We are meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, January 20, 2010) night at 7 p.m. in the upstairs Harnish meeting room. Come ready to talk!
It seems Death Comes for the Archbishop tends to be a “love it” or “hate it” book for readers. I was kind of in between but a second read got me to the “love it” stage. I think it has so much detail in it that it’s hard to get it all at once, especially if one is waiting for a plot as most novels have. So let’s call it a “narrative,” as Willa Cather preferred, rather than a novel.
Were you a “love it” or “hate it” reader?
Regardless of what you thought, here are some questions we can keep in mind as we meet tomorrow. Note that these of course contain spoilers. I didn’t like most of the questions I found online, so most of these are mine. I did, however, get some inspiration from Cliff’s Note’s essay questions page.
Cather was not a Catholic. Why do you think she wrote about two Catholic priests? Is this a religious book?
Do you think Cather was more sympathetic to the Indians’ way of blending with the natural landscape of the Southwest or Latour’s accomplishments to build the diocese?
Father Latour and Father Vaillant: How are they similar and different in how they approach their work? Who do you believe is the better man? Who is the better priest? Is there a difference?
The landscape: What role does the landscape play? How is it a character?
Cather claims she purposely did not play up incidents for all there was in them. What are some situations that she understated?
Prologue: At Rome
What do we learn about the New Mexico diocese in this passage?
Why does Father Ferrand worry at the end of the passage?
Book One: The Vicar Apostolic
What do we learn about Father Latour from this section, especially the story of the Cruciform Tree?
Book Two: Missionary Journeys
We meet Father Valliant for the first time with the story of the in section one, The White Mules. What do we learn about him from that story? How does his personality differ from Father Latour’s in the previous section?
In Section 2, The Lonely Road to Mora, we meet Buck Scales. How is he contrasted with the New Mexico setting?
Book Three: The Mass at Acoma
What was different about the community of Acoma?
Why did Cather include the story of Friar Baltazar (section 4 of this book)? What symbolism, if any, does his story possess? Exactly what was his great failure?
Book Four: Snake Root
How does Cather treat the Native American traditions? How does it compare/contrast to the Catholic/Mexican traditions?
Book Five: Padre Martinez
Section 1 is called “The Old Order.” How is Padre Martinez’s “old order” different from Bishop Latour’s “new order”?
How do Padre Martinez and Father Lucero differ?
Book Six: Dona Isabella
Bishop Latour has an ambition: for him what role do the Olivares’ have in this? Why is the story of Antonio Olivares and Dona Isabella included in the novel? How does it compare/contrast to the Bishop’s other excursions/events?
Book Seven: The Great Diocese and Book Eight: Gold Under Pike’s Peak
What differences between Father Valliant and the Bishop do we see when they interact together? Consider both the cathedral plans and the call to go to Pike’s Peak.
Book Nine: Death Comes for the Archbishop
Why are these sections numbered instead of titled, as the other books had been?
How does this section tie the narrative together?
What is the significance of his last dream? How does it reflect his life (at least as contained in this book)?
Next month: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, February 17, 2010. Pick up your copy at the Harnish circulation desk.