“Neighbor Rosicky” has a minimum of plot and a maximum of characterization. The story resembles the novel demeuble, or unfurnished, which Cather invented to strip the narrative of excessive characters and incidents in order to concentrate on a central character. Reduced to the bare facts, the narrative in the present consists only of Rosicky’s medical diagnosis, his developing friendship with Polly, and his death. Cather provides a richer texture, however, by having Dr. Burleigh reflect several times on Rosicky’s character, his family, and the values they represent, as well as by having Rosicky reflect on his own past and at one time tell a long story about his youth. Thus the reader sees the contrast between his difficult beginnings and the tranquil life he has accomplished as well as a conflict between the first generation of immigrants and their children, whose lives are easier and expectations, higher.
As in all of Cather’s writing, the style is clear, spare, and uncluttered, an art that conceals its artistry. The writing has some of the austerity of the pioneer life that Cather admired.