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Elinor recounts her resistance to "the tyrant false pride," "the puerilities of education," and "the monster custom"--which she has, in turn, "conquered," "mocked," and "defeated"--as marks of honor setting her apart from typical women of her day, but this litany of radical accomplishments is undercut by her utter slavishness to her own unrequited passion for Harleigh (189).
How bracing for us today, beset with simplistic puerilities about American and European civilization, is the adult and comprehensive wisdom of Cather, who, while never idealizing, keeps before our eyes the human achievement--and its religious dimension.
But, I wish she had left in more of the jokes as advised by her son when she edited the book; did too many of them deal with religious stereotypes or with the shedding of Victorian sexual puerilities of which the Irish Catholic Church and therefore the Irish peoples retained more than their fair share well into the twentieth century?