Willa Cather's Characterization Technique in Neighbor Rosicky
" Neighbor Rosicky ", written in 1928 and collected in the volume Obscure Destinies
in 1932, is generally considered one of Willa Cather's most successful short stories. It
is a character study of Anton Rosicky, a man who, facing the approach of death, reflects on
the meaning and value of his life. In tracing Rosicky's journey from Bohemia to
Nebraska,Cather explores the intimate relationship between people and the paces they inhabit.
The story also celebrates the small triumphs of life. ( Wilson 1)
The protagonist, Neighbor Rosicky is presented from the point of view of an observer,
an omniscient narrator, who enters the consciousness of several different characters and sees
the world from their point of view . Rosicky's person evokes sympathy of the reader and
appreciation of human drama from Cather's part. She has a very careful way of drawing the
character and exploits all the usual methods of characteriztion technique, through which she
creates "a hero that can be examined from all sides, as a rare object in the middle of the table"
(Seargent 139). Nevertheless, the essense
of the character is given by the extremely deep
psychology applied by Cather.
As we can see while reading the story we are given a lot of information referring to the
character of Rosicky: dialogs between characters, their actions, others' descriptions provide a
clear picture how should we imagine Cather's hero. Dialogue is often used to display the
interaction between the family members and friends. Through these we get the feeling of the
endearing qualities of their family life. From the dialog between Anton and Dr.
Burleigh, the family's doctor and very good friend, we learn that he has problems with his
health and that he must be a well-known and liked person in his community. We are led
further when we enter his warm and very lively family. Their dialogs introduce us a strong,
vivid, wise personality in Rosicky's person, but altogether a caring, sympathetic, generous
one. We also find out how beloved he is to his family when his wife goes to see the doctor so
that she can get the real scoop on his condition. Their life-style, their relation to one another
suggests that they all aspire to a harmonic and peaceful life. Rosicky's individual spiritual
harmony and fulfillment reflects that he is conforted with his life's personal victory: fulfilled
his dream of having a beautiful family and to remain attached to his roots - having his own
land and cultivating alfalfa provided the freedom to pursue a true happy life. Rosicky is not
cared for only by his family. When telling the diagnosis about his heart, the doctor seems to
be really worried about his old friend, even more concerned because he is aware that how
hard can be for a man who was active all through his life that now he has to slow down and
give in. I think Rosicky finds hard to handle this situation not only for dignity but because he
doesn't want to let his family to struggle without his help.
" I don't like no old man hanging round the kitchen too much. An' my wife, she's a awful
hard worker her own self. "
And again we get a clear picture about Rosicky's family from himself as well and from Dr.
Ed: "My Lord, Rosicky, you are one of the few men I know who has a family he can get
some comfort out of; happy dispositions, never quarell among themselves, and they treat you
right. I want to see you live afeww years and enjoy them."
It is really moving how he talks about his oldest son and his daughter in law, an American
girl, Polly. "yes, she's a fine girl... Polly got lots of spunk, an' she got some style, too. Da's
nice , for young folks to have some style. - Rosicky inclined his head galantly. His voice and
his twinkly smile were an affectionate compliment to his daughte-in-law."
Significant is the gesture whit which" he placed the doctor's fee delicately behind the desk-
telephone, looking the other way, as if this were an absent-minded gesture." Rosicky doesn't
like to be embarrassed
and to make others feel the same, especially when it comes to his
The reader learns much more about the character of the Rosickys from others' opinion and
Doctor Ed's comment. The gossipers wondered why Rosicky didn't modernize
TRIFLES AND NEIHBOR ROSICKY A REFLECTION OF LITERARY MODERNISM3Trifles and Neighbor Rosicky: A Reflection of Literary ModernismIn the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States was a country struggling toward change and progress. Immigrants still coming to a new world from all over the world in chase of the all American dream, women fighting for equal rights, and changes were also seen in several other aspects of society such as art, poetry, and literature. This era in time or merging of movements is known as the Era Modernism. “The Era of Modernism represents a time of challenging in ways of conventional thinking and the changes in society as it becomes modern”(American Literature Syllabus). These changes were definitely reflected in the literatureof that time period through tales of struggles and pain, as the stories no longer always had a magical happy ending. A few examples of modernist writing include the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell and the story Neighbor Rosickyby Willa Catherine. Trifles is a play about murder and the injustices of gender inequalities during that time from a modern feminist view; and NeighborRosickyis a work of modernist fiction centered around a poor immigrant farmer.