I was going to include this in the post I published today (visible just below this), but didn’t know where to put it in. The symbolism of the boat that carried the men to France interested me, because I recognized the name “Anchises” the moment Cather identified the liner that Claude was boarding. Anchises is the father of Aeneas, the only Trojan prince to escape the doomed city, the man who later founded the Roman Empire, according to myth. In the Aeneid, Anchises’ most famous scene is when, as Troy falls to fire and the bronze Achaean spear, Aeneas literally carries his aged father out of the city on his back, rather than leave him to die. It’s a classic image that has been painted and sculpted many times over the years.
What I wonder is whether Cather used that name for intentional symbolism and irony: the liner, after all, is carrying young healthy men away from the safety of the United States into a war-torn landscape that may claim their lives. Anchises, in a sense, carries Aeneas back into the city to die. Does that seem to you all like a real stretch, or is it possible that Cather would go for such a reference?