Death Comes for the Archbishop
I'll admit that in reading Death Comes for the Archbishop, I was unsure of the whole point of the book. I was enjoying the story immensely but I was not grasping it and realizing the greater truth it upholds, that is, until the very last two paragraphs of the book. And that's when I realized again how lovely Cather is an an author. She can sum up the meaning of a 300 page book in two simple paragraphs. I was left with chills, wanting more, but so very satisfied (perhaps even mystified) with the beauty of it all. And upon reading that ending, I found myself wanting to reread the entire book in light of what was shed in those last few words.
One thing that struck me about this book in particular is how Cather describes the Catholic devotion to our Blessed Mother. This paragraph in particular had me running to Carter to share it with him:
[They] were not the first to pour out their love in this simple fashion. Raphael and Titian had made costumes for Her in their time, and the great masters had made music for Her, and the great architects had built cathedrals for Her. Long before Her years on earth, in the long twilight between the Fall and the Redemption, the pagan sculptors were always trying to achieve the image of a goddess who should yet be a woman.
I first read My Antonia as a freshman in high school. I remember my favorite teacher, Mr. Sullivan, telling us that every time a person experiences a significant change in his life, he should read it. His words resonated with me as I found myself as a new wife and mother in a new place. It is no coincidence that I chose to read this book, I chose it precisely for its Nebraskan plains setting, the same setting I now look out my window and see.
One part of this book really spoke to me, as the main character is studying Virgil in Latin. He recalls a line from the Georgics that he and his teacher had discussed: "For I shall be the first, if I live, to bring the Muse into my country". And Cather through the voice of the narrator explains how Virgil was the first to bring the Muse into his country...he brought the Aeneid, the quintessential foundation story of Rome, a pillar of Western civilization. And that's when it hit me -- that is exactly what Willa Cather is doing with My Antonia. She is giving Western America its foundation story; she is bringing the Muse into the West. I'm sure I could develop this idea more, and I'm sure it has been done before, but that is precisely why I am not in school...I am done writing papers!