Cover image for O pioneers!
Title:
O pioneers!
Author:
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947.
Personal Author:
Edition:
Bantam classic edition.
Publication Information:
Toronto ; New York : Bantam Books, 1989.
Physical Description:
xv, 199 pages ; 18 cm.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
930 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.7 9.0 8664.

Reading Counts RC High School 8.1 14 Quiz: 14015 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780553213584

9781417617036
Format :
Book

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Kenmore Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

One of America's greatest women writers, Willa Cather established her talent and her reputation with this extraordinary novel--the first of her books set on the Nebraska frontier. A tale of the prairie land encountered by America's Swedish, Czech, Bohemian, and French immigrants, as well as a story of how the land challenged them, changed them, and, in some cases, defeated them, Cather's novel is a uniquely American epic.

Alexandra Bergson, a young Swedish immigrant girl who inherits her father's farm and must transform it from raw prairie into a prosperous enterprise, is the first of Cather's great heroines--all of them women of strong will and an even stronger desire to overcome adversity and succeed. But the wild land itself is an equally important character in Cather's books, and her descriptions of it are so evocative, lush, and moving that they provoked writer Rebecca West to say of her: "The most sensuous of writers, Willa Cather builds her imagined world almost as solidly as our five senses build the universe around us."

Willa Cather, perhaps more than any other American writer, was able to re-create the real drama of the pioneers, capturing for later generations a time, a place, and a spirit that has become part of our national heritage.


Author Notes

Willa Siebert Cather was born in 1873 in the home of her maternal grandmother in western Virginia. Although she had been named Willela, her family always called her "Willa." Upon graduating from the University of Nebraska in 1895, Cather moved to Pittsburgh where she worked as a journalist and teacher while beginning her writing career.

In 1906, Cather moved to New York to become a leading magazine editor at McClure's Magazine before turning to writing full-time. She continued her education, receiving her doctorate of letters from the University of Nebraska in 1917, and honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of California, Columbia, Yale, and Princeton.

Cather wrote poetry, short stories, essays, and novels, winning awards including the Pulitzer Prize for her novel, One of Ours, about a Nebraska farm boy during World War I. She also wrote The Professor's House, My Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Lucy Gayheart. Some of Cather's novels were made into movies, the most well-known being A Lost Lady, starring Barbara Stanwyck.

In 1961, Willa Cather was the first woman ever voted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners in Oklahoma in 1974, and the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca, New York in 1988.

Cather died on April 24, 1947, of a cerebral hemorrhage, in her Madison Avenue, New York home, where she had lived for many years.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-This work, written in 1913, was the first in Cather's "Great Plains" trilogy, and it was followed by The Song of the Lark and My Antonia. Strong-willed, intelligent Alexandra Bergson is the daughter of Swedish immigrants. She inherits her father's farmland instead of it being left to her brothers, Emil, Oscar, and Lou, because she has the vision and foresight to try new crops, buy additional lands, and take risks in order to reap future rewards. Cather's poetic and lyrical writing captures the Nebraska prairie and rolling hills. Using a variety of voices and capturing the dialects of the various immigrants who inhabit the novel, reader Betsy Bronson is impeccable. Her melodic voice imbues Cather's words with the sentiments of love, envy, jealousy, and peace that drive the story. This recording is delightful and leaves one with the understanding and appreciation that the land is always there for those who take time to truly see and appreciate it.-Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mt. Carmel (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Labeled "Scholarly Edition" and carrying the Modern Language Association of America's seal of approval, this edition of O Pioneers! certainly lives up to expectations. It is a generous edition, to be sure. This early novel is now held to be a very crucial and pivotal one in the whole development of the novelist, and this new scholarly edition provides a large selection of meaningful tools for the scholars, as well as a fine printing for the readers. A 20-page historiacl essay on the coming into being of O Pioneers! is supported by ten black-and-white background photos, which are helpful in demonstrating how much this novel is really rooted in the Nebraska plains. Other specifically textual apparatus (also generous) consists of five sections: textual commentary, emendations; notes on emendations, rejected substantives, and word division. Editors Rosowski and Mignon, along with Kathleen Danker and David Stouck, deserve a full measure of praise for their work. Advanced undergraduate; graduate; faculty; general. J. P. Lovering; Canisius College


