|[Portrait of Willa Cather, Picryl]https://picryl.com/media/portrait-of-willa-cather-1|
One of Ours written by Willa Cather is a novel about a male protagonist, Claude Wheeler and the novel is about his journey finding the meaning of his life as he grows from a naive country boy managing his father’s farm to a competent soldier leading a unit of men in World War I.
Claude is the youngest son in his farmer family in Frankfort, Nebraska. He is generally described as: “In country schools there was always a red-headed, warty handed, runny nosed little boy who was called Claude. His good physique he took for granted; smooth, muscular arms and legs, and strong shoulders, a farmer boy might be supposed to have.
Unfortunately he had none of his father’s physical repose, and his strength often asserted itself inharmoniously”. The narrator gives straightforward depiction to readers—the physical appearance of Claude in this quote: “He crept down two flights of stairs, feeling his way in the dusk, his red hair standing up in peaks, like a cock’s comb”.
According to the description of the protagonist, Claude has straight red hair which stands up on the center of his head. Moreover, he has a beard which is “a shade darker than his hair and not so red as his skin”.
His eyebrows and long lashes are “a pale corn-colour-made his blue eyes seem lighter than they were”; “there is also the part regarding Claude`s aversion to his head: “He especially hated his head—so big that he had trouble in buying his hats, and uncompromisingly square in shape; a perfect block-head”.
Throughout the overall novel, Claude keeps questioning his sense of belonging, which is the main theme of the book. At the beginning of the story, Claude is greatly dissatisfied with his surroundings. He hates his life as a farmer in Frankfort.
However, he demands a life with definite purpose and keeps seeking meaning and reason for his existence. He thinks he is “exactly the sort of looking boy he didn’t want to be” and feels himself as a “chump”.
He lives with mother, father, two brothers—Ralph and Weldon—and Mahailey. He doesn’t have much authority upon his family and rather has a small impact on the community:“As a result of Brother Weldon’s sojourn at the farm, Claude was sent to the Temple College”.
In this line, the author states that Claude is being “sent” to the Temple College, which indicates how Claude is a byproduct/result of his brother Weldon’s action. This shows how small Claude`s impact is on his family since he is treated as an alternative choice; He can only choose, or even be forced to do, the left-over options following after his siblings.
Due to this weak relationship, he does not feel a deep and reliable connection with his family members. Cather processes the story based on the theme of “identity” and expresses it through the characters.
In particular, Claude has an aspiration toward the integrity and essence of surrounding circumstances. Thus he keeps searching for his place where he can fit in well and be satisfied. In that process, Claude devotes for the meaning of life and something larger than himself to which he can dedicate his energy and passion.
Although the tough reality keeps distracting Claude from his contemplation, he still develops the idea of his identity and finds enlightenment through those interactions with circumstances including both relatively peaceful and extreme ones; in his home with family and during the war.
Thus, the author developed the theme, identity, through introspective characters--particularly Claude--experiencing both peaceful and extreme circumstances in her great novel, One of Ours.
Idyllwild Arts Academy
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