfrey St. Peter.
In 1922, Cather became “ increasingly distressed with the growing mechanization and mass-produced quality of American society” (Norton). This was the time her writing took a new direction and became more concerned with finding alternative values to the
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Peter fights a never-ending battle with his wife, Lillian: her materialism versus his idealism. “They had been young people with good qualities….but they could not have been happy if Lillian had not inherited a small income from her father….it had made all the difference in the world” (233). St. Peter hints that whereas he would have been happy with what they had between them, Lillian would not have been happy without her servants, doing housework and things as the wives of his colleagues did.
Another demonstration of St. Peter’s idealism is his firm belief in fate. He “thought he had fared well with fate. He wouldn’t choose to live his life over-he might not have such good luck again” (234). St. Peter claims that “he had had two romances: one of the heart, which had filled his life for many years, and a second of the mind-of the imagination” (234). Through his two romances, he was able to experience again the fascination of things that he had previously taken for granted. This fed his idealistic mind and brought a bright spot to his otherwise ordinary existence.
Cather herself was a Protestant. She came from a strongly religious family and, in her search for spirituality, joined the Episcopal church in 1922 (Norton). Cather was concerned with the decline of spirituality in what she


considered an “increasingly materialistic American society” (Norton). This concern led her to explore the…

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