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O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

O Pioneers! (1913)

by Willa Cather

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Prairie Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,0181291,477 (3.89)462
Cather presents the story of the Nebraska prairie. Alexandra Bergson, daughter of Swedish immigrant farmers, is devoted to the land and suffers the hardships of prairie life.
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    clif_hiker: pioneer women facing hardship making a home and a life on the prairie...

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» See also 462 mentions

English (127)  Spanish (2)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
Thoroughly enjoyed this. The thing that did it for me was the sense of place, with pioneer Nebraska practically a character in and of itself. I suppose it doesn't hurt that my mother was born in Hanover (Kansas) and grew up in Nebraska. ( )
  RandyRasa | Feb 24, 2020 |
O! Pioneers is a simple and lovely book. Willa Cather creates realistic characters that must be drawn from her own life in Nebraska. The “Divide”, the book’s pioneer Nebraska setting, doesn’t show a hint of artifice. Cather’s main character, Alexandra Bergson, is remarkable; one of the great leading characters of American literature. She stands head and shoulders above the other people on the Divide, and represents the best values of pioneer America without seeming like an idol. Of the plot, I loved best the progression of time, the changes in the land and people, and the earnest conversations and conflicts between city and country, new world and old, open-minded and closed. I found myself working harder to connect the plots as the book went along, but the conclusion pulled everything together in a beautiful ending. ( )
  TomPfeifer | Dec 12, 2019 |
Slow progress through O Pioneers! I must stop after each chapter. Not because I dislike the book, but to pause for breath, because it is so full. ( )
  cwcoxjr | Sep 5, 2019 |
O Pioneers by Willa Cather was originally published in 1913 and is written in her trademark spare yet lyrical prose as it explores themes of destiny, chance, love and steadfastness. The setting is that of a farming community in Nebraska which brings a sense of neighbourliness and family ties. Over and above all is the land which these people homesteaded, saw through the lean and difficult years and now are reaping it’s rich benefits.

The central character is Alexandra Bergson, the only daughter and oldest child of Swedish immigrants. She holds the family together and to the land when her father passes away unexpectedly. She more than proved herself worthy and made her family one of the most prosperous landowners in the region. Of course there was a price for this success, she gave up any chance of a personal life in order to help the family. Of course, her brothers aren’t always at ease with Alexandra and in later years they try unsuccessfully to control her which causes them to fall out. The tragedy of the story is her youngest brother, Emil, whom Alexandra has basically raised. She wants him to have choices and advantages that the rest of the family didn’t have, but she cannot control his heart which he has given to Marie, a married woman from the town’s French community.

Although I haven’t read Willa Cather’s Prairie Trilogy any particular order, O Pioneers is a wonderful addition. Her strong simple characters go about their lives in this descriptive Nebraska setting in a natural manner. There is drama and action but it never feels artificial or forced. I found this to be an excellent read, and it will be one that I remember. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Sep 3, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 127 (next | show all)
There isn't a vestige of 'style' as such: for page after page one is dazed at the ineptness of the medium and the triviality of the incidents...

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionscalculated
Byatt, A. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindemann, MarileeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrin, NoelAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weakley, MarkIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.
To the memory of
Sarah Orne Jewett
in whose beautiful and delicate work
there is the perfection
that endures
First words
One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some of them looked as if they had been moved in overnight, and others as if they were straying off by themselves, headed straight for the open plain. None of them had any appearance of permanence, and the howling wind blew under them as well as over them. The main street was a deeply rutted road, now frozen hard, which ran from the squat red railway station and the grain “elevator” at the north end of the town to the lumber yard and the horse pond at the south end. On either side of this road straggled two uneven rows of wooden buildings; the general merchandise stores, the two banks, the drug store, the feed store, the saloon, the post-office. The board sidewalks were gray with trampled snow, but at two o’clock in the afternoon the shopkeepers, having come back from dinner, were keeping well behind their frosty windows. The children were all in school, and there was nobody abroad in the streets but a few rough-looking countrymen in coarse overcoats, with their long caps pulled down to their noses. Some of them had brought their wives to town, and now and then a red or a plaid shawl flashed out of one store into the shelter of another. At the hitch-bars along the street a few heavy work-horses, harnessed to farm wagons, shivered under their blankets. About the station everything was quiet, for there would not be another train in until night.
The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.
People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world. It is always easier to lose than to find.
Those fields, colored by various grain! - Mickiewicz
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Book description
Alexandra is the eldest child of the Bergsons, a ship-building family from Norway who have come to the American Midwest to wrest their living from another kind of frontier. Alexandra is driven by two great forces:her fierce protective love for her young brother Emil, and her deep love of the land. When her father dies, worn out by disease and debt, it is she who becomes head of the family and begins the long, hard process of taming the country, forcing it to yield wheat and corn where only the grass and wildflowers had grown since time began. Through the life, hopes, successes - and failures - of this magnificent woman we learn the story of all the immigrants who came to carve out new homes for themselves, who struggled against ignorance, drought, storm, poverty and came to love and understand the earth until it rewarded them with richness beyond measure.
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