The diagnosis is delivered in the opening sentence: "a bad heart." Anton Rosicky is an immigrant to the United States from Czechoslovakia. The 65 year old man and his wife, Mary, own a farm in Nebraska. They have five sons and a daughter. Rosicky is an ordinary fellow with one remarkable quality--a genuine love for people. He is attached to his family, the land, and hard work. His physician, Doctor Ed Burleigh, writes a prescription for Rosicky and instructs him to avoid strenuous activities.

The young doctor is quite fond of Mr. and Mrs. Rosicky and speculates that tender and generous people like this couple are more interested in relishing life than getting ahead in it. Although he knows better, one day Rosicky overexerts himself raking thistles and bringing some horses into the barn. He experiences chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath. His daughter-in-law, Polly, helps him into bed and applies moist hot towels to his chest.

Unfortunately, Dr. Ed is out of town--his first vacation in seven years. Rosicky appears to recover from the episode but the following day after enjoying breakfast with his family, the chest pain recurs and he dies at home. When Dr. Ed returns from his trip, he stops at the graveyard near the farm. He realizes that the natural beauty and serenity of the landscape make a fitting final resting place for a farmer like Rosicky and a man whose life was not only rich with love but deeply fulfilling.


This moving short story affectionately portrays both the immigrant experience and farm life. It is a testimony to the determination and benevolence of the title character and the many people he represents who steadfastly pursued the American Dream. Readers are treated to a glimpse of life in the Midwest circa 1930. The story offers an interesting description of the country doctor.

Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Ed was a poor country boy in Nebraska who had already known Mr. and Mrs. Rosicky practically his entire life. He is young, single, and prematurely graying. He has not had a vacation in seven years. Of course he makes visits to farms and even delivers babies there. He is strongly connected to his patients. He diagnoses Rosicky's heart condition the old fashioned way--with a stethoscope. This physician must rely solely on the history and physical examination. He does not have the luxury of stress tests, echocardiograms, or even an EKG. The doctor-patient relationship is beautifully depicted.

The love of family and the land permeates this story. Isn't it ironic that a man suffering from cardiac disease is in fact such a big-hearted human being? Notice the word "sick" in the protagonist's name, Rosicky. Despite his illness and hard life, Rosicky remains grateful for all he has. For a good man, setbacks and loss never seem to tarnish an appreciation for life.


Neighbour Rosicky was first published in 1932 in Obscure Destinies, a collection of three stories by Willa Cather.

Primary Source

The Treasury of American Short Stories



Place Published

Garden City, N.Y.



Page Count