Shadows on the Rock: Reissue
"Superbly written, with that sensitivity to sunset and afterglow that has always been Miss Cather's." —The New York Times Willa Cather wrote Shadows on the Rock immediately after her historical masterpiece, Death Comes for the Archbishop. Like its predecessor, this novel of seventeenth-century Quebec is a luminous evocation of North American origins, and of the men and women who struggled to adapt to that new world even as they clung to the artifacts and manners of one they left behind. In 1697, Quebec is an island of French civilization perched on a bare gray rock amid a wilderness of trackless forests. For many of its settlers, Quebec is a place of exile, so remote that an entire winter passes without a word from home. But to twelve-year-old Cécile Auclair, the rock is home, where even the formidable Governor Frontenac entertains children in his palace and beavers lie beside the lambs in a Christmas créche. As Cather follows this devout and resourceful child over the course of a year, she re-creates the continent as it must have appeared to its first European inhabitants. And she gives us a spellbinding work of historical fiction in which great events occur first as rumors and then as legends—and in which even the most intimate domestic scenes are suffused with a sense of wonder. BONUS: The edition includes an excerpt from The Selected Letters of Willa Cather.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Book One: The Apothecary
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Willa Cather (1873-1947) was a prominent American author whose work focused on frontier life. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for her novel One of Ours. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the La Bonne Esperance represent to the citizens of Quebec?
There are quite a few passages in French throughout the text. If you want a rough translation of these passages, you can use the translate feature on Google. https://translate.google.com/
What is revealed about Cecile's character through her interaction with Blinker?
Willa Cather is more widely known for her realistic depictions of life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century American Midwest. This novel (and "Death Comes for the Archbishop" to an extent) is a departure for Cather in both setting (Canada) and time (17th century). (This annotation contains an image)
What is the effect of the imagery used to describe the view from Cap Diamant?
At this time, an apothecary fulfilled the role of what we would consider today as a doctor or surgeon. By the end of the 19th century, physicians and surgeons had more defined institutional roles; apothecaries were then considered more like pharmacists. (This annotation contains an image)
Why did Auclair lose customers?
Cather uses imagery to embellish her descriptions of nature and characters. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the moral of Mother Juschereau's story?
These visions and supernatural visitations were taken as truth and reality by many Catholics at this time before the Age of Enlightenment. Does Cecile believe?
Book Two: Cécile and Jacques
Why is Madame Renaude so solicitous with Auclair?
Instead of having a distinct narrative arc, this novel focuses more on character study. How have these characters been developed so far? (This annotation contains a video)
Why is life dull for Giorgio?
Cecile has proven herself to be both kind and selfless. As the novel progresses, consider whether or not Cecile is a static or dynamic character. Is she just good and nothing else?
What naive belief does Cecile hold?
Beavers were very important to life in North America at this time. The fur trade was a major source of economy in Canada (and by extension in France, as well). The trade also was a major factor in the relationship the French Canadians had with the indigenous peoples of the area. (This annotation contains an image)
What does this description reveal about Bishop Laval?
What seems to be be 'Toinette's philosophy of parenting?
One of the emerging themes in the novel is about family relationships. Can you identify any others? (This annotation contains a video)
When Noel says that the "foot went farther than any other in New France," he means it ___________.
This idea of permanence, or leaving something behind even after you die, is echoed in the foot molds at Noel's shop.
Why does Auclair hesitate in telling the story to Cecile?
This is a reference to the title of the book. How does the title "Shadows on the Rock" relate to the content? Who or what are the "shadows"?
What does the author connect the description of the sunset to?
What could this second afterglow symbolize? (This annotation contains a video)
How do Blinker and Jacques view the creche?
The beaver is an unconventional addition to the manger scene, but given the significance of the animal to daily life in Canada it is a nice nod to their unique situation. (This annotation contains an image)
Book Three: The Long Winter
How does Auclair know that the Bishop has an ulterior motive for coming to the shop?
Cather uses a lot of figurative language in her physical description of the Bishop, including a couple of similes. (This annotation contains a video)
To what does Cecile look in developing her worldview?
There is a lot of storytelling in this novel. How would you describe the book's structure? Would you call it a frame story, like 'The Canterbury Tales' or 'The Decameron'? (This annotation contains a video)
What does this description imply?
There are a few areas in North America with the word 'sault' in the name. "Etymologically, the word sault comes from an archaic spelling of saut (from sauter), which translates most accurately in this usage to the English word cataract. This in turn derives from the French word for "leap" or "jump" (similar to somersault). Citations dating back to 1600 use the sault spelling to mean a cataract, waterfall or rapids. In modern French, however, the words chutes or rapides are more usual. Sault survives almost exclusively in geographic names dating from the 17th century."
What is the structure of Antoine's story?
This depiction of indigenous people is quite problematic. This description of Father Hector as a strict parent figure fits the Eurocentric view that 'Indians' were savages who needed to be saved. Over 300 years later, perspectives on the treatment of indigenous people by European colonizers has changed dramatically.
What is one possible explanation as to why Chabanel could not learn the Huron language?
Do you agree with Auclair? Is Father Hector wasting his life and talent in the Canadian wilderness?
What is causing Blinker's insomnia?
In many ways, Auclair is pretty forward-thinking for his time. He is looking after Blinker's emotional and psychological well-being instead of just giving him something to treat his physical symptoms. (This annotation contains an image)
Book Four: Pierre Charron
How does Cather describe the changing season?
How is Pierre connected to the recluse?
What is the meaning of this metaphor?
Why does Charron feel such conflicting emotions?
Despite living in a sort of wild place, what kind of life has Cecile led?
While it tastes disgusting and has little nutritional value, you can now buy tripe de roche (which translates to rock tripe) in Canada as an anti-inflammatory dietary supplement. (This annotation contains an image)
Cecile is uncomfortable staying with the Harnois family for all of the following reasons EXCEPT
Cecile's sentiment here is hyperbolic - she has only been away for a few days! It is also an odd thing for her to think, especially since she lives in a world where she is cut off from her extended family and only hears from them once a year. A lot can change in that one year.
Book Five: The Ships from France
How does Auclair's attitude differ from his daughter's?
How does the tone of this section differ from the others? (This annotation contains a video)
How do the townspeople treat the sailors?
This is what a 17th century merchant ship looked like. The voyage from Europe to Canada would have taken months. (This annotation contains an image)
In the captain's case, the town became a ___________ parent.
It's difficult to imagine just how exotic this parrot must be to Cecile. There were no zoos in Quebec at the time, no art galleries for her to see paintings of them, and parrots were not common house pets until the 20th century. (This annotation contains an image)
The father's comparison of the sailors to birds nesting is an example of what?
It is somewhat ironic that Cecile is apprehensive about moving to France after living in more wild environs. (This annotation contains a video)
What do the martyrs symbolize?
Book Six: The Dying Count
The Count sure accomplished a great deal in his nine years in Quebec! Do you think he did this entirely on his own?
What influences Auclair to stay in Quebec?
How does this statement make you feel about the Count? Does this make him more pitiable or more condescending?
Where do the Count's thoughts go while he is on his death bed?
What is the implication here? Does Auclair stand to gain anything from the Count's death? (This annotation contains an image)
What does the Bishop want Auclair to do?
How does this section highlight the theme of time and the changes it brings?
What is one likely reason as to why Cecile feels more secure now?
So this means that two years after the Count's death the Bishop left for France. Pay attention to how he has changed during his time away.
What trait has the Bishop gained during his time away?
Looking back on their interactions, does it surprise you that Cecile married Pierre?