Traditional, agrarian, and dark pastoral attitudes in Willa Cather's major novels

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1972

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Because Gather's ideas about man in nature form the dominant motif of her works, she may be justifiably termed a pastoralist. The three phases of her pastoralism are designated as traditional, agrarian and dark pastoral. In the traditional pastoral vein. Gather uses both elegy and mythology to evoke the romantic era of the pioneer past in the prairie novels, 0 Pioneers! and My Antonia. In The Professor 1s House she utilizes the traditional pastoral metaphor of the Golden Age of the Past to contrast the real and the ideal identities of the protagonist. Also the life symbolism in Death Comes for the Archbishop is presented in traditional pastoral terms by portraying man in harmony with a benign nature. Gather views man in nature from the agrarian pastoral perspective when she delineates those qualities of will and character which allowed man to triumph over an adverse environment. The agrarian pastoral protagonists in O Pioneers I and My Antonia imprint their will upon nature-, while the traditional pastoral protagonists--such as the Indians of Death Comes for the Archbishop blend in with their natural backgrounds . Gather writes in the dark pastoral vein in Death Comes for the Archbishop when she presents the death symbolism of the novel largely in terms of a malignant nature. In One of Ours and A Lost Lady she also views the rural and provincial environment as restrictive and inhibiting to man's higher aspirations, equating the country with stagnation and death and the city with achievement and life

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