Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Marion Marsh Brown


Willa Cather has long been considered the best novelist to emerge from the Midwestern states. Although at least one of her greatest novels, Death Comes for the Archbishop, is not located in the Great Plains area, the majority of her superior work has Nebraska as its setting.

This thesis is concerned with only four of Willa Cather's novels, termed by most critics her "Nebraska novels" or her "novels of the soil." The order of the thesis is chronological; the first chapter sets up the necessary background on the author: her life, education, writing experience, and publications up to O Pioneers! The following four chapters are devoted individually to O Pioneers! (1913), My Antonia (1918), One of Ours (1922), and A Lost Lady (1923). I feel that through this chronological development the general pattern becomes clear; that is, Willa Cather felt that the pioneer spirit and pioneer beliefs in the settling of the Great Plains area were exceptionally admirable, and that the loss of this spirit and belief through mechanization and modernization was deplorable. Within the first three novels the reader finds a cyclical pattern of growth, fruition, and decline of the pioneer tradition; the fourth novel contains the whole pattern in itself. Within these novels one finds the lucid expression of a critically-acclaimed artist and novelist who laments the passing of a great era in American history.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of English and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1968 Michael Harold Ward.

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