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Teacher's Guide [imagemap with 9 links]

After Viewing: Questions and Activities

  • Consider only the first five scenes of the film (from the beginning through the scene in which Thea is speaking to Dr. Archie in his office). What does the film establish about Thea and her life in just these first ten minutes? What can you predict about the rest of the story based on this opening? How has the film already suggested or established the overall theme -- the development of the artist?

  • How do we first view Thea in the film? Why do you think the filmmaker chose to introduce her this way? How do expectations about Thea's gender continue to be important in this story? How does Thea confound those expectations?

  • Cather once said about her upbringing on the plains of Nebraska, "It has been the happiness and curse of my life." How is this attitude reflected in Thea? How does Thea seem both to fit and not fit in Moonstone, and how does she "carry Moonstone with [her]" when she leaves? How does going elsewhere change her? To what extent do you think we all carry with us the place we come from?

  • How does The Song of the Lark portray the contrast between city life in the East and life on the plains and canyons of the West? Compile a list of images from the film and/or novel to analyze the subtle tools with which an artist can evoke a place as either welcoming or alienating. Can you think of films or novels that depict a big American city as lovingly as Cather portrays the landscape of the American West?

  • Dr. Archie soothes Thea by telling her about the people of Moonstone, "They hate what they can't understand. You're uncommon, Thea. In a common, common world. The herd will always drive you from its midst." What does he mean? What scenes show this especially well? Do you think some artists feel misunderstood by and alienated from others? Why or why not?

  • Why do you think the film both opens and closes with a scene showing Thea with Dr. Archie? Analyze what he might represent in this story by imagining how the novel and/or film would be different if Dr. Archie were not in it.

  • What does Thea mean when she says that "art is a kind of vessel, something to hold, to imprison life just for a moment, so you can hold onto it? I realized that here. . . . I'm a vessel too"? What object does she take from the canyon that symbolizes this? How does this realization change her? How is her trip to Fred's ranch a turning point in both her artistic and personal life?

  • Trace the motif of marriage in the film and novel. What do different characters say about it? How are marriages portrayed? How does Thea seem to feel about it? How would it have changed Thea's life if she married either Ray Kennedy or Fred Ottenberg? What obstacles might married women have faced as artists in Thea's lifetime?

  • The notion of the importance of following one's dreams is very important in The Song of the Lark. Which characters in the story seem to have failed in pursuing theirs? What do they each teach Thea as she struggles to follow hers?

Teacher's Guide:
Teaching The Song of the Lark | Using This Web Site | Willa and the Diva

Essays + Interviews | Novel to Film | A Cather Timeline
Opera in America | Prairie Settlement | Cast + Credits
Links and Bibliography | Teacher's Guide | The Forum

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