Native Americans In The Professor's House Essay

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The misrepresentation of Native Americans in The Professor’s House is a prime example of how early American literature chooses to romanticize the southwest. Willa Cather chooses to do so through the characters Father Duchene, Tom Outland, and Godfrey St. Peters. These characters together create a false narrative of Natives that exists outside of the novel. The problematic characterization of Natives starts with Duchene, is lived by Outland, and is preserved by St. Peters. Although the novel pays little attention to Natives in the novel, the little it does share is enough to understand Cather’s intention.

Father Duchene is the source of the mischaracterization of existing Native Americans in the novel. Father Duchene was a missionary priest who taught Tom and ultimately fed Tom his own biased ideology. “He would talk about the New Mexico country when questioned, about Father Duchene, the missionary priest who had been his teacher, about the Indians” (p.90). Tom’s education prior to meeting Godfrey St. Peters seems to have come entirely from Father Duchene. Duchene is also responsible for Tom and the professor’s relationship. “I read an article by you in a magazine, about Fray Marcos. Father Duchene said it was the only thing with any truth
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If Kathleen, or any of the Godfrey’s were to visit New Mexico they would see reservations as a justice because they were not deserving of an existence as the ancient people. Natives would righteously be put away from society because they were not as peaceful or civilized. Or Natives would need be assimilated until they were more like the ancient people, or more American. Tom’s stories leave a big mess for Natives to clear up. Because of stories like his, they need to vindicate themselves from falsehoods of savagery found in his story. Existing Natives would have never lived up to Tom’s made up version of the ancient
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