Friday, February 5, 2010

The Sentimentality of William Tavener

Willa Cather (1873–1947)
From Willa Cather: Stories, Poems, and Other Writings

This selection has been reposted here with a newly researched introduction outlining Hamlin Garland’s possible influence on Cather’s early stories and detailing the various autobiographical details of this story.

Willa Cather’s novels and stories often showcase the triumphs and trials of pioneers, farmers, and immigrants out West. “The Sentimentality of William Tavener” (1900), one of her earliest pieces, combines recollections from her childhood years in Virginia, where she was born, with the atmosphere of her family’s later home in Nebraska, and the story’s lead character is one of the strong-willed pioneers who would be so prevalent in her later, more famous fiction. James Woodress, in his 1987 biography of Cather, notes her “skillful use of what must have been a family story” to create what is “rare in Cather’s fiction—a tender moment of conjugal affection.”

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It takes a strong woman to make any sort of success of living in the West, and Hester undoubtedly was that. When people spoke of William Tavener as the most prosperous farmer in McPherson County, they usually added that his wife was a “good manager.” . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

This selection may be photocopied and distributed for classroom or educational use.