‘A Death In The Desert’ by Willa Cather

A Death In The Desert by Willa Cather, 1903

The magic trick:

Weaving a web of relationships, romance and heartbreak

I have to say this one feels like a Henry James idea that never quite gets to where it wants to get to as a story. Hanging everything on what amounts to a doppelganger plotline, there were too many key elements that remained incomplete or unconvincing for me.

I did like the love triangle it conjures. He loves her. She loves his brother. He isn’t sure how he feels about his brother. His brother loves himself to ever love her the way she hopes.

Additionally, we mention that he looks exactly like the brother. The brother is off-stage, somewhere in Europe, the entire story. And she is dying.

It’s a bit of a mess, but an interesting web at the very least.

And that’s quite a trick on Cather’s part.

The selection:

Windermere wheeled about in his chair. “Oh! Katharine Gaylord! Is it possible! Now it’s you who have given me a turn. Why, I used to know her when I was a boy. What on earth—”

“Is she doing here?” said Gaylord, grimly filling out the pause. “You’ve got at the heart of the matter. You knew my sister had been in bad health for a long time?”

“No, I had never heard a word of that. The last I knew of her she was singing in London. My brother and I correspond infrequently, and seldom get beyond family matters. I am deeply sorry to hear this. There are many reasons why I should be more concerned than I can tell you.”

The lines in Charley Gaylord’s brow relaxed a little.

“What I’m trying to say, Mr. Hilgarde, is that she wants to see you. I hate to ask you, but she’s so set on it. We live several miles out of town, but my rig’s below, and I can take you out any time you can go.”

“I can go now, and it will give me real pleasure to do so,” said Windermere, quickly. “I’ll get my hat and be with you in a moment.”


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