A common trait for Willa Cather's characters is that they possess a certain talent or skill. This art usually controls the lives of these characters. According to critic Maxell Geismar, Cather's heroines who possess a skill often either do not marry or marry men whom they dominate; if they do marry the marriage is without excitement because their passion is invested in their art. In a sense, Geismar accuses Cather's heroines of sacrificing their marital roles for their art (172). However, marriage is not the only aspect that raises the subject of sacrifice for Cather's protagonists - there is also the issue of family. This is because a woman artist, or any woman, is judged not only on her art but also on her personal life, especially by her submissiveness to man in the role of daughter, wife and mother. If a woman is unable to commit towards one of these roles, she is blamed for renouncing her expectant role for something that is associated with a man's world - talent. Many readers judge Thea Kronberg and Lena Lingard according to these female roles, and hence place the accusation of sacrifice upon them. Thea Kronberg and Lena Lingard in Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark and My Antonia, respectively, are accused of sacrificing too much for their art because they apparently choose to overlook their families and love relations in respect to their art. On the surface, it appears as if Thea sacrifices her relationship with her mother and her love with Fred Ottenburg in order to achieve her musical desires. Similarly, Lena is depicted as a female who sacrifices her bond with her mother and her prospects for marriage for the life of an indepe...
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...r orator skills (i.e. they usually become Lawyers), and postponing marriage prospects until they are independently and financially settled. However, these men are never accused of sacrificing their relations, or too much for their art. Unfortunately, even in the literary world men and women are depicted differently in terms of their relational expectations. This difference goes as far as accusing the pursuit of art as a sacrifice only when the individual is a woman.
Cather, Willa. My Antonia. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.
Cather, Willa. The Song of the Lark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1943.
Geismar, Maxell. The Last of the Provincials: The American Novel 1915 to 1925. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1947.
Sabiston, Elizabeth. EN 4210 3.0E Seminar. Toronto: York University, October 15 2002.
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