Willa Cather: Ardessa

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Willa Cather: 24 Stories

I find it interesting that the author of one of my favorite stories this year, “The Enchanted Bluff” by Willa Cather, is also the author of one of my least favorite stories this year, “Ardessa”.  It’s not a matter of writing style or ability, but in the case of “Ardessa”, the characters all seem to fall flat, even if the cultural aspects of the story are worth noting.

Ardessa Devine works in the office of a political magazine called “The Outcry”.  The noteworthiness of the story revolves around the women in the workplace.  Given the setting is New York City approximately 100 years ago, the company’s “big wigs” are all men.  The story doesn’t have a huge plot.  Ardessa trains another girl, Becky, to do her job while she is on vacation.  Not surprising, she returns to find that her boss prefers Becky.

Very little emotion seems to come off the pages from anyone in this workplace.  I don’t like Ardessa’s boss, O’Mally; however, Ardessa is drawn so stilted that I don’t really get pulled into her plight.  As a reader, I felt extremely detached from the whole story.

One small incident intrigued me.  While O’Mally talks to Ardessa, he looks out the window at “another skyscraper” going up.  Imagining a city where skyscrapers were going up at amazing speeds when skyscrapers had never been seen before made the story worth reading.

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