“The Prodigies” is up this month for The Willa Cather Short Story Project. This story was first published in the July 1897 edition of The Home Monthly.
Read the story on the Willa Cather Archive: https://cather.unl.edu/writings/shortfiction/ss034
“The Prodigies” is about a talented woman, Harriet Mackenzie, who gives up her musical career for marriage and is then disappointed by her children. Her friend, Kate Massey, happens to have two madly talented children. As the Mackenzie’s are leaving for an evening at the Massey’s where the children will perform, Harriet’s husband Nelson comments, “I shouldn’t like to be exhibiting my children about like freaks.” After the Massey children’s first performance, Nelson eavesdrops on the children when they’re alone lamenting how they can’t go outside and play. Nelson has a conversation with the children prior to their after dinner performance where something bad happens.
Not much has been written about this story, perhaps because it is unfocused and uneven. You can, however, see some of the themes about art and artists that Cather will explore in her later fiction, particularly the issue of artists and their relationships. It brings to mind “Flavia and Her Artists,” The Song of the Lark, and Lucy Gayheart, to name a few.
Read “The Prodigies” sometime this month and then come back to discuss it on the response post I’ll share on June 22, the fourth Wednesday of the month. Or, feel free to read it now and comment here if you can’t wait until then!
New to this blog? Learn more about the Willa Cather Short Story Project here. In a nutshell, we’re reading one Cather short story a month. I remind everyone of what story we’re reading on the second Wednesday of the month and then share a response on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Jump in anytime!