Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 258
Anton Rosicky, the protagonist of the story, came to Nebraska to work as a farmer. Originally from Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, he experienced country life as a boy when he went to live on his grandparents’ farm after his mother died. At eighteen he moved to London, where he worked for a poor German tailor for two years. At twenty he made his way to New York, again working as a tailor until at thirty-five he decided he needed to get out into the country and work on the land. Having saved enough money to buy his own farm, he has lived happily, if modestly, on his farm with his wife and six children.
The story begins when sixty-five-year-old Rosicky learns from his doctor that he has a bad heart. This news causes him to reflect on his life and the choices he has made. As the story reveals more about Rosicky and what he values, it becomes apparent that Rosicky’s heart is anything but bad. Rather, Rosicky embodies the ideal of the good man. He works hard but still finds the time to enjoy life’s pleasures, including his pipe and coffee. More importantly, he is emotionally astute and is able to touch people profoundly. Cather is careful to point out that Rosicky’s qualities have not prevented him from making mistakes, but his generosity makes him wholly capable of redressing those wrongs. After his death, Rosicky, who is buried in a small graveyard near the farm, remains connected to both the human community and the natural world.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 218
Polly, one of four daughters of a widow, is the wife of Rosicky’s son Rudolph. She is thin, blonde, and blue-eyed, and she ‘‘got some style, too,’’ as Rosicky notes. Unlike her husband, to whom she has been married less than a year, Polly grew up in town and is not the child of immigrants. These differences make her feel somewhat awkward around Rudy’s family—she calls her father-in-law ‘‘Mr. Rosicky’’ and is ‘‘stiff and on her guard’’ with Mary, whose occasional gifts of bread or sweets she is not quite comfortable receiving. Rosicky notes that ‘‘an American girl don’t git used to our ways all at once.’’ Polly sometimes feels lonely living in such an isolated area. Once a store clerk, she misses the social contacts she had at her job and in her church choir, and she is touched by Rosicky’s kindness toward her. When Rosicky has a heart attack after raking thistles in the hayfield, it is Polly who nurses him through it. This is the first time in the story that she calls him ‘‘Father,’’ and he is the first person she allows to know of her pregnancy. Afterward, while he is sleeping, it strikes her that ‘‘nobody in the world . . . really loved her as much as old Rosicky did.’’
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 216
Rudolph is Rosicky’s oldest son and Polly’s husband. About twenty years old, he is described as a ‘‘serious sort of chap’’ and a ‘‘simple, modest boy,’’ but ‘‘proud.’’ Although he and Polly were just married in the spring, he ‘‘had more than once been sorry he’d married this year.’’ This statement of regret comes immediately after a reference to the crop failure of the past year, but other references indicate there is also trouble with his marriage itself. Both Rosicky and his wife are afraid that Polly will grow too discontented with farm life and that her discontent will spread to Rudolph or start trouble in their marriage. He works his rented farmland, but he struggles with money, toying with ideas of going to the city to work for the railroad or a packing house for a more secure income. Before he married, he worked at the Omaha stockyards for...
(The entire section contains 1146 words.)
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