Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“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.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The Farming Crisis
Although it was not collected in Obscure Destinies until 1932, Cather wrote ‘‘Neighbour Rosicky’’ in...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Narration and Point of View
‘‘Neighbour Rosicky’’ is narrated through an omniscient narrator; that is, a speaker who is...

(The entire section is 882 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1920s: Farms are run by individual families who view the farm as a means of making a living close to the land and away from the...

(The entire section is 197 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

• Research the various groups of immigrants who came to the United States during the first part of the twentieth century. Who were they?...

(The entire section is 288 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

O Pioneers!, Cather’s second novel, was written in 1913. Set in Nebraska in the late nineteenth century, the novel tells the...

(The entire section is 394 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)


Brown, E. K. and Leon Edel. Willa Cather: A Critical Biography, New York: Knopf, 1964, p. 275.


(The entire section is 482 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bloom, Edward A., and Lillian D. Bloom. Willa Cather’s Gift of Sympathy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Willa Cather. New York: Chelsea House, 1985.

Gerber, Philip L. Willa Cather. Rev. ed. New York: Twayne, 1995.

Goldberg, Jonathan. Willa Cather and Others. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001.

Nettels, Elsa. Language and Gender in American Fiction: Howells, James, Wharton, and Cather. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

O’Connor, Margaret Anne, ed. Willa Cather: The Contemporary Reviews. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Romines, Ann, ed. Willa Cather’s Southern Connections: New Essays on Cather and the South. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

Shaw, Patrick W. Willa Cather and the Art of Conflict: Re-visioning Her Creative Imagination. Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, 1992.

Skaggs, Merrill Maguire, ed. Willa Cather’s New York: New Essays on Cather in the City. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001.

Stout, Janis P. Willa Cather: The Writer and Her World. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

Stout, Janis P., ed. Willa Cather and Material Culture: Real-World Writing, Writing the Real World. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005.

Wasserman, Loretta. Willa Cather: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Woodress, James. Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990.