Willa Cather on Art
“Style is how you write, and you write well when you are interested. A writer’s own interest in the story is the essential thing. If there is a flash of warmth in him it is repeated in the reader. The emotion is bigger than style.
I don’t think there is anything in ideas. When a young writer tells me he has an idea for a story, he means he has had an emotion that he wants to pass on. An artist has an emotion, and the first thing that he wants to do with it is to find some form to put it in, a design. It reacts on him exactly as food makes a hungry person want to eat. It may tease him for years until he gets the right form from the emotion.”
After reading any of Mrs. Cather’s works, one will find nature in her works. Specifically the humbling landscapes west of the Missouri river, such as the plains of Nebraska, the Mesa Verde in New Mexico or the mountains of Colorado. To find out exactly what Mrs. Cather’s notion of art is, one must examine the events that influenced her as a poet and author.
Willa Cather was greatly influenced by America’s wild natural scenes. In her first 20 years, she grew up near a small city in Nebraska called Red Cloud. This city was surrounded by prairies and stood at the border of America’s wild frontier of the west and the progress and modernization from the east.
One would imagine this frontier town to be unsophisticated and rough, however, this was far from the case. Red Cloud was home not only to many European immigrants who worked the land, but also to many travelers who made their way from the East Coast to the West Coast and vise versa. The immigrants enriched the town a great deal, by bringing with them many forms of Art from Western Europe. Art such as theatre, found its way into the city early on and became quite popular with the towns people, which suggest why there were two theatres. Many of the travelers who stopped in Red Cloud were actors and actresses who performed in classical Operas and plays.
Another way in which the immigrants influenced Cather’s upbringing was by providing insight into a life that was not built on materialistic pleasure, but rather the need to survive and finding solace in what little they had. This contentment without materialistic pleasure is a common theme in Cather’s books. She was so involved in capturing the immigrants’ condition she would go into the sod houses or dugouts to watch them.
This social art was quite influential in her upbringing, but the greatest and most prevailing force found in her books is nature. For Cather, the immense horizon of the prairies, cotton wood trees, and stunning wild flowers made an indelible mark on her heart. She once stated “Whenever I crossed the Missouri River coming into Nebraska the very smell of the soil tore me to pieces. I could not decide which was the real…I loved the country where I had been a kid” And it was from this love of the prairie and nature that...