ENG 242/ ASB 472
Facilitator: Keith Studebaker
“Neighbor Rosicky” Critical Review
I am going to discuss the short story by Willa Cather, “Neighbor Rosicky”. I
will be doing such in the form of a critical review looking at such aspects of the
story as the summary, thesis with key passages, description of form and content,
followed by my personal response to the story.
“Neighbor Rosicky” is a short story of an old farmer, Anton Rosicky, reflecting
back on his life. Early in the story, when Anton Rosicky is in Doctor Burleigh’s
office, he learns that he has a bad heart and does not have long to live. He then returns
home, plunges into a chair, and begins to sew. While he sews, Rosicky lets his mind run
back over his life. He has many memorable experiences. Rosicky has lived in London,
New York, and now in Nebraska. Rosicky, formerly a tailor, now makes a living farming
with his children. Rudolph, Rosicky’s oldest son, has some trouble supporting his wife,
Polly. Rosicky makes many sacrifices to help Rudolph’s marriage stay together. He
loans the family car and gives some money to Rudolph, even though Rosicky is very poor
himself. Spring arrives, and his children are busy working the fields. When no one else
is around, Rosicky, disregarded his doctors orders, rakes some thistle plants out of one
of his alfalfa fields, but the work is too tough on his heart. Rosicky dies the next day.
Rosicky also has a wife, Mary, a daughter, Josephine, and another son, John, and three
other boys who were not named.
I believe that the central theme that was being conveyed in the story was that of land
ownership being the “American Dream”. Anton Rosicky is a Czech who experienced life
as an immigrant both in London and New York City and found both lacking. Only in his
life on the farm in Nebraska does he find peace and fulfillment.
Rosicky had been a tailor in the Old Country and had immigrated first to London,
where he was miserable and poor. At age twenty he left London for New York, and for a
time he was happy there, becoming “a good workman” (Cather,310) and experiencing the
cultural life of the city, including opera and the ballet. As time goes on, however, he
becomes restless, yearning for “freedom and wide horizons.” Tellingly, his epiphany
occurs on the Fourth of July. Rosicky realizes that cities “built you in from the earth
itself, cemented you away from any contact with the ground. You lived in an unnatural
world, like the fish in an aquarium who were much more comfortable than they ever were