One of Ours

One of Ours

by Willa Cather


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An intimate story of young man's life. Claude Wheeler's stormy youth, his enigmatic marriage, and the final adventure which releases the baffled energy of the boy's nature, are told with almost epic simplicity. World War I offers him even more, but he may crave excitement more than life itself can allow. Wanting it as much as he does can't protect him from the consequences of personal bravado in an age of killing machines. But behind the personal drama there is an ever deepening sense of national drama, of national character, working itself our through individuals and their destiny.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781618957276
Publisher: Bibliotech Press
Publication date: 09/02/2019
Pages: 258
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.58(d)
Age Range: 15 Years

About the Author

Richard C. Harris is a professor and the director of humanities at the Webb Institute in Glen Cove, New York. Frederick M. Link is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the textual editor of Cather’s Obscure Destinies, The Professor’s House, and Shadows on the Rock. Kari A. Ronning is an assistant editor for the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition series at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Date of Birth:

December 7, 1873

Date of Death:

April 27, 1947

Place of Birth:

Winchester, Virginia

Place of Death:

New York, New York


B.A., University of Nebraska, 1895

Read an Excerpt

One of Ours (Willa Cather Scholarly Edition)

By Willa Cather

University of Nebraska Press

Copyright © 2006 University of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.

Chapter One

Claude wheeler opened his eyes before the sun was up and vigorously shook his younger brother, who lay in the other half of the same bed.

"Ralph, Ralph, get awake! Come down and help me wash the car."

"What for?"

"Why, aren't we going to the circus today?"

"Car's all right. Let me alone." The boy turned over and pulled the sheet up to his face, to shut out the light which was beginning to come through the curtainless windows.

Claude rose and dressed, - a simple operation which took very little time. He crept down two flights of stairs, feeling his way in the dusk, his red hair standing up in peaks, like a cock's comb. He went through the kitchen into the adjoining washroom, which held two porcelain stands with running water. Everybody had washed before going to bed, apparently, and the bowls were ringed with a dark sediment which the hard, alkaline water had not dissolved. Shutting the door on this disorder, he turned back to the kitchen, took Mahailey's tin basin, doused his face and head in cold water, and began to plaster down his wet hair.

Old Mahailey herself came in from the yard, with her apron full of corn-cobs to start a fire in the kitchen stove. She smiled at him in the foolish fond way she often had with him when they were alone.

"What air you gittin' up for a-ready, boy? You goin' to the circus beforebreakfast? Don't you make no noise, else you'll have 'em all down here before I git my fire a-goin'."

"All right, Mahailey." Claude caught up his cap and ran out of doors, down the hillside toward the barn. The sun popped up over the edge of the prairie like a broad, smiling face; the light poured across the close-cropped August pastures and the hilly, timbered windings of Lovely Creek, - a clear little stream with a sand bottom, that curled and twisted playfully about through the south section of the big Wheeler ranch. It was a fine day to go to the circus at Frankfort, a fine day to do anything; the sort of day that must, somehow, turn out well.

Claude backed the little Ford car out of its shed, ran it up to the horse-tank, and began to throw water on the mud-crusted wheels and windshield. While he was at work the two hired men, Dan and Jerry, came shambling down the hill to feed the stock. Jerry was grumbling and swearing about something, but Claude wrung out his wet rags and, beyond a nod, paid no attention to them. Somehow his father always managed to have the roughest and dirtiest hired men in the country working for him. Claude had a grievance against Jerry just now, because of his treatment of one of the horses.

Molly was a faithful old mare, the mother of many colts; Claude and his younger brother had learned to ride on her. This man Jerry, taking her out to work one morning, let her step on a board with a nail sticking up in it. He pulled the nail out of her foot, said nothing to anybody, and drove her to the cultivator all day. Now she had been standing in her stall for weeks, patiently suffering, her body wretchedly thin, and her leg swollen until it looked like an elephant's. She would have to stand there, the veterinary said, until her hoof came off and she grew a new one, and she would always be stiff. Jerry had not been discharged, and he exhibited the poor animal as if she were a credit to him.

Mahailey came out on the hilltop and rang the breakfast bell. After the hired men went up to the house, Claude slipped into the barn to see that Molly had got her share of oats. She was eating quietly, her head hanging, and her scaly, dead-looking foot lifted just a little from the ground. When he stroked her neck and talked to her she stopped grinding and gazed at him mournfully. She knew him, and wrinkled her nose and drew her upper lip back from her worn teeth, to show that she liked being petted. She let him touch her foot and examine her leg.

When Claude reached the kitchen, his mother was sitting at one end of the breakfast table, pouring weak coffee, his brother and Dan and Jerry were in their chairs, and Mahailey was baking griddle cakes at the stove. A moment later Mr. Wheeler came down the enclosed stairway and walked the length of the table to his own place. He was a very large man, taller and broader than any of his neighbours. He seldom wore a coat in summer, and his rumpled shirt bulged out carelessly over the belt of his trousers. His florid face was clean shaven, likely to be a trifle tobacco-stained about the mouth, and it was conspicuous both for good-nature and coarse humour, and for an imperturbable physical composure. Nobody in the county had ever seen Nat Wheeler flustered about anything, and nobody had ever heard him speak with complete seriousness. He kept up his easy-going, jocular affability even with his own family.

As soon as he was seated, Mr. Wheeler reached for the two-pint sugar bowl and began to pour sugar into his coffee. Ralph asked him if he were going to the circus. Mr. Wheeler winked.

"I shouldn't wonder if I happened in town sometime before the elephants get away." He spoke very deliberately, with a State-of-Maine drawl, and his voice was smooth and agreeable. "You boys better start in early, though. You can take the wagon and the mules, and load in the cowhides. The butcher has agreed to take them."

Claude put down his knife. "Can't we have the car? I've washed it on purpose."

"And what about Dan and Jerry? They want to see the circus just as much as you do, and I want the hides should go in; they're bringing a good price now. I don't mind about your washing the car; mud preserves the paint, they say, but it'll be all right this time, Claude."


Excerpted from One of Ours (Willa Cather Scholarly Edition) by Willa Cather Copyright © 2006 by University of Nebraska Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

About Author

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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One of Ours 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Willa Cather has long been one of my favorite authors, but somehow I had overlooked this book. What a shame. It is quite possibly her best novel and one of the standout works of American literature. The book presents a contast of emotions. Claude Wheeler is a man whose life lacks direction or meaning until he is called to war. The book, at first glance, is a tragedy, yet somehow everything works out for the best. You need to read it to understand. Set in Cather's native Nebraska, it offers a vivid portait of the land that is the hallmark of her work. This novel is on par with other such great American novels as To Kill a Mockingbird and East of Eden. It is a must read!
L.M._Elm More than 1 year ago
Willa Cather with her plain and simple language, weaves a beautiful story of a man who finds himself not at home among the Nebraska prairie, but in the worn torn battle fields of France. One of Ours is an enduring testament to soldiers, his comrades and the people solders leave behind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful novel with characters you will never forget. ~*~LEB~*~
Anonymous 8 months ago
Sad Willa tale of a frustrated soul. If you've read Cather you'll understand.
mikedraper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in Nebraska in the time just before WWI, Claude Wheeler is a Nebraska farm boy.As the story opens, he is living at the family farm and ready to leave for college. He is attending a college his parents picked for him. A preacher, "Brother Wheeler" came to the farm and told his parents about this school and how it would strengthen a person's faith. Calude was sent there and would live with the Weldons. His rental payments would help the Weldon's financial position.Claude didn't like the school or Weldon. He also didn't care for Weldon's clinging sister. He wanted to go to the State University. When he finally persuaded his parents to send him there, his views of worldly matters widened.He also met Julius Erlich and became friends with that family. They were a happy family and spoke of more meaningful things while enjoying life. Mrs. Erlich became fond of Claude and invited him to many family gatherings.Whent he war breaks out, the people around Claude didn't know much about European history or worldly matters. Claude's father's immediate reaction was that it would be good for the farmers because they could increase the price of wheat.When the German army invaded Louxembourg, Claude didn't know if that was a country or a city. He, like many people in the area, had to search for maps to see where this war was taking place.The story is told in narrative form. The theme seems to be that Claude, like middle America, has a naiveness about world matters, prior to their entry into the war.The story details how much a persons faith had on thier lives and we follow Claude's growth from the shy farm boy to a lieutenant, helping many of his men as they became sick on the voyage to Europe.An entertaining and informative read.
aliciamalia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of Ours is a Pulitzer Prize winner; unfortunately it's not Cather's best work. There's nothing really wrong with it - I enjoyed seeing WWII through the eyes of someone writing immediately following it - but it's slightly flat and slow moving.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
1923 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.I¿ve lived in Nebraska and know well the rolling landscape, the hard-working but easy-going people who farm and ranch the land there. Willa Cather¿s prose, as far as I¿m concerned, reflects perfectly their characters. That is the first impression that a reader takes away from One of Ours. And its protagonist, Claude Wheeler, reminds me of young people I¿ve met there, who love their state and their families, but somehow don¿t quite fit in. While Cather was writing about the turn of the 20th century, the story could indeed have taken place over 50 years later.Claude¿s pragmatic father doesn¿t see the necessity, for a farmer, of too much education. Thus, Claude has to forego completing his college degree, and forsaking he friends, much different from those at home, he¿s made in Lincoln. His mother, a more or less fundamentalist Christian (although the movement itself within Christianity hadn¿t yet begun), is quite sensitive to Claude¿s moods and aspirations; her emotional pain on behalf of her son is almost physical. Claude, as would be expected of a young man his age, marries¿only to have his wife go to China to help her sister. His emotional desolation is nearly complete; he wonders if that¿s all there is to life¿getting up in the morning, working, going to bed at night. It may satisfy friends his age who ask nothing better than to farm their own land, but Claude longs for something more¿what, he¿s not sure but something.Then World War I erupts in Europe. Claude and his mother follow the war through the newspapers and maps they pore over together. When the United States enters the war, Claude enlists¿and finds his place in the world.Cather describes the effect of the war on France and its people. She also writes about little-known facts, such as the toll sickness took of the soldiers on the way over, many dying from pneumonia. She has interesting details about what it was like for the soldiers to live under wartime conditions¿bathing in polluted water in shell holes was a nice touch. There is some description¿not much¿of the fighting but it fits in with her story. Clearly she was more interested in what happened to the people, both French and the Allied soldiers, than she was in the details of the fighting itself.The last pages are heart-rendering; the impact is enormous. I think you have to be a stone to be unmoved.For a relatively short book¿371 pages in my edition, One of Ours is beautifully evocative of a time, a place, and a young man¿s successful search for himself. One of the best of the early Pulitzer winners.
vesnaslav on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A weaker All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage, but still a sympathetic read of a particular story from WWI.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Claude Wheeler, a young man who grew up on a Nebraska farm in the early 1900s. Claude is pursuing a university education at a religious college chosen by his parents, but is both unhappy with his education and uncertain about his goals. While he longs for the finer things in life that come from an advanced degree, he also has a strong sense of family loyalty and will interrupt his studies to assist with farm work when necessary. When Claude's father buys a large parcel of land from another farmer, he also decides Claude will return home and assume responsibility for the original family farm. Claude sets aside his higher ambitions and throws himself into farming. He gets married and appears set to spend the rest of his days on the farm, until World War I breaks out and Claude decides to join the American forces in France. My copy of this book came from my local library and, unfortunately, the book jacket included huge spoilers in its first two sentences. This threatened to ruin the book for me, but I tried to make lemonade from these lemons. Since I already knew about some pivotal events in Claude's life, I read with a view toward understanding why this book won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize. Typical of Cather's work, One of Ours is filled with vivid images of the American prairie, and the first- and second-generation immigrants who worked the land. Frankfort is a conservative community; its people are steeped in their faith and rather isolated from the broader world. As the threat of war loomed large, Claude's "mother had gone up to 'Mahailey¿s library,' the attic, to hunt for a map of Europe,¿a thing for which Nebraska farmers had never had much need. But that night, on many prairie homesteads, the women, American and foreign-born, were hunting for a map." Cather also shows the dark side of the community when certain members of German descent are charged with "disloyalty" and subject to a hearing in court. Cather's portrayal of wartime France is also very much focused on people, much more than the fighting. It's an interesting angle. Since One of Ours was published just a few short years after the end of World War I, it was received at a time when emotions were still quite raw. Cather's writing is, as always, superb. And her portrayal of an innocent farm boy who serves in battle would have struck a chord for just about anyone. Unfortunately once I knew how things would turn out there were sections that seemed to drag on endlessly. I probably would have given this book a higher rating had there not been spoilers ... frustrating!
ithilwyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one is my favorite Willa Cather novel. A real departure for her, she took a lot of criticism for writing about war when she had never seen it herself. Amazing how men seem to think they can write female characters without experience, but Cather for some reason cannot write a male character. Hmmm. Anyway, a very well drawn character and a very moving plot.
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He smiles
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This lesser known title is as captivating and beautifully written as her celebrated classics.
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