Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)

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Although Harry had assiduously cultivated appearances-of mastery, money and might-reflective activities in Lucy Gayheart uncover uneasy chinks in his protective armory. Book 3 narratively "lays bare" an undercurrent of sensitivity and also exposes its opposite, Harry's furrowed, difficult nature.

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At fifty-five years, his is an uneven nature full of undigested pain, loss, and concealment. Early in book 1, this unevenness emerged in a single, tellingly dissonant image: "His things stood out, and weren't a part of himself" Furtively insecure, Harry took "on a certain self-importance" in a big city "as if he were afraid of being ignored in the crowd" An inner oscillation in Harry becomes increasingly evident as memory contrasts the cocky youth he had expected to be with his life of "melancholy pleasure" and his self-declared "barren" marriage , Harry's guilt-driven recall is studded with data that accentuate a doubleness in his self-appraisement, both of his prowess and of his ethical probity.

Gradually, his narrative juxtaposes that arrogant certainty with a harrowing guilt both in terms of Lucy and of the town's opinion. Telling anecdotes condemn Harry and his professional facade, exposing "the genial, confidential tone, just tinged by regret, with which he refused a loan to a man who needed it" and emphasizing his stinginess, "People said he was hard in business and took advantage of borrowers in a tight place" 99, In a slap at Harry's masculinity, Nick Wakefield, former rival for Lucy's favors, dubs Harry "a damned coward, for all your big chest.

Afraid to go to poor Lucy Gayheart's funeral" Harry's narrative recall exposes a divided nature, torn between the practical and artistic worlds, between fact and feeling. While Harry concludes "facts are at the bottom of everything" , for Lucy quite the opposite was the case: "There was nothing real,.

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That was real" This fact-feeling dichotomy saturates the book, and appears in the split between Lucy's "airy" world of art and Harry's world of commercial fact. Until Lucy's death, tension between the worlds of the artist and the businessman, between Sebastian and Harry, often freezes the terms of Harry's recollection.

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For Harry, Lucy's art attachments are, then, an illness from which she will, it is said, "soon recover" In spite of his "mental nearsightnedness" 98 , however, Harry goes well beyond Cather's earlier male narrators as gradually his recollections acknowledge failure to enclose or to own Lucy ever. The novel verifies the demise of a narrative focus in Cather by confirming limitation in the power of Harry's proprietory gaze. Instead, book 3, the section that Cather was delighted "to get right," verifies the potential of a narrative experiment, that of developing a thoroughly unexpected, modern narrating nexus in the unlikely materials of Harry Gordon's recollections.

In this most modern of modern novels, three often overlooked keys signal Harry's narrative centrality and provide a clue to Harry's omnipresent effort to understand: 1 the shift in narrative persons, 2 intermittent parentheses, and 3 extensive projections. From the outset, the novel presents no consistent focus of person or theme. The first pages shift from "they" the townspeople ; to "one," as in "one knew she was delighted with everything" 4 ; to "we," in "We missed Lucy in Haverford" 5. These shifts record Harry's shifting perspectives toward an event he gropes to articulate to himself.

In addition, the novel is rife with odd parentheses that bring out Harry's multiple perspectives, his commingled sentimentality-remorse. Some parentheses are banal additions of information: " These are modern times, " Others verify Harry's oblique presence throughout the novel, as in asides, he interprets, gives causes, and disjointedly confronts his feelings. Similarly, in book 2, on her way to Mrs. Ramsay's house, Lucy considers summoning her "old friend" Harry to an attempted reunion.

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A preemptory parenthentical voice observes suddenly out of nowhere, " no one refused any request of hers " Soon thereafter at Mrs. Ramsay's house, while Lucy plays the piano, an incognito Harry passes outside the window in and out of parentheses: "Had Mrs. Ramsay turned and looked out of the window, she would have seen a man's tall figure go somewhat pompously by. The blind was still up, and the interior of the lighted room was as clear to the passer-by as a stage setting when the theatre is dark. After this fugitive image which is parenthetically commented on from Harry's position out side the window , Harry radically changes his path, not going his usual course but struggling with himself on the sidewalk beside Mrs.

Ramsay's house, "seized by a fierce impulse to go straight to her front door and into the parlour,-he almost did it. This vignette and its oddly submerged parentheses place Harry as involved observer, self-declared "passer-by" and reveal his struggles about Lucy shortly before the decisive fatal scene on the open road. Later in book 3, Harry recalls that fateful night, admitting with relief: "he had scarcely got himself by" This scene and its dense recognitions underscore the intensity of Harry's multilayered recollections evident in parentheses and in the novel overall.

Not all parentheses are this dramatic, as revelatory of motive and covert response; overall, however, they disclose the often oblique presence of Harry Gordon recalling, interpreting, and reshaping in his reiterant, isolated compulsive reviews. Thirdly, in his recall Harry projects his wishful perceptions as the perceptions of others, especially Lucy Gayheart.

For instance, exclamations that appear to be Lucy's thinking provide stirring defenses of Harry's masculinity: "more than physical strength. It might get a man almost anywhere, she thought" Lucy is said to celebrate Harry's unrecognized worth: "some imagination. Harry was said to be "deeply. Such praise in the guise of Lucy's thinking exposes Harry's thwarted wish to be respected for depth, strength, and sensitivity. Lucy Gayheart has often appeared to be a novel of dreamy exaggeration and ill-guided romantic excess.

Conceived as product of Harry's uneasy meanderings, however, Sebastian and Lucy serve as projections in Harry's imaginings. That possibility may explain the caricaturelike quality Sebastian and Lucy sometimes present.

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Near complete lack of sympathy for the world in which they live shapes Harry's versions of them and their life together. Reports of Sebastian's relentlessly ineffective daily life and of his melodramatic death speak therefore as much of Harry's antipathy as they do of Sebastian himself. Conversely, the often saccharine sensitivity of Lucy and her supposed adulation of Harry's qualities, both physical and moral which became such as to arouse distaste for Lucy in Cather , [18] emerge this way in Harry's biased reconstructions.

Given Cather's artistic control and measure, the caricaturelike exaggeration seems as sure an indicator of Harry's narrative centrality as any other feature of the book. Crosscurrented in this, Cather's sonata to multiple memory, is a belief about artists and art: it is better to remember than to obliterate the past. At first, Harry had sought to obliterate, forget, and passively admire. In nights of recollection, he comes indeed to "remember" something "closer," something in himself more than to admire something external to him. As Lucy seems to have learned from the aging soprano a genuine respect for honest human sentimentality even when filtered through limited talent, Harry comes to recognize something the same in himself In the persons of Lucy, Harry, and Sebastian, the novel explores delicately, yet pointedly, three early twentieth-century perspectives toward art.

Lucy Gayheart

Sebastian personifies the artist, whose aesthetics divorce him from everyday life; Lucy is the romantic resolutely idealizing the artist's trappings; Harry is the materialist who learns to respect something of the intangible and to get closer to the ineffable in himself and his objects. Harry's musing and shaping of his recollections around Lucy Gayheart's footsteps Harry's personal objet d'art par excellence emblemize a material and an art as remote from the art of Sebastian as the earth from the stars.

Her footsteps, inexorably fleeting, are also vital, constantly present triggers in the everyday world of powers he had stifled in himself. Seen with Harry as narrative "trigger," Lucy Gayheart is far more complexly intimate than a record of "an anonymous narrator. During her struggle to revise and compose Lucy Gayheart , Cather delivered a radio speech about modern fiction in which she defines narrative freedom, "When we learn to give our purpose the form that exactly clothes it and no more; when we make a form for every story instead of trying to crowd it into one of the stock moulds on the shelf, then we shall be on the right road, at least" "On the Novel" In the narrative person of Harry Gordon, Cather comes upon that form, the "right," although most unexpected, mold that uniquely fits this story of Harry's Lucy Gayheart.

While Lucy and Sebastian dissolve into near unreal exaggerations, Harry remains a genuine though unenviable man, embedded in an unenviable day-to-day reality. This stymied, small-minded banker who continues in the face of what he dubs "a long grilling" succeeds, narratively anyway, in "living out in the open" and proves in the face of Lucy's devastating accusations that yes, he can move in the direction of going "all the way" That is to say, Harry comes to take seriously more than just the commercial and tangible world, to live in and with his world of intangibles, feeling and understanding in his own contexts.

The novel is, as Cather suggested to Robert Frost about The Professor's House , "really a story of 'letting go with the heart'" Sergeant The person "letting go with the heart" in this novel is Harry. For Harry, such "going all the way" is initially vicarious, a "catching it from Lucy.

Lucy Gayheart by Willa Cather | Penguin Random House Canada

The "it" Harry finally catches is what the reader comes to know as Lucy Gayheart , a novel that grows out of a conviction that everyday human beings may possess "another kind of sweetness; a sympathy, a tolerant understanding" Lucy Gayheart comes out of the literary s and its interest in average people, figures who are neither artistically oriented nor aesthetically sophisticated. As far back as , Cather had commended what she called "the healthy commonplace," an arena never ignored or deprecated and increasingly present in her later work "Demands" This orientation toward an average world and its ordinary people decisively shapes Cather's fiction throughout her career, but never more decisively than here in Lucy Gayheart.

Harry, though a small-town banker, is an unexceptional man in matters aesthetic and artistic. In Harry's recollection emerging from everyday material and aesthetic capacity, Cather has made a wholly modern book. It is not a record of unbridgeable aesthetic distances between artist and objects of art but rather a book of the art of the immediacy of everyday living. Cather, though qualifiedly to be sure, accepts tenacious Harry, no sensitive intellect or dreamer of dreams, but one who achieves finally an accommodation to his inner self, in some limited way to his future home town, and thus to the commonplace truths of his everyday life.

Lucy Gayheart had earlier mused in pleased wonderment at her own suddenly altered experience of art, when, having just fallen in love herself, she finds herself knowing the music of love in a mysterious new way: "A new conception of art? It came closer than that" For Harry, as for Lucy and Cather, the matter of one's relation to art, life, and memory need be just that-"closer.

In Cather's writing about writing, to be human is to be more substantial than to be mainly or merely artistic.

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Lucy Gayheart in reflects what Cather observed in a late undated fragment: "Art is too terribly human to be very 'great'" On Writing Lucy Gayheart -Cather's nonmodernist modern novel-presents Cather's respect for and contribution to an evolving, guardedly positive, response to American circumstances that would cultivate involvement, not disenchantment. Cowley's study also points out a fundamental division, an antinomy characteristic of the period in which Lucy Gayheart grows.

Unlike the "darkening vision" of life that has been imputed to it Woodress , Lucy Gayheart , in its reach and complex depth and its still barely discernible narrator, radiates potent, fertile belief in the possibility of and need for developing that hard-to-come-by and elegantly classical "sympathy with one's environment.

Andrew Jewell, editor. Updated July Toggle navigation W illa C ather A rchive. Source File: cat.

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In Writing Beyond the Ending , Du Plessis explores similar structural developments in twentieth-century women's narration-such as revised plots, collective protagonism, and doubled characterization. Go back. The increasingly invoked term chiastic , designating a grammatical figure of crossing or "systematic inversions," proves useful to understanding Lucy Gayheart 's multiple crossings in characterization, theme, temporal frameworks. For an example of a literary reading of chiasmus , see Jacobus Cather seems intrigued by a nexus linking past and future, saying, "Because of the past, we have hope for the future" Woodress Lucy and Sebastian's divided "postures" center around their quest for a safe zone associated with hopes for an art that could somehow resolve life "into something simple and noble-yes, and joyous; a joyousness.

Interplay between Sebastian's cultivated distance and Harry's final reconciliation to place rewrites a modernist focus on distance with a recognition of art's potential intimacy. Harry, inceptively, slightly, moves beyond J. Alfred Prufrock's squeamish paranoia. Lucy Gayheart is full of such inversions, full of enantiodromia , a concept Carl Jung explained as "the conversion of something into its opposite" In Plato's Republic , diegesis designates when the poet "does not even attempt to suggest.

Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics) Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)
Lucy Gayheart (Vintage Classics)

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