Death Comes for the Archbishop By Willa Cather Summary and Analysis Book 6: Chapter 1

Summary

Latour is determined to build a cathedral in Santa Fe. He is encouraged by Don Antonio Olivares.

Olivares's second wife, Dona Isabella, has Europeanized her husband, entertains lavishly, is a devout Catholic, and irritates her in-laws. Quick-spirited, vain, gracious, younger than her husband, and still physically attractive, she inspires gossip. The French priests enjoy conversations with her in their native tongue. In her home, they can discuss the outside world and music.

Don Antonio is heavy and slow. He has lively eyes with a yellow spark and golden brown fingers. He knows the priests well. He gives to Latour things that are pleasing to the eye; to Vaillant he gives things that are pleasing to the taste.

Inez, the Olivares's only daughter, visits them and casts a somber spell over the household. At a New Year's party, Olivares promises to give enough money so Latour can build his cathedral. Attending the party are Kit Carson, his daughter, officers from the fort, and Don Manuel Chavez. All are colorfully dressed. Vaillant wears a cassock that has been sent by his sister's convent. At first, Latour frowned on such rich garments, but after he had visited the convent and had seen what it meant for the nuns to sew and dream of New World missions, he changed his mind.

The boy, Pablo, plays his guitar for the party. Latour contemplates how each man in the room has become his own story. Carson is the trail breaker. Chavez, who had hunted Navajos for sport in his youth, was in a group that was ambushed by Indians, killing every member of the party except himself. Mistaken for dead with seven arrow wounds and a shaft through his body, he traveled to safety.

Later that year, Olivares dies, and his brothers rush to get American lawyers to gain his inheritance.

Analysis

Chavez is the individual most out of place at the Olivares party. He inherited money, built a magnificent home, supported Padre Martinez, hates Americans because they fail to see the beauty of New Mexico, is jealous of Carson's fame as an Indian fighter, and has come to the party only out of honor for Dona Isabella. He prides himself on his Castilian heritage, which extends back to the year 1160. He is an expert with a pistol and bow and arrow. He is proud of his European heritage but is a representation of the evils incurred by the Spanish conquistadors during their occupation of the Southwest. He was not so much an Indian fighter as he was an Indian hunter, and he never failed to take what he wanted from Indians. The reader gets the impression that Chavez is a representation of European and white arrogance toward the Indian tribes.

Glossary

Septuagesima the third Sunday before Lent.

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