Analysis Of A Lost Lady By Willa Cather

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In many literary works, a common question is whether certain characters, scenes, and objects are simply just that or are instead symbols to further the author’s message. Women in particular are notable victims of this. Many literary works revolve around a woman but do not allow her to tell her own story and instead channel it through the eyes of a male protagonist. A Lost Lady by Willa Cather is one such novel. Cather’s work, however, serves as a deconstruction of its genre as the novel comes to the conclusion that its heroine is, in fact, better as a symbol. A Lost Lady ultimately in this endeavor ends up taking measures to vilify the very human behaviors of its female lead, suggesting sexist ideas about the proper role of women. The specific areas touched upon are the emotional vulnerability of women, appearances and loss of vitality, and—most troublingly—what is considered a proper end for a woman. The relationship between the lead characters, Niel and Mrs. Forrester, is built upon idealizations and unspoken expectations, most of which are never met. Mrs. Forrester’s moral descent alternately is seen with both sympathy and disapproval as Niel and the narrator cannot seem to…show more content…
Forrester goes against his perception of her builds upon the idea that the Mrs. Forrester he loves is an idealization. This is demonstrated as said bitterness stems not from the actions themselves but from the betrayal of the proper lady persona Niel is in love with. Specifically, this is referenced after Niel discovers she is having an affair. “‘Lilies that fester,’ he muttered, ‘lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.’ Grace, variety, the lovely voice, the sparkle of fun and fancy in those dark eyes; all this was nothing. It was not a moral scruple she had outraged, but an aesthetic ideal. Beautiful women, whose beauty meant more than it said… was their brilliancy always fed by something coarse and concealed? Was that their secret?”
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