My Mortal Enemy, by Willa Cather

cat.cs005.025My Mortal Enemy, by Willa Cather, is a short novel first published in 1926. Pretty bitter. An unforgettable protagonist, who cuts through platitudes, is complex and a bit unfathomable even to a perceptive narrator. The writing is excellent. Here is an excellent article by Charles Johanningsmeier about who might have been the inspiration for the novel, which apparently is a bit perplexing for Cather scholars.

What prompted Cather to write about the McClures in early 1925, though, was learning about McClure’s pathetic position during her 1924 meeting with him. Possessing detailed knowledge both of the McClures’ courtship and their current situation, Cather commenced her novel about the lies, contradictions, and disappointments involved in such a seemingly passionate love affair, and the disillusionment of one who wants so very much to believe in it. The numerous parallels between the stories of the Henshawes and the McClures make identification of these persons as Cather’s models unmistakable; furthermore, the evolution of Nellie’s relationship with the Henshawes is closely mirrored by Cather’s relationship with the McClures, and with S. S. McClure in particular.

More is in the article. Fascinating!


About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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