Willa Cather

An analysis of the literary style of Willa Cather through a review of some of her short stories.

This paper discusses how the idea of the danger of the traditionally romanticized artistic process, of artist living apart from the world in enslavement to the muse, runs through many of Cather?s short stories. It looks at how, in three of her short works, a protagonist whose intellect or ability distances him from society has a featured role, whether it be academic, as in ?The Muse,? or the power of portraiture, as in ?The Portrait?, or knowledge of art, as in ?The Namesake?. It also shows, however, her 1905 short story, ?Paul?s Case: A Study in Temperament?, does exactly the opposite and looks at how, rather than sympathize with the young man, Cather portrays him as a self-fixated, indulgent individual more interested in the luxurious and false trappings of art than the true hard work of creating real art.
“The subtitle of “Paul’s Case is a study in temperament because this enables Cather as an author to diagnose the young man’s aspirations like a doctor rather than idealizing his yearnings for beauty. In fact, Cather once contemplated becoming a doctor herself, before turning to writing after being educated in the decidedly non-Eastern, non-urban local of The University of Nebraska. (Ahern, 2003) The idea of Paul as a medical case also suggests that he is a psychological case study of something gone wrong, a warning rather than an object of pity, much less identification in the mind of the reader.