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One 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. On the sidewalk in front of one of the stores sat a little Swede boy, crying bitterly. He was about five years old. His black cloth coat was much too big for him and made him look like a little old man. His shrunken brown flannel dress had been washed many times and left a long stretch of stocking between the hem of his skirt and the tops of his clumsy, copper-toed shoes. His cap was pulled down over his ears; his nose and his chubby cheeks were chapped and red with cold. He cried quietly, and the few people who hurried by did not notice him. He was afraid to stop any one, afraid to go into the store and ask for help, so he sat wringing his long sleeves and looking up a telegraph pole beside him, whimpering, "My kitten, oh, my kitten! Her will fweeze!" At the top of the pole crouched a shivering gray kitten, mewing faintly and clinging desperately to the wood with her claws. The boy had been left at the store while his sister went to the doctor's office, and in her absence a dog had chased his kitten up the pole. The little creature had never been so high before, and she was too frightened to move. Her master was sunk in despair. He was a little country boy, and this village was to him a very strange and perplexing place, where people wore fine clothes and had hard hearts. He always felt shy and awkward here, and wanted to hide behind things for fear some one might laugh at him. Just now, he was too unhappy to care who laughed. At last he seemed to see a ray of hope: his sister was coming, and he got up and ran toward her in his heavy shoes. His sister was a tall, strong girl, and she walked rapidly and resolutely, as if she knew exactly where she was going and what she was going to do next. 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 a round plush cap, tied down with a thick veil. She had a serious, thoughtful face, and her clear, deep blue eyes were fixed intently on the distance, without seeming to see anything, as if she were in trouble. She did not notice the little boy until he pulled her by the coat. Then she stopped short and stooped down to wipe his wet face. "Why, Emil! I told you to stay in the store and not to come out. What is the matter with you?" "My kitten, sister, my kitten! A man put her out, and a dog chased her up there." His forefinger, projecting from the sleeve of his coat, pointed up to the wretched little creature on the pole. "Oh, Emil! Didn't I tell you she'd get us into trouble of some kind, if you brought her? What made you tease me so? But there, I ought to have known better myself." She went to the foot of the pole and held out her arms, crying, "Kitty, kitty, kitty," but the kitten only mewed and faintly waved its tail. Alexandra turned away decidedly. "No, she won't come down. Somebody will have to go up after her. I saw the Linstrums' wagon in town. I'll go and see if I can find Carl. Maybe he can do something. Only you must stop crying, or I won't go a step. Where's your comforter? Did you leave it in the store? Never mind. Hold still, till I put this on you." She unwound the brown veil from her head and tied it about his throat. A shabby little traveling man, who was just then coming out of the store on his way to the saloon, stopped and gazed stupidly at the shining mass of hair she bared when she took off her veil; two thick braids, pinned about her head in the German way, with a fringe of reddish-yellow curls blowing out from under her cap. He took his cigar out of his mouth and held the wet end between the fingers of his woolen glove. "My God, girl, what a head of hair!" he exclaimed, quite innocently and 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 some one had taken advantage of him. When a drummer had been knocking about in little drab towns and crawling across the wintry country in dirty smoking-cars, was he to be blamed if, when he chanced upon a fine human creature, he suddenly wished himself more of a man? While the little drummer was drinking to recover his nerve, Alexandra hurried to the drug store as the most likely place to find Carl Linstrum. There he was, turning over a portfolio of chromo "studies" which the druggist sold to the Hanover women who did china-painting. Alexandra explained her predicament, and the boy followed her to the corner, where Emil still sat by the pole. "I'll have to go up after her, Alexandra. I think at the depot they have some spikes I can strap on my feet. Wait a minute." Carl thrust his hands into his pockets, lowered his head, and darted up the street against the north wind. He was a tall boy of fifteen, slight and narrow-chested. When he came back with the spikes, Alexandra asked him what he had done with his overcoat. "I left it in the drug store. I couldn't climb in it, anyhow. Catch me if I fall, Emil," he called back as he began his ascent. Alexandra watched him anxiously; the cold was bitter enough on the ground. The kitten would not budge an inch. Carl had to go to the very top of the pole, and then had some difficulty in tearing her from her hold. When he reached the ground, he handed the cat to her tearful little master. "Now go into the store with her, Emil, and get warm." He opened the door for the child. "Wait a minute, Alexandra. Why can't I drive for you as far as our place? It's getting colder every minute. Have you seen the doctor?" "Yes. He is coming over to-morrow. But he says father can't get better; can't get well." The girl's lip trembled. She looked fixedly up the bleak street as if she were gathering her strength to face something, as if she were trying with all her might to grasp a situation which, no matter how painful, must be met and dealt with somehow. The wind flapped the skirts of her heavy coat about her. Carl did not say anything, but she felt his sympathy. He, too, was lonely. He was 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. The lips had already a little curl of bitterness and skepticism. The two friends stood for a few moments on the windy street corner, not speaking a word, as two travelers, who have lost their way, sometimes stand and admit their perplexity in silence. When Carl turned away he said, "I'll see to your team." Alexandra went into the store to have her purchases packed in the egg-boxes, and to get warm before she set out on her long cold drive. When she looked for Emil, she found him sitting on a step of the staircase that led up to the clothing and carpet department. He was playing with a little Bohemian girl, Marie Tovesky, who was tying her handkerchief over the kitten's head for a bonnet. Marie was a stranger in the country, having come from Omaha with her mother to visit her uncle, Joe Tovesky. She was a dark child, with brown curly hair, like a brunette doll's, a coaxing little red mouth, and round, yellow-brown eyes. Every one noticed her eyes; the brown iris had golden glints that made them look like gold-stone, or, in softer lights, like that Colorado mineral called tiger-eye. The country children thereabouts wore their dresses to their shoe-tops, but this city child was dressed in what was then called the "Kate Greenaway" manner, and her red cashmere frock, gathered full from the yoke, came almost