My attempt will be to find out what episodes of Willa Cathers life had impact upon her work and to prove that this impact was determinative in the formation of mature and internationally known writer worthy being included in contemporary literary canon. Willa Cather was educated at the University of Nebraska, where she studied Latin that may have influenced her graceful Virgilian style. (Daiches, 1951, 34) Later she worked on the staff, then as editor, of McClures Magazine in New York from 1906 to 1912. With O Pioneers!
, written in 1913, she turned to the Nebraska prairies to relate the stories she experienced, he stories praising the romanticism and difficulties of the life in frontier. She was awarded with a Pulitzer Prize for her novel One of Ours of 1922. Willa Cather would probably be a writer even had she never gone West in her early impressionable years. What kind of a writer, it would be hard to say. In this context James Seaton makes some presumption, namely he refers to the inferior quality of her non-Western books, that we should not have had anything like her present masterpieces, and that America and the world would not have heard of her.
(Seaton, 1998, 147) Willa Cathers best works are indeed the result of cooperation of poetic vision of the artist in words and landscape where each gives to each, the artist giving her chosen country expression and duration forever, the country and the people so identifying themselves with the artist as to become backbone and marrow of her work. Willa Cathers union with the great table-lands east of the Rockies had prominent effect on her best works. The passion for description of past in Cathers works is usually explained by critics as the influence of her childhood spent in Nebraska.
(Brown, 1953, OBrien, 1987); and Joan Acocella justly calls Cather the elegist of the pioneer period, the repository of what America thinks of as its early triumphs. (Acocella, 2000, 3) Willa Cather wrote three novels, her so-called prairie trilogy all based on her childhood in Nebraska. In the 1913 O Pioneers! a young Swedish immigrant, Alexandra Bergson, raises a blooming farm out of the barren Nebraska plain. Then comes The Song of the Lark, in which Thea Kronborg, another little Swede, stuck in another prairie town, dreams of becoming an artist, and actually makes it.
And the third is My Antonia, the story of a Czech girl, Antonia Shimerda. Willa Cather takes to her heart the simplest souls of the West, the generous, impulsive, loyal souls of brakeman, ranchman, pioneer, missionary priest and Indian. Willa Cathers Thea Kronborg, her Claude Wheeler, her Professor St. Peter, her Archbishop carry the pioneers flag of endurance into the higher realms, driven on by their imagination and their passion to a more perfect world.
Willa Cathers early resettlement to the West brought about for her, without her striving for it, the revelation of a landscapes essential beauty and of the particular imprint on it of human sufferings and toil. Her early experience was that factor which encouraged the development of originality and a form of Cathers writing. The length of that experience is eloquent enough: a child of nine came, saw, and conquered the West; it took a mature woman of some published books behind her to write O Pioneers, Willa Cathers probably first characteristic book.
Willa Cather soon exchanged the prairie for the schoolroom. Nevertheless, the prairie and the pioneers had given her what no school could have given: the first priceless experience of life in the open in a vast untamed country, an experience that is all the more palpable in her novels with eloquent English tongue poetizing beauty of the West, the pioneers inarticulate dreams, their stoic acceptance of the inevitable, and their ready answer to the call of adventure.