"Tom Outland's Story" by Ian Williams.

Essay by iwill37High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2003

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An Inspirational Diary

Located in the middle of Willa Cather's The Professor's House, the diary of deceased Tom Outland is edited by his friend and mentor, Professor St. Peter. The author inserts the diary, called "Tom Outland's Story," to balance the beginning and the ending of the book, where there is a drastic change in the history professor's character that is similar to Tom's. The editing experience sparks a life-changing revelation that is initiated by the details of his friend's previously unobserved emotions during the time that he was excavating an ancient pueblo civilization in New Mexico.

At the beginning of the book, it is demonstrated that St. Peter is becoming old and is changing negatively. His wife notes this by saying, "How irritable and unreasonable he is becoming!" (81). The professor is also being very regretful of his life, namely his kids, his history books, and the new house.

He even tries to resist his new house by continuing to work at his old house. He shows this regret while talking to his wife during an opera by saying, "it's been a mistake, our having a family and writing histories and getting middle-aged. We should have been picturesquely shipwrecked together when we were young" (78). He is noting that his whole life is a mistake that he cannot change; he even shows how ardently he wishes to live another life when thinking in bed prior to the conversation with his wife:

"That night, after he was in bed, among unaccustomed surroundings and a little wakeful, St. Peter still played with his idea of a picturesque shipwreck, and he cast about for the particular occasion he would have chosen for such a finale" (79).

With such thoughts, it is apparent that he is not enjoying his...