One of Ours (Paperback)
Memorial Day or Decoration Day, as my grandma called this end of spring day, is a few weeks away. Time to commemorate and remember the soldiers who have fought and died in our wars. Claude Wheeler is a young, idealistic restless son of a steadfast Nebraskan farmer. He sees his father's world as crass but Claude can't define his own "ideals". Conflicted as Claude is, he is very much a product of midwestern mores and morals. Discontented at home, he does his duty enlisting and going to France to fight in WWI or the "War to End all Wars", where he finds what he has been searching for all his life.— lyn
Willa Cather's book, 'One of Ours', was written in honor and memory of her cousin who was killed in France during World War I, the war to end all wars. This book won the Pulitzer award. It is the beautiful and sensitive story of a young mans' walk through life. It is also the beautifully written and nuanced study of a sensitive, idealistic young man. But what elevates it to near-masterpiece status is its extremely subtle depiction of the excesses of idealism. Trapped in a grubby, increasingly materialistic world, Claude yearns for something noble and meaningful. Unfortunately, he finds it only in the patriotic fervor that swept America into World War I, the most brutal, senseless war in history. Writing from Claude's viewpoint, Cather almost makes you think that the exhilaration of fighting for a noble cause does indeed justify the terrible toll of war--but not quite, because she occasionally drops tiny hints that Claude's newfound, heartfelt sense of purpose and engagement might be deluded and tragic. The final chapter, from his mother's viewpoint, is devastating, though perhaps not enough. The independent-minded reader might keep comparing Claude's feeling about the glory of war with the fact that patriotic passion--fight and die for the homeland--has sent untold millions of soldiers to their death since nearly the dawn of time. Cather does little to help readers maintain that all-important perspective: it is never entirely clear whether and to what extent Cather sees through that horrendous myth. Perhaps that's the genius of the 'One of Ours," to force readers to draw devastating conclusions. Or perhaps, as Hemingway implied, Cather herself was seduced by the romantic, tragically blind view of the nobility of war.