In 'Neighbor Rosicky,' how does Anton Rosicky find a wholeness and completeness that derives from human harmony and caring?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the age of sixty-five, Rosicky has attained a sense of contentment that pervades the entire story. The narrative makes it clear that he has achieved this not through material gain but through the connections that he has formed with other people, his family, and the very land that he farms. He has never been wealthy and has had to fight his way up from abject poverty as a young man, but he is comfortable and secure and he wants that life for his sons as well. He and his wife Mary have never been swayed by purely material considerations, like so many other people; they have known hard times on the farm, too, but have always showed a resilient spirit which has seen them through. 

Rosicky has been free all his life from the kind of greed, covetousness, envy, and mean-spiritedness, that he has seen in others, certainly while living in the city. The result is that he has gained a lifelong peace of mind. Although not outwardly demonstrative, he genuinely cares about other people, and this earns their respect and affection, which in turn deepens his own sense of contentment. His concern for others is evident even in small matters. He even succeeds in breaking through to Polly, his somewhat reserved daughter-in-law, when he has a heart attack and she helps him. Even in his extremity, he doesn't want to burden anyone else. It is at this point that she realizes his genuine, deep goodness:

She had a sudden feeling that nobody in the world, not her mother, not Rudolph, or anyone, really loved her as much as old Rosicky did.

It is an instinctive kind of goodness in Rosicky that Polly recognizes at this point.

As well as connecting deeply with other people, Rosicky also maintains a deep feeling for the land, for nature, for the whole harmonious cycle of life. His death is figured as part of this cycle.There is no tragedy, but rather a sense of rightness, of the consummation of a life lived well and fully. At his burial place, his old friend the doctor muses that the manner of his death and burial in the old homely country graveyard, is perfectly fitting.

Nothing could be more undeathlike than this place; nothing could be more right for a man who had helped to do the work of great cities and had always longed for the open country and had got to it at last. Rosicky's life seemed to him to be complete and beautiful.

The reference to the 'work of cities' here is important. As well as being a farmer, Rosicky has done his fair share of urban toil and faced life in the city which often was very hard. He has faced the difficulties not only of maintaining a modest farm but has had to work his way up from the bottom; he left his native country and struggled to make his way in the world as an immigrant. He married and had children and always tried to do his best by his family. 

In other words, Rosicky's life-experiences have been wide-ranging; he has seen much of the world and encountered many difficulties, as the narrative makes clear. But through it all he has learned to be serene, content, and caring towards others, as well as to deeply appreciate the land where he comes to settle and where he dies. His life is held up as exemplary. 

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Neighbor Rosicky

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