Great Books: Willa Cather's "A Lost Lady"

June 6, 2011 | Maureen

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University of Toronto Professor Alan Ackerman will talk about A Lost Lady by the great American writer Willa Cather at the North York Central Library auditorium, on Tuesday, June 7, 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Young Willa Cather Willa Cather is best known for her novels about pioneer life on the Nebraska prairie: O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia. In A Lost Lady, Cather paints a portrait of Marian Forrester, the charming wife of wealthy Captain Daniel Forrester, and young Neil Herbert, who idolizes her, but is ultimately disillusioned. Some have seen this classic American novel as a requiem for a way of life that was fading in the face of a new, crass, capitalistic age. Here is an excerpt from the book:

"He had seen the end of an era, the sunset of the pioneer. He had come upon it when already its glory was nearly spent. So in the buffalo times a traveller used to come upon the embers of a hunter`s fire on the prairie, after the hunter was up and gone; the coals would be trampled out, but the ground was warm, and the flattened grass where he had slept and where his pony had grazed, told the story.

200px-WillaCather_ALostLady This was the very end of the road-making West; the men who had put plains and mountains under the iron harness were old; some were poor, and even the successful ones were hunting for rest and a brief reprieve from death. It was already gone, that age; nothing could ever bring it back. The taste and smell and song of it, the visions those men had seen in the air and followed,--these he had caught in a kind of afterglow in their own faces,--and this would always be his."

A Lost Lady. Part 2, Chapter 9

In 1986 Willa Cather was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame