American By Heart
2 Pages 564 Words
Within Willa Cather’s novel, Death Comes For the Archbishop, the definition of what it means to be an American is portrayed through the main character, Father Jean Latour. Though an Irishman by birth, and a Frenchman by ancestry, he soon becomes an American by heart, as he spends his time in western America on missionaries. His hardworking attitude, respect for other cultures, and respect for the land on which he lives, brings out the American side of him.
Throughout the novel, the extent to which Father Latour works to bring health and harmony to the extending cities of New Mexico is beyond most men’s capability. He spends days and nights on horseback, traveling from one town to the other, just to help a certain individual. “…[H]e had …to be abroad for weeks together on short rations, sleeping in the open, unable to keep his body clean…” ( Cather 275). He not only goes to extremes to help individuals, but also for what he faithfully believes in. He and Father Vaillant, in order to build their cathedral in the wilderness, face corrupt Spanish priests, the cultural and ethic differences between the Hopi and Navajo, and worst of all, Mother Nature. These adventures are a test of his capabilities and of his qualities as an American.
America, unlike any other country, is a blending of all cultures and ethnicities into one giant “melting pot.” In order to be a true American, with morals and values, one has to feel and show respect for other cultures and realize that their own is not superior. Father Latour not only accepts the Native American way of life, but works hard to improve upon it. His compassion for their culture and their hardships is proven many times over. One of the Cardinals, responding to his letter, writes, “I suppose it is no worse than a life among the Hurons. My knowledge of your country is chiefly drawn from the romances of Fenimore Cooper, which I read in English with great please” (...
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