After sustaining the perverted, sociopath, criminals, and the disgusting trappings of sadomasochism in Fifty Shades of Grey, Gone Girl, In Cold Blood, and ‘People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo’, I decided to give myself a wholesome break and turned to Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark written in 1915, as I remember fondly one of my favorite books, Cather’s My Antonia and really miss both the book and that kind of people.
But guess what? I ended up with a bit disappointment. Because I have been pre-conditioned to too many dark turns of events, I was somehow expecting all the time something evil cropping up or lurking somewhere, but no evil found; like when the young Thea Kronborg went to Dr. Archie’s office in the evening to make a call to a patient, like when she went to Chicago alone at that tender age, a country girl in big city, like when she was alone with Fred Ottenburg, as if the married Ottenburg was surely going to ruin her. I feel something like an anticlimax coming down when nothing of that kind happened. People are so nice and kind that they almost seem unreal. I am too down to earth to accept fairy-tale ending like this.
The plot is remarkably simple, Thea Kronborg, an artistically gifted girl from a religious Sweden stock in Colorado, is determined to develop her artistic potential, regardless of whatever obstacles, venturing out alone as a teenager to Chicago, New York, then to Germany, and eventually becomes an acclaimed opera singer in NYC metropolitan opera.
At some point, I was truly impressed by her dogged determination, her strong will, her steadfastness, like the first generation of immigrants. I thought it was a must read for my children. Here’s an example of “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Then I change my mind.
In the end, Dr. Archie, who went to New York to watch her perform, said to her “I’m afraid you don’t have enough personal life, outside your work, Thea.” This is what I was thinking toward the end. With that, I am not sure if she is truly happy, even with her tremendous success. Perhaps she is, according to her definition.
Similar to the protagonist in Cather’s My Antonia, Thea Kronborg, uprooted herself from where she grows up, is inextricably connected to her birth place. And, no matter how far she moves away and for how long, she constantly experiences an aching longing for the past she left behind, the one that exists only in her memory, Cather’s constant theme of nostalgia among people who are like Thea Kronborg, leaving behind a past but still keep it in their dream. This may be part of the appeal to me.
As Thea quotes Wagner, “Art is only a way of remembering youth. And the older we grow the more precious it seems to us, and the more richly we can present that memory…”
Still a beautiful one…