Jason Vanfosson

Male foils are a common characteristic of John Knowles’ works.  In The Paragon, Lou Colfax stands in contrast to his roommate, Gordon Durant. Durant’s outgoing and 
sociable personality underscores the solitary life that Colfax chooses. Hochschwender is used as a 
contrasting look to Wexford in Peace Breaks Out. These characters highlight each other’s 
differences because of their blatantly different political affiliations and personal rivalries. 
Knowles’ most notable juxtaposition of male characters, however, is the placement of Gene Forrester 
next to Phineas (Finny) in A Separate Peace. Gene epitomizes the introverted, intellectual, 
rule-follower, while Phineas represents the outgo- ing, athletic, rule-breaker. By placing these 

Jason Duckworth

Willa Cather’s My Ántonia and The Professor’s House explore the effects of idealizing one’s memories of the past in order to fulfill or deny one’s concept of the 
present. This essay focuses on My Ántonia’s Jim Burden, and The Professor’s House’s Napoleon 
Godfrey St. Peter, and shows how Cather uses these characters to illustrate the effects that one’s 
memories of the past can have on one’s perception of the present. Cather’s work suggests that any 
concept of the present and/or future depends upon the malleable and subjective nature of one’s 
interpretation of the past.
My Ántonia’s introduction establishes the importance of memory in the novel by explaining that the 
text is actually Jim Burden’s memoir about his life with and without his...