Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Comforted by Home

One of my favorite authors is Willa Cather. She loved to write about place and the idea of home. I've recently finished her Shadows on the Rock which is a snapshot of a young girl's life during the late 1600's in Quebec. Her attention to place is amazing as always. I feel as if I'd like to visit Quebec to see if anything of the world she describes still exists:

Directly under his feet was the French stronghold,--scattered spires and slated roofs flashing in the rich autumnal sunlight . . . Divest your mind of Oriental colour, and you saw here very much such a mountain rock, cunningly built over with churches, convents, fortifications, gardens, following the natural irregularities of the headland on which they stood; some high, some low, some thrust up on a spur, some nestling in a hollow, some sprawling unevenly along a declivity. (4-5)

The detail in which she describes the Apothecary's home, is rich in such detail as well. There is a love of sensual detail, a way of evoking even the smallest item to demonstrate that the house is more than mere lodging but a home-place which echoes the traveler's original home in the heart of France. Even in the wildness of the primitive settlement of Quebec, with the right reminders of a more gentle life, home is created.

Shadows is a tale of diaspora, the Father always longing for the home left behind; the daughter looking forward to a life created in the land where she's grown into a woman. Hope and despair are the two faces of the coin; the old and the new, where we've been and where we are . In Willa Cather's novel, the best of the old life completes the new through patterns of actions, through simple household objects, "all the little shades of feeling which make the common fine," "le persil" on the windowsill, the rug on the floor, tradition: what we cannot help but carry with us.


See also:
Willa Cather Archive at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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