One of Ours
By: Willa Cather
Willa Cather's One of Ours takes us again to the Midwest. It is the story of Claude Wheeler, the son of a wealthy farmer in Nebraska who seeks desperately to find his place in the world. He attempts to go off to school, an undertaking that his family sees as a temporary distraction while Claude is waiting to take over the family farm but what he sees as an opportunity to escape to a more meaningful life. He does come back to the farm when he is needed and attempts to settle down, builds a house, and marries a girl because that is what he is expected to do. All the while, his soul longs to be free to find new things. When Claude's wife goes to China to take care of her invalid missionary sister, he sees his opportunity to break free by joining the army and heading into World War I.
Warning: spoilers in this paragraph. Highlight to read it. Claude truly finds the freedom and happiness he was seeking in his new experiences - ironic because he had entered a violently bloody war and saw things that would torment others for years to come. In the end, Claude dies, rather suddenly, in a battle.
I found this book a very interesting read - not only for the content, but for the style of writing. Instead of giving the story from the perspective of one character or no character, Cather seamlessly shifts from one character's point of view to another - sometimes from one paragraph to the next. One feels as though they are floating from character to character instead of remaining fixed behind the eyes of one person or remaining permanently outside of all character. The shift doesn't happen frequently, but just enough to give a complete picture of the story.
Spoiler again - highlight below:
Something that struck me in the book that I had never considered was the fact that after Claude died and his family had received the news his mother still received letters from him for several weeks because of the time it took for soldiers' letters to reach home from the front. I can't even imagine being a family member and experiencing that..
I know this is a long post, but this book really made me think about all kinds of different things. That doesn't always happen, so I thought I should write it out when I could.