|Cather around 1910 (from the Willa Cather Archive)|
The response to the Willa Cather Novel Reading Challenge has been so enthusiastic. There are participants who have never read a Willa Cather novel, some who have read them all before, and lots of folks somewhere in-between. And how fun is it that some of you are reading the novels with a group of friends!
In some ways, Alexander’s plight made me think of a recent cartoon making the rounds on Facebook: “Inside every middle aged person is a teenager wondering what the hell happened.” I can relate.
Had he lived, would he have have taken control of his life? He does say to Philip that anything he does can be made public, which up until now we know isn’t true, but would he have eventually spoken his truth? Or would he never have given his wife that letter? And if he did, was the letter another garbled message like the one he’d once sent Hilda? Was leaving his wife necessarily what he really wanted? We’ll never know. He died in his prime, his marriage intact, but he took down a whole bunch of people with him.
- Alexander says he’s not a man that can live two lives and even feels like there’s a second man grafted on to him. When did this second life begin? Is it after the affair with Hilda? Or is the second man the successful, well-married Alexander grafted onto the younger man with ideals and standards?
- Do you think Winifred knows what’s going with her husband, particularly on the morning in January when he’s agitated and preparing to leave for England?
- Is there a connection between the mummy in the museum and Mrs. Alexander, or some other character? I was struck by Hilda’s claim that perhaps Mrs. Alexander is afraid of letting the memory of her dead husband out a little and sharing him with others. It reminded me of how Hilda and Alexander used to talk of bringing the priestess mummy out of the museum on beautiful nights.
- Do you agree with Wilson’s statement that more than anyone Mrs. Alexander did not choose her own destiny? Who has chosen their destiny in this story?
- Wilson says early on in the novel that when there’s an early hurt in life, a boy can lose courage. Much later near the end of the novel, Alexander is thinking about a long forgotten sorrow of his childhood. Do you think his weak foundation stems from childhood or did it crack later in life? Could he have done anything to strengthen his foundation?
- Although Freud didn’t publish his ideas about the Death Drive until 1920, I was struck by the statement that Alexander’s great mind “may for a long time have been sick within itself and bend upon its own destruction.” Do you think he craved his own destruction?
I’m looking forward to hearing what you all think of Alexander’s Bridge!
However short or long, please leave your comments below (or leave a link to your blog post, Goodreads review, etc.). This is an open forum so feel free to reply to one another.