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Subscribe to Independent Minds to bookmark this article Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Try for free. Already registered? Log in. Alexandra does not feel up to the task. In the process, she has lost her gaiety and her femininity. Oscar and Lou resent the fact that she, a female, is the one who runs the farm, and they chide her for being unwomanly. If you take a vine and cut it back and back again, it grows hard, like a tree. She still loves beauty, though. In one of the most touching moments in the novel, she and Emil, on a journey, stop to rest by a river:.
Under the overhanging willows of the opposite bank there was an inlet where the water was deeper and flowed so slowly that it seemed to sleep in the sun. In this little bay a single wild duck was swimming and diving and preening her feathers, disporting herself happily in the flickering light and shade. They sat for a long time, watching the solitary bird take its pleasure. No living thing had seemed to Alexandra so beautiful as that wild duck.
As Alexandra does not have the imagination to realize, Emil is in love with Marie, and she with him. Marie is married. Emil goes to Mexico to try to forget Marie. But soon he returns, and one day, forgetting himself, he runs to the orchard where he knows that Marie takes her nap every afternoon.
Cather was fundamentally a Platonist; she believed that vision was more real than reality. And so, as Emil rushes through the orchard,. Emil went softly between the cherry trees toward the wheatfield. When he came to the corner, he stopped short and put his hand over his mouth. Marie was lying on her side under the white mulberry tree, her face half hidden in the grass, her eyes closed.
The blood came back to her cheeks, her amber eyes, opened slowly, and in them Emil saw his own face and the orchard and the sun. He takes her dream away, makes it a reality. Emil dies instantly.
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But for Marie Shabata it had not been so easy. One ball had torn through her right lung, another had shattered the carotid artery. She must have started up and gone toward the hedge, leaving a trail of blood. There she had fallen and bled. Once there, she seemed not to have struggled anymore. On her face there was a look of ineffable content.
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Alexandra Bergson thus loses the only two things she really loved, her friend Marie and her adored Emil. But this is the one that takes a knife and stabs you through the heart, by its joining of such ravishment with such pessimism. But, as I said, she started late. This beautiful book—like a memory, almost, rather than a representation—just had its hundredth birthday. May it live forever.