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Transcript of O Pioneers!
by: Willa Cather
Marie Shabata moves into the Linstrum’s farm after they moved away. She is Alexandra’s best friend and Emil’s love interest. She is married to Frank Shabata who ends up killing her and Emil through his jealousy.
Owns the farm next to the Bergsons’ homestead
Establishes a bond with Alexandra Bergson
Withdrawn, gloomy, pensive man, self-conscious, sensitive, and intelligent.
They are the other sons of John Bergson and create many problems for Alexandra.
They disagree with many of her choices such as how she likes Carl Linstrum and how she will never give up the farm no matter how bad their debt is on it.
Lou Bergson and Oscar Bergson
The youngest son of john Bergson. Brother of Oscar, Lou and Alexandra
Goes to college and explores the world
Grows up tall, handsome and athletic
Falls in love with neighbor Marie Shabata
The novel’s protagonist
A Model of emotional strength and courage
Eldest child who Inherits john Bergson’s farm and makes it profitable
Religious and imbalanced elderly man.
Distrusts civilization and behaves bizarrely around people.
Becomes Alexandra’s trusted servant.
Father of Alexandra, Oscar, Lou and Emil
Was a shipwright in Sweden, but became a farmer in the prairie lands of Nebraska.
Leaves Alexandra as the caretaker of the farm
This quote is critical throughout the beginning of the story because it keeps Alexandra motivated to keep the farm no matter how much debt they have. It gives Alexandra the final decision on keeping the farm and not letting it go, even though her brothers’ disagree.
“I want you to keep the land together and to be guided by your sister. I have talked to her since I have been sick, and she knows all my wishes. I want no quarrels among my children, and so long as there is one house there must be one head”. Part I Page: 16
This quote is when Frank shot through the orchard killing his wife and Emil. It is important because it proved Franks jealousy and Emil’s and Marie’s love for each other.
“The gun sprang to his shoulder, he sighted mechanically and fired three times without stopping”.
Part IV Page: 138
This quote is about Marie talking to Emil about how Alexandra feels about Carl Linstrum. This shows how others know about how Alexandra really feels and it foreshadows that they will love each other.
“Does she really care about him? When she used to tell me about him, I always wondered whether she wasn’t a little in love with him”.
Part II Page: 79
The novel is fundamentally a story of the wilds becoming a civilization. Each of the characters in the story attempt to make the land livable for his or herself, and each character can be judged based on his or her ability to work with the land rather than against it.
One of the aspects of the pioneer spirit that Cather represents in her novel is the ability to sacrifice oneself for the future. Of course, Alexandra provides the ideal example of self-sacrifice. She gives up most of her youth and many chances for happiness because she has a vision of the future that requires hard work and sustained dedication.
Cather represents and compares two kinds of love in O Pioneers!: passionate, youthful love and mature, steady love. Cather implies that passionate love is dangerous and unstable and is unlikely to lead to lifelong happiness, whereas mature union based on friendship is more likely to weather the tribulations of life on the frontier.
Emil returns from Mexico nearly a year later, only to find that his love for Marie has grown during their separation. Once again, he resolves to flee the Divide. Before he can leave, though, tragedy strikes: his best friend, Amedee, dies unexpectedly. At a church mass, Emil enters a state of rapture and resolves to say farewell to Marie. He finds her in a similar ecstasy in her orchard, and he lies down next to her. Her jealous husband, Frank Shabata, finds them. Blinded by fury, he shoots them both dead.
The White Mulberry Tree
In part III Mrs. Lee comes to visit Alexandra and keeps her occupied while Carl and Emil are away. Together they go and visit Marie, which we learn is unhappy with her marriage to Frank Shabata. Throughout part III Alexandra has fantasies about a strong man picking her up and taking away her exhaustion.
The narrative jumps sixteen years into the future,
Alexandra's farm is the most prosperous on the Divide.
Emil has been provided the wealth and luxury to leave the Divide for the State University.
Carl Linstrum returns for a long visit after years of travel.
Marie Shabata is trapped in an unhappy marriage with a difficult husband, and it becomes clear that she and Emil are falling in love.
Emil decides to travel to Mexico City, fleeing the temptation that Marie presents.
Alexandra and Carl slowly regain their teenage intimacy.
In reaction, Lou and Oscar drive Carl out of town, fearing that his relationship with Alexandra might threaten their own children's prospects of inheriting Alexandra's farm.
Months after the murders, Alexandra Bergson has achieved some limited recovery from her sorrow; she now possesses a stoic exhaustion with life. She resolves to try to win a pardon for Frank, who is serving a ten-year sentence in a Lincoln jail. Returning from a visit to Frank in Lincoln, she finds Carl Linstrum waiting for her. As soon as he heard of Emil's death, he returned from Alaska. They find comfort and companionship in each other, and they decide to marry.
The narrator introduces the main characters
From town, Emil and Alexandra and their neighbor Carl return home to the desolate stretch of plains known as the Divide.
Alexandra's father, John Bergson, is dying.
He tells his two eldest sons, Oscar and Lou, that he is entrusting the farmland to his daughter.
When drought and depression strike three years later, Alexandra's determination allows her to persevere. Many families, including Carl Linstrum's, sell their farms and move away. But Alexandra believes in the promise of the untamed country, and so she convinces her brothers to re-mortgage their farm and buy more land. She also convinces them to adopt innovative farming techniques.
The Wild Land
Throughout the novel Cather emphasizes how much Alexandra values friendship, and how much her life has been affected by the few friends she has had. Alexandra distinguishes between family and friends in a way that might be considered unusual in such isolated circumstances. Though she clearly believes in family loyalty, she seems to love and admire her friends far more than members of her family.
The idea of imagination comes up throughout the novel in several different ways. First, Cather suggests that pioneers must have imagination. They must be able to look at the landscape and imagine it as entirely different in order to survive and prosper. Most of Alexandra's neighbors lack this imagination, and so they are ready to sell and flee, positive that a land that looks barren and dead must always be barren and dead.
Many kinds of temptation are represented in O Pioneers!, but they all share one basic trait: temptations lure a person away from important and meaningful work, thus inevitably degrading those who give in. Early in the book many characters fall prey to the temptation to give up their task of conquering the wilderness for some easier form of existence.
Creating Civilization in the wild
Passionate Love vs. Reasonable Love
An American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska.
O Pioneers! was written while she was living in New York. It is the first novel of her Great Plains trilogy, Cather had moved to New York, and wrote the novel in part while living in Cherry Valley with Isabelle McClung. She completed it at the McClungs' home in Pittsburgh.
In a 1921 interview for Bookman, Willa Cather said, "I decided not to 'write' at all, – simply to give myself up to the pleasure of recapturing in memory people and places I'd forgotten.
About Willa Cather
Any Questions or Comments?
Overall, I thought that the novel was entertaining to read. I like how Willa Cather included different events to change your emotions from high to low. She put scenes that were to make you ecstatic like when she describes how where they live is flourishing in the beginning of part II. On the other hand she put tragic scenes like her brother and neighbor being murdered. This made it so the text is evened out with good and bad, which makes it more enjoyable to read than a dull book that shows only one emotion the entire novel.
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