Friday, May 26, 2023

The Professor's Commencement by Willa Cather: A Short Story #WCSSP2023

👨‍🎓 First of all, I had to google "commencement" before realizing the meaning of this academic term. It's good to have learned at least one word from a story, even if I didn't really enjoy it.

👨‍🎓 It is about Professor Emerson's last day of teaching in a high school before his retirement from thirty years of service. His sister, a widowed Agatha, laments his lack of ambition. The Professor himself is often disconcerted by massive industrialization of their society, which muted academic passions of his pupils.

On the night there is a retirement party, and the Professor, as a tradition, must give a speech. He decided, upon Agatha's advice, to read something which he had blundered years ago. Maybe this time, this last time, he could make up for his past humiliation?

👨‍🎓 No, he couldn't. He blundered again, but his sister consoled him, saying that "it's all right". Now the Professor is dejected and hopeless. He feels that he had achieved nothing. But had he?

👨‍🎓 Poor Professor Emerson is having a mid-life crisis. I pity him, not because he achieved nothing, but because even at his age (fifty), he still cannot accept himself as it is; he hasn't made peace with himself. So what if he's "just" a high school professor for thirty years, if he had given his best every day of it, and enjoying it all the while? A failure is he who possess much but does nothing; while a successful one is he who does all he could with what God has blessed him with.

👨‍🎓 All in all, though I felt this story rather boring (my least favorite of the year so far), at least it serves as a remembrance to always accept oneself as it is; make peace with one self; and be happy!

Rating: 3 / 5


1 comment:

  1. "Boring" is a good one word summation of this story. I like to think that he was able to instill some love of literature and learning in at least a few of his students that would help them or give comfort later in life. It's main interest for me was wondering about Cather's own experience as a teacher in a similar Pittsburgh classroom and how much of this teacher's experience was actually her own.


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