O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy, #1) by Willa CatherO Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cathers first great novel, and to many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic sweep of the transformation of the American frontier—and the transformation of the people who settled it. Cathers heroine is Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind-blasted prairie of Hanover, Nebraska, as a girl and grows up to make it a prosperous farm. But this archetypal success story is darkened by loss, and Alexandras devotion to the land may come at the cost of love itself.
At once a sophisticated pastoral and a prototype for later feminist novels, O Pioneers! is a work in which triumph is inextricably enmeshed with tragedy, a story of people who do not claim a land so much as they submit to it and, in the process, become greater than they were.
O Pioneers! Summary & Study Guide
O Pioneers! Just in case you're wondering: no, there is no O Pioneers! Too bad, right? In fact, it turns out Hanover is a made-up town, somewhere on the Nebraska prairie known in the novel as "the Divide". Cather invents this place in order to tell the coming-of-age story of Alexandra Bergson, the eldest of the Bergson children, who doggedly persists during the worst of times to become a wealthy, independent landowner. Okay, now let's break it down. This is a novel in five parts, spanning about thirty years.
O Pioneers! The main character, Alexandra Bergson, inherits the family farmland when her father dies, and she devotes her life to making the farm a viable enterprise at a time when many other immigrant families are giving up and leaving the prairie. The novel is also concerned with two romantic relationships, one between Alexandra and family friend Carl Linstrum and the other between Alexandra's brother Emil and the married Marie Shabata. On a windy January day in Hanover, Nebraska, Alexandra Bergson is with her five-year-old brother Emil, whose little kitten has climbed a telegraph pole and is afraid to come down. Alexandra asks her neighbor and friend Carl Linstrum to retrieve the kitten.
O Pioneers! The narrator introduces four principal characters: the very young Emil Bergson; his stalwart older sister, Alexandra; her gloomy friend Carl Linstrum; and a pretty little Bohemian child, Marie Shabata. 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, and the preservation of all that he has accomplished since his immigration from Sweden, to his daughter. It becomes clear that Alexandra is stronger and more resolute than her brothers. When drought and depression strike three years later, Alexandra's determination allows her to persevere.
by Willa Cather
On a windy January day in Hanover, Nebraska, a 5-year-old Swede boy sits on the sidewalk, crying for his kitten that has run up the pole. Carl fetches the kitten and sends Emil into the store to warm up, and when Alexandra follows him in, she finds Emil playing with Marie Tovesky , a pretty little Bohemian girl from Omaha. Alexandra convinces her brothers that they must mortgage their farm to buy more land , even though many of their neighbors are moving away due to drought and hard conditions of the soil. She has sent Emil to university, and he has returned to help her with the farm. Alexandra has also taken in a man whom many others believe is crazy, Ivar , whom she recognizes as offering sound advice on caring for animals. One day when Lou and Oscar are visiting Alexandra, Carl arrives, having come to visit the prairie.