Deviations from the Expected Path

January 9, 2008
Expectations, they come with every person, event, and newly released product in life. Along with the expectations comes the question on whether those expectations will be fulfilled. In many cases, the expectations are fulfilled, but in other cases, there are exceptions which deviate from their expected path. Throughout the many stories written by Willa Cather, more often than not, the main characters deviate from the expectations that come with them, as they often choose a path different from the social norm.

During My Ántonia, Jim, Lena, and Tiny are all expected to stay in the country and town for their entire lives. Their life is supposed to consist of farming, raising a family, and never leaving the town they grew up in. However, each of these characters decides not to live the life that was expected of them. Lena decides to make her living off of making dresses. In order to accomplish this goal, she would need to live in a place which had a larger market for dresses than her small town of Black Hawk. As a result, she first moves to a larger Nebraska town, then finally to San Francisco where she could have large success in her business. Also, Tiny desired to pursue a life different than living in the country. She first decides to make it rich in Alaska, and then finally settles in San Francisco to live a life in the city. In addition, Jim desires to enjoy a life other than in the country. Jim decides to go to college, and then study law at Harvard. By pursuing his studies, he went away from just farming, and opened up new opportunities in his life. Despite coming back to visit Ántonia in Black Hawk, Jim chooses that he wants to be away from the country life as well. Each of these characters in My Ántonia decides to live a life with new adventures and new opportunities.

To go along with My Ántonia, “Paul’s Case” also contains a major character who desires to leave the path which is expected from him. Paul is expected by his parents and his teachers to go to and do well in school. However, Paul finds it hard to concentrate on his studies and life at home, because he has a large interest in the performing arts. Paul works at a performing arts theatre, and he becomes very attached to the players. As a result of his interest in the performing arts, Paul becomes a rebel, putting school, his family, and home in the background. This behavior by Paul causes him to go to New York to see the theatre, and eventually he kills himself to avoid going back to his dreary life at home. In this story, Paul is an extreme case in deviating from the path expected, as he completely throws it away, and ultimately decides never to return to the path he chose to leave.

Finally, the main character in “The Sculptor’s Funeral”, Harvey, also deviates from the path expected from him. Harvey was expected to stay in his community of Sand City, make a living off of farming, and make lots of money. However, Harvey desires to pursue an education and do something he would have fun doing for the rest of his life, which for him was sculpting. By leaving the town and pursuing his dream, none of the other townspeople had any respect for Harvey, as all they cared about was how much money he made.

In addition, Willa Cather kept a common theme relating to the deviations in each of her stories. No matter which character it was who deviated from the path expected, they often faced criticisms from the characters that held the certain expectations. In My Ántonia, Lena faced criticism from the Harling’s when she decided to attend the dances. The Harling Family did not want Lena to attend, so they criticized her, and ultimately kicked Lena out of their household. Harvey faced criticism from all of the townspeople except from Jim after his death. Also, Paul faced criticism from his father and teacher for having an interest in the performing arts. Having to face criticism was common for the characters who chose to deviate from the path expected by them.

In each of the stories written by Willa Cather, the main character decided to pursue a career goal different than the goal expected of them. However, one can deviate from the expected path in other ways than leaving the town to pursue another career. At school every day, some kids choose to deviate from the expected path by not completing their homework. In addition, there have been many instances in my life when I have chosen to go down a path different from the one my parents expected from me. For instance, my dad really wanted me to play football as a kid. However, I decided that soccer was a lot more fun to play. This persuaded me to develop my soccer skills instead. Similar to Harvey, I had to face some criticism from my dad at home, but ultimately, I picked a sport at which I loved to play and provided me with enjoyment.
No matter what the circumstance, one will always have certain expectations which they are expected to follow. However, it will always be up to the person to choose whether they wish to follow those expectations or choose a different path. One should never feel pressured to follow the expectations, as one should pilot their own life, and one should follow their goals.

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