The story O Pioneers! Was written by Willa Cather. The story was published by The New American Library, a division of Penguin Grouped. The story first appeared in 1918 but was printed again in 1989 with a new afterword. In the introduction to the story, the reader learns about Willa Cather’s life and explores her life as a child being forced to move to Nebraska from her home in Virginia where she was born.
As described on in the introduction “When she had first traveled there, at age nine, the vast, empty prairie struck her “like a kind of erasure”(Cather, viii). The story is quite interesting and shows how people that went west to have a better life. While the story is fiction it does show the reader how people live during the time period. The story is easy to understand and fascinating at the same time. Because of the easy to read format, this story can appeal to a broad audience. O Pioneers discusses the events surrounding an immigrant family’s life and what they must overcome to survive. O Pioneers follows the Bergson’s, a family who immigrated from Sweden. The main character Alexandra Bergson the oldest child of John Bergson.
The time period of this story is the turn of the Twentieth Century. The book is split into five sections each telling a different part of the Bergson life adventures. Part one of O Pioneers is titled “The Wild Land.” The story starts out “One January day, thirty years ago, The little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland The little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska take pull land, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling was eddying about the cluster of lowed drab buildings huddled on the gray Prairie, under a gray sky”(Cather,7).
This opening line describes the weather in which they had to endure. The narrator describes the town Hanover as a town that was just built on the fly. As stated in the first couple pages “the children were all in school”(Cather, 8). However, the story introduces us to Emil, Alexandra’s younger brother. Emil went into town with his sister and their small kitten. Emil is described as a little country boy crying in the cold. Then we finally meet Alexandra herself she finds her best friend Carl Linstrum to help get Emil’s kitten down off a pole. Later in the story, their father, John Bergson, passes away and some years later so does their mother.
The overall story O Pioneers by Willa Cather shows the reality of how young women inherited a farm from her father in rural Nebraska. However, she must overcome some more challenges. While having to not only take care of a farm but she must take care of her younger brothers as well. Due to the fact they no longer have parents to take care of them.
During the second section of the story, the reader learns that the farm was very profitable under Alexandra’s control. Carl Linstrum also comes back after failing a job in Chicago he is on his way to Alaska but stays with Alexandra for a while. Later in the story, Emil decides to go off to law school however before he can go he must see Marie. While seeing Marie they passionately embrace one another and Marie’s Husband, Frank, finds them together and shoots them both. In part five of the story, Alexandra is quite distraught by the murder of her brother. But later in the part she goes to see Frank and tells him she has no ill will for him.
Alexandra states “I hope you’ll let me be friendly with you. I understand how you did it. I don’t feel hard toward you.
They were more to blame than you”(Cather, 209). She also says will do everything in her power to see him released. Near the end of the story, Alexandra receives a telegram from Carl stating he is back. They decide to marry, unconcerned with the approval of her younger brothers.
One theme in the story O Pioneers by Willa Cather is Gender roles. During the first few pages, Alexandra takes off her “brown veil from her head” to keep her younger brother warm. After this ” a shabby little traveling man” commented on her hair “foolishly” She stabbed him with a glance of Amazonian fierceness and drew in her lower lip—most unnecessary severity. It gave the little clothing drummer such a start that he actually let his cigar fall to the sidewalk and went off weakly in the teeth of the wind to the saloon. His hand was still unsteady when he took his glass from the bartender.
His feeble flirtatious instincts had been crushed before; but never so mercilessly. He felt cheap and ill-used as if someone had taken advantage of him.”(Cather, 10).
Another part where gender roles are mentioned is when the narrator describes Alexandra’s friend Carl Linstrum. He was described as a thin, frail boy, with brooding dark eyes, very quiet in all his movements. There was a delicate pallor in his thin face, and his mouth was too sensitive for a boy’s. This shows how the author wanted these two characters to be. However later in the book gender roles are mentioned again, however, this time it is traditional gender roles. As pointed out in part two of the book “Lou turned to his brother.
“This is what comes of letting a woman meddle in business,” he said bitterly. “We ought to have taken things in our own hands years ago. But she liked to run things, and we humored her.”(Cather, 119).Another way Willa Cather uses gender roles as a tool is when the reader compares Alexandra and Marie.
Alexandra does not follow the traditional gender roles while Marie does. Alexandra in the first chapter of the book is physically described by “She wore a man’s long ulster (not as if it were an affliction, but as if it were very comfortable and belonged to her; carried it like a young soldier), and around plush cap, tied down with a thick veil”(Cather, 9). While Marie is characterized by “She sat sewing or crocheting…”(Cather,142). This shows how Marie stuck to the traditional gender roles of the turn of the Twentieth Century. When compared to Alexander the reader learns how truly different these two women are.
Alexandra broke the traditional gender roles by running the farm. By stating Alexandra was at home, busy with her account books, whivch had been neglected of late” (Cather,117). Another theme used in O Pioneers is Immigration. The story focuses on the Bergson’s family who is a Swedish-American immigrant family. Another way Cather uses immigration is when Alexandra and her brother Emil are in town and Emil begins to play with the kitten with “a little Bohemian girl, Marie Tovesky, who was tying her handkerchief over the kittens head”(Cather,12).
The narrator shows the difference between people by stating where they had come from prior to the families coming to America. The harsh conditions of settling in on the Great Plains is used by Willa Cather. The first line of the story shows the reader one part of living in the section of America. When the narrator begins the story “One January day, thirty years ago, The little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland The little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska take pull land, was trying not to be blown away.
A mist of fine snowflakes was curling was eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray Prairie, under a gray sky”(Cather,7). By using this the first line in the book it shows the reader how much the weather must play a role in the settlers lives.