Style and Technique

“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

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

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Literary Style

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

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Compare and Contrast

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...

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Topics for Further Study

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

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What Do I Read Next?

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

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Bibliography and Further Reading


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


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(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.


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