O' Pioneers! By: Willa CartherAfter reading the novel, O Pioneers! it was hard to judge whether it was a tragedy or a triumph. The only way I see it as a tragedy is that Emil and Maria died. I knew, since page six of the book that they were going to be together. It kind of broke my heart to see later on that she had married someone else. But when her and Emil got shot, I thought it may finish as a tragedy.
But overall, I would see it as a triumph in the way that the Bergson finally got what they wanted out of their land. It made them rich. Also, Alexandra and Carl finally married. And being that the whole novel was basically based on the land, they were triumphant in getting what they risked, what they longed for. Families on the Great Plains faced many hardships such as weather and the tending of fields.
In the novel's first sentence, it establishes the kind of symbolism it will use: 'The little town of Hanover was trying not to be blown away,' In my opinion, the land broke the characters rather than the characters breaking the land. The land has its own character, but it also reflects the emotions and personalities of the people who interact with it: the dying John Bergson calls the land 'unfriendly to man'; and the melancholy Carl believes that the land 'wanted to be left alone.' Of course the characters had to plant and sew the fields. Similarly, when Alexandra becomes upset that Carl is leaving the Divide, she looks out over the prairie and sees a country 'empty and mournful.' In the light of her epiphany, however, Alexandra sees the land as 'beautiful and rich and strong and glorious.' By the force of her will, she is able to tame the same spirit of the land that her father considered malevolent, making it 'bend lower than it ever bent to a human will before.' In conquering the land, she reshapes her perception of it. In considering Cather's characters, they don't become fully Americanized within a generation. At the beginning of the novel, it seems like they are more in tuned with the rest of America. They are economically stable.
But when Carl comes back on his first visit, Lou and Oscar scorn him about burning Wall Street. Obviously, America is building and becoming more advanced. While still in Nebraska, people are relying on their crops to get them by. They are still dwelling on traits, beliefs, and actions that past generations had implemented.
Romantic love in this particular novel is very hard to judge whether it is necessary for human happiness. I don't think that it was meant to be the moral of the story, or that love was the basis of this particular novel, but I do think that after reading this that it was necessary in order to be happy. Of course, in one instance, love did end in heartbreak, desolation, and destruction with the scenario of Emil and Maria. But in every story, there has to be a sad moment or a fatality that occurs.
But overall, it seemed that Alexandra wasn't going to be happy unless Carl came back and she could be with him. Also, she acted as if her money didn't make her as happy as he did. Lou and Oscar also had love in their life. They moved away from the land in order to marry.
Love took them over, not the land or the desire to be rich. Physically, I consider the men in the novel to be the strongest. But if you look at what the people in the novel had to overcome, emotionally, I think the women were stronger. In the novel, Lou and Oscar wanted to get rid of the land because they didn't believe that it was worth anything. They kind of gave up. But Alexandra, being the strong one of the family, hung in there and convinced them that it would one day be worth a lot more than when they started out.
Alexandra, throughout the whole novel had to deal with some big tragedies such as her Mother, Father and Brother dying. Her best friend dies, Carl walking in and out of her life, and having Lou and Oscar on her back all the time. She was made to be the strongest character of all. I found that the women of this novel to be stronger than the men. I never really considered generational values all that important until I read this novel. When I tried to put myself in Alexandra's shoes, it made me realize that the things we carry on generation after generation keep getting more and more valuable.
For example, farming that land meant more to John Bergson than anything. He wanted to keep the land for generations to come because he knew it would be worth a good amount. Alexandra wanted to keep the land in order to have a better lifestyle. It seems like today, no one is worried about farming the land in order to survive in our society. It seems that in reality, people have to go to college and get an education in order to make it in the world.
The concerns, anxieties, and dreams of the characters do not seem relevant to the modern world today.