One of Ours

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Overview

Willa Cather (1873-1947) was awarded the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for this stirring novel about World War I. She brings to life the simple Nebraska farm folk and their tranquil rural lifestyle, showing how the Great War, seemingly so far away on the Old Continent, eventually touches them all. Protagonist Claude Wheeler, a strong, healthy farm boy, is physically typical of his sturdy sodbuster family and hard-working neighbors. But mentally the boy has little in common with their narrow outlooks, and the limited ...
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Overview

Willa Cather (1873-1947) was awarded the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for this stirring novel about World War I. She brings to life the simple Nebraska farm folk and their tranquil rural lifestyle, showing how the Great War, seemingly so far away on the Old Continent, eventually touches them all. Protagonist Claude Wheeler, a strong, healthy farm boy, is physically typical of his sturdy sodbuster family and hard-working neighbors. But mentally the boy has little in common with their narrow outlooks, and the limited horizons of his parochial community make him restless and filled with a barely suppressed discontent. When the United States finally enters the conflict in Europe, Claude is one of the first to enlist, seeing purpose, adventure, and commitment to some larger ideals in the call to arms. One of Ours is a memorable testament to the shattering effects of war on youth and ideals, a powerful depiction of mechanized battle and the war's life-changing effects on one Nebraska farm boy and the people he left behind.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679737445
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1991
  • Series: Vintage Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 222,412
  • Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Willa Cather

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather (1873–1947) spent her formative years in Nebraska, which was at that time frontier territory. Her exposure to the region's dramatic environment and intrinsic hardships — along with its diverse population of European-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants — shaped and informed much of her fiction.

Biography

Wilella Sibert Cather was born on December 7, 1873, in the small Virginia farming community of Winchester. When she was ten years old, her parents moved the family to the prairies of Nebraska, where her father opened a farm mortgage and insurance business. Home-schooled before enrolling in the local high school, Cather had a mind of her own, changing her given name to Willa and adopting a variation of her grandmother's maiden name, Seibert, as her middle name.

During Cather's studies at the University of Nebraska, she worked as a drama critic to support herself and published her first piece of short fiction, "Peter," in a Boston magazine. After graduation, her love of music and intellectual pursuits inspired her to move to Pittsburgh, where she edited the family magazine Home Monthly, wrote theater criticism for the Pittsburgh Daily Leader, and taught English and Latin in local high schools. Cather's big break came with the publication of her first short story collection, The Troll Garden (1905). The following year she moved to New York City to work for McClure's Magazine as a writer and eventually the magazine's managing editor.

Considered one of the great figures of early-twentieth-century American literature, Willa Cather derived much of her inspiration from the American Midwest, which she considered her home. Never married, she cherished her many friendships, some of which she had maintained since childhood. Her intimate coterie of women writers and artists motivated Cather to produce some of her best work. Sarah Orne Jewett, a successful author from Maine whom Cather had met during her McClure's years, inspired her to devote herself full-time to creating literature and to write about her childhood, which she did in several novels of the prairies. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for her novel about World War I, called One of Ours.

She won many other awards, including a gold medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Prix Femina Americaine. On April 24, 1947, two years after publishing her last novel, Willa Cather died in New York City of a cerebral hemorrhage. Among Cather's other accomplishments were honorary doctorate degrees from Columbia, Princeton, and Yale Universities.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of O, Pioneers!.

Good To Know

When Cather first arrived at the University of Nebraska, she dressed as William Cather, her opposite sex twin.

Cather was the first woman voted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame, in 1961.

She spent forty years of her life with her companion, Edith Lewis, in New York City.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Wilella Sibert Cather (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 7, 1873
    2. Place of Birth:
      Winchester, Virginia
    1. Date of Death:
      April 27, 1947
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Read an Excerpt

One of Ours (Willa Cather Scholarly Edition)


By Willa Cather

University of Nebraska Press

Copyright © 2006 University of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.




Chapter One

Claude wheeler opened his eyes before the sun was up and vigorously shook his younger brother, who lay in the other half of the same bed.

"Ralph, Ralph, get awake! Come down and help me wash the car."

"What for?"

"Why, aren't we going to the circus today?"

"Car's all right. Let me alone." The boy turned over and pulled the sheet up to his face, to shut out the light which was beginning to come through the curtainless windows.

Claude rose and dressed, - a simple operation which took very little time. 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. He went through the kitchen into the adjoining washroom, which held two porcelain stands with running water. Everybody had washed before going to bed, apparently, and the bowls were ringed with a dark sediment which the hard, alkaline water had not dissolved. Shutting the door on this disorder, he turned back to the kitchen, took Mahailey's tin basin, doused his face and head in cold water, and began to plaster down his wet hair.

Old Mahailey herself came in from the yard, with her apron full of corn-cobs to start a fire in the kitchen stove. She smiled at him in the foolish fond way she often had with him when they were alone.

"What air you gittin' up for a-ready, boy? You goin' to the circus beforebreakfast? Don't you make no noise, else you'll have 'em all down here before I git my fire a-goin'."

"All right, Mahailey." Claude caught up his cap and ran out of doors, down the hillside toward the barn. The sun popped up over the edge of the prairie like a broad, smiling face; the light poured across the close-cropped August pastures and the hilly, timbered windings of Lovely Creek, - a clear little stream with a sand bottom, that curled and twisted playfully about through the south section of the big Wheeler ranch. It was a fine day to go to the circus at Frankfort, a fine day to do anything; the sort of day that must, somehow, turn out well.

Claude backed the little Ford car out of its shed, ran it up to the horse-tank, and began to throw water on the mud-crusted wheels and windshield. While he was at work the two hired men, Dan and Jerry, came shambling down the hill to feed the stock. Jerry was grumbling and swearing about something, but Claude wrung out his wet rags and, beyond a nod, paid no attention to them. Somehow his father always managed to have the roughest and dirtiest hired men in the country working for him. Claude had a grievance against Jerry just now, because of his treatment of one of the horses.

Molly was a faithful old mare, the mother of many colts; Claude and his younger brother had learned to ride on her. This man Jerry, taking her out to work one morning, let her step on a board with a nail sticking up in it. He pulled the nail out of her foot, said nothing to anybody, and drove her to the cultivator all day. Now she had been standing in her stall for weeks, patiently suffering, her body wretchedly thin, and her leg swollen until it looked like an elephant's. She would have to stand there, the veterinary said, until her hoof came off and she grew a new one, and she would always be stiff. Jerry had not been discharged, and he exhibited the poor animal as if she were a credit to him.

Mahailey came out on the hilltop and rang the breakfast bell. After the hired men went up to the house, Claude slipped into the barn to see that Molly had got her share of oats. She was eating quietly, her head hanging, and her scaly, dead-looking foot lifted just a little from the ground. When he stroked her neck and talked to her she stopped grinding and gazed at him mournfully. She knew him, and wrinkled her nose and drew her upper lip back from her worn teeth, to show that she liked being petted. She let him touch her foot and examine her leg.

When Claude reached the kitchen, his mother was sitting at one end of the breakfast table, pouring weak coffee, his brother and Dan and Jerry were in their chairs, and Mahailey was baking griddle cakes at the stove. A moment later Mr. Wheeler came down the enclosed stairway and walked the length of the table to his own place. He was a very large man, taller and broader than any of his neighbours. He seldom wore a coat in summer, and his rumpled shirt bulged out carelessly over the belt of his trousers. His florid face was clean shaven, likely to be a trifle tobacco-stained about the mouth, and it was conspicuous both for good-nature and coarse humour, and for an imperturbable physical composure. Nobody in the county had ever seen Nat Wheeler flustered about anything, and nobody had ever heard him speak with complete seriousness. He kept up his easy-going, jocular affability even with his own family.

As soon as he was seated, Mr. Wheeler reached for the two-pint sugar bowl and began to pour sugar into his coffee. Ralph asked him if he were going to the circus. Mr. Wheeler winked.

"I shouldn't wonder if I happened in town sometime before the elephants get away." He spoke very deliberately, with a State-of-Maine drawl, and his voice was smooth and agreeable. "You boys better start in early, though. You can take the wagon and the mules, and load in the cowhides. The butcher has agreed to take them."

Claude put down his knife. "Can't we have the car? I've washed it on purpose."

"And what about Dan and Jerry? They want to see the circus just as much as you do, and I want the hides should go in; they're bringing a good price now. I don't mind about your washing the car; mud preserves the paint, they say, but it'll be all right this time, Claude."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from One of Ours (Willa Cather Scholarly Edition) by Willa Cather Copyright © 2006 by University of Nebraska Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Preface     vii
One of Ours     3
Acknowledgments     607
Historical Apparatus: Historical Essay     613
Explanatory Notes     677
Textual Apparatus: Textual Essay     801
Emendations     833
Notes on Emendations     843
Table of Rejected Substantives     849
World Division     859
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Customer Reviews

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( 27 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2002

    Perhaps the greatest overlooked work of American literature!

    Willa Cather has long been one of my favorite authors, but somehow I had overlooked this book. What a shame. It is quite possibly her best novel and one of the standout works of American literature. The book presents a contast of emotions. Claude Wheeler is a man whose life lacks direction or meaning until he is called to war. The book, at first glance, is a tragedy, yet somehow everything works out for the best. You need to read it to understand. Set in Cather's native Nebraska, it offers a vivid portait of the land that is the hallmark of her work. This novel is on par with other such great American novels as To Kill a Mockingbird and East of Eden. It is a must read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Worth the read...

    Willa Cather with her plain and simple language, weaves a beautiful story of a man who finds himself not at home among the Nebraska prairie, but in the worn torn battle fields of France. One of Ours is an enduring testament to soldiers, his comrades and the people solders leave behind.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2000

    Inspiring

    In this Pulitzer Prize winning book, Willa Cather narrates the making of a young American soldier. The book reveals a noble task one could perform to restore a nation's glory and to complete oneself as a person. Claude Wheeler's physical and spiritual journeys touch us all. Very inspiring and poignant.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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