Neighbor Rosicky

by Willa Cather

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What literary devices are used in the short story "Neighbor Rosicky"?

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One literary device used is that of flashback. Rosicky, the main character, often looks back to his past, and as we have full access to his thoughts we get a fuller picture of his life in this way. Nothing much happens in the story as such; the main point is to show Rosicky's character, and the use of the flashback technique helps to do this. We learn of various events in his life which have helped to shape the character that he is now - a tranquil man who can look back on a life well-spent.

Another literary device used is the imagery of sewing. Rosicky often sits and sews by his window. Sewing relates to the process of memory; it symbolises the way that Rosicky patches together pieces of his past to create a whole picture of his life, just as sewing can create a full garment.

Cather also makes important use of setting in this story. The story shifts from the Nebraskan plain of the present to events in New York City and London in the past. Cather taps into a common literary tendency to contrast country and city life and to idealise the former at the expense of the latter.  The beautiful open prairie reflects Rosicky's present contentment, while memories of cities are linked with his earlier struggles. He reflects that country life is best, too, for his sons:

the worst they could do on the farm was better than the best they would be likely to do in the city (part V)

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