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"The Professor's House" by Willa Cather

The Professor's House is available from If your country's copyright laws allow, it is available for free download from Project Gutenberg Australia.

The Professor's House by Willa Cather was first published in 1925. Split into three parts, the first and last take place in a small college town on Lake Michigan. These two parts tell the story of Professor St. Peter and the changing relationships within his family. Frequent flashbacks describe the arrival of a young man, Tom Outland, into the family circle and his short but influential stay amongst them.  The middle section is Tom Outland's narrative about his adventures in the Southwest where we enter with him into a world of desert mesas and long hidden civilizations.

Each person in the novel is characterized through his or her reaction to Tom's legacy. These changes, being both economic and emotional, provide a rigorous test through which the characters show what is truly meaningful to them. Some become greedy, some envious, most are eager for change and are willing to sacrifice certain things and relationships for others.

The Professor alone wants to avoid change--in his house, his work, his economic affairs, his marriage. He longs for the past, lives and works with a nostalgia for the independence and rawness of life that Tom was a part of but also helped to destroy. Cather asks some powerful questions in this novel, and part of the beauty of it is that she seems quite satisfied in not answering many of them.


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