Friday, April 2, 2010
"Ours is not to reason why. Ours is but to do and die" Tennyson
Claude Wheeler is a Nebraska farm boy who isn't sure of the meaning of what his father is doing with the farm or with his life.
Like many of Cather's stories, this novel is based on people in her life.
This story was written after WWI and is based on her cousin, C.P. Cather, who was the first Nebraska army officer to die in the war.
The story begins as Claude is still living at his parent's farm. He is attending the college they picked for him after his parents were visited by a man his mother called, "Brother Weldon" came out and was preaching nearby. Temple College is the school and Claude was sent to live with Weldon and Weldon's sister, with Claude's rental contribution to the Weldon's home, an important part of their ability to maintain their financial stability.
Claude didn't like the school and didn't care for Temple,he would rather go to the State University. When he finally persuaded his parents to permit him to attend the State University, his view of the world widened. He also met Julius Erlich and became friends with Julius family. Claude saw this family as people who could enjoy life and speak about meaningful things. Julius mother, became particularly fond of Claude.
Back home, Claude took over much of the management of the farm. He was sensitive and shy but spends time with Enid Royce, the daughter of the grain merchant. One day, Claude was injured and had a time at home, recuperating. Enid visited him daily and they eventually decided to marry.
When the war breaks out, the people around Claude didn't know much of European history.
Claude's father suggests that Claude call his friend, Ernest, a German immigrant, and ask him what the Bohemian papers say about it. Then the German army entered Luxembourg. Claude didn't know where Luxembourg was or even if it was a city or a country.
The story is told in narrative style and seems to have a theme of America's innocence prior to their entry into the war. It details how much influence the a person's faith had and Claude's growth from a sensitive farm boy to a new army lieutenant, helping his men as they became sick on the voyage to Europe.
We learn about a time in history and the leisure manner that people in mid-America had.
An entertaining and informative read.