Death Comes for the Archbishop: A Narrative or a Novel?
Is it a narrative or a novel? Few questions have caused me this much trouble. It became apparent to me that Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop would not be an easy piece of literature to classify. Within just a few pages, it became apparent that this piece of literature is more than either category will allow. While reading the pages of this story I get the feeling that I am not reading a novel, rather it is a series of short stories. I understand why the critics claim that this is not a novel. While the chapters in each section seem to be connected, the sections themselves tend to be disconnected from each other. Each one is able to stand on its own.
It is not until I step back and reflect upon the novel that I can see the ties that bind the different sections together. This is not a story about Archbishop Jean Marie Latour, in the end I still do not know him. Rather, Willa Cather uses him as a vessel to display the world around him. It is through him that I learn about the people and places of New Mexico. It is through his eyes the beautiful landscape of the desert comes to life. I can see and smell the land in which he travels. I hear through his ears the legends that make the history of the land so important.
It is apparent to me that this is not a novel about an individual person, but about a place. The land and people of New Mexico are the storytellers. It is through them that this series of short stories are joined together into a novel. It is the story of these events that make up the narrative.
There is no way to simply classify Death Comes for the Archbishop. It is a novel, a narrative, and a series of short stories. It is simply, what you make of it.
Death Comes to the Archbishop could be asserted as something other than a novel. I believe that the stereotypical novel is more structured and rigid in refinement than Cather's example. I see that a strong plot cannot be...