The Professor's House & Nature
Most agree that one is a product of their environment. One cannot disagree that the environment in which someone grows up has a bearing on the avenues of life they choose to walk. High-performing people, once they have grown accustomed to the world, utilize their environment for the betterment of their work or their society. In essence, an environment either positively or negatively influences its subjects. Climate can play an important role in many things, including one's work habits, cultural development, and the arts. Willa Cather highlights the importance of the environment through her depiction of Professor St. Peter's work life, the cliff dwellers' cultural success, and nature's implications in the artistic world.
Prof. St. Peter established himself as a renowned intellectual, which he accredited to work habits and a consistent working environment. The professor had a very proper room in his old house, with a grand library, tremendous lighting, and a proper desk on which he wrote letters.
However, this is not where he did his work. He did all of his work, for the entirety of his professional life, in a "dark den" with a "worn, scratchy" rugged floor, kept irrelevant papers in the same spot, and never moved them (7, 8). Though the room did not accurately portray his financial means, it remained the place that was conducive to his work. His daughter Rosamond inquired about his strange habits and suggested that she would "build him a study" in the "backyard of the new house" (47). However, the professor objects, and insists that "habit" is a crucial part of "his work" (47). He refuses to leave his old workroom even though it would entail much nicer one in a brand new, newly refurbished house. While one may question his love for his daughter, or promote the idea that the professor utilizes his work to shield away his family, this does not hold much truth; there are several instances in the book that exhibit his undying love for his daughters. When he discovered Kathleen upset over the materialistic habits of her sister, the professor put his hands "tenderly" on her "soft hazel-closed hair," and after comforting her, he walked away "heavy-hearted" (73, 74). Even though the professor could afford a much better working environment, he stayed in his workroom in his old, dead house because he placed faith in the importance of one's working environment.
The Cliff City's exploitation of their environment enabled them to enjoy fresh resources and a sound living situation. The cliff dwellers, as described by Tom Outland, mastered the complexities of nature and managed to harness its power to serve the community. The "outer walls" of the houses were intact, made with adobe, and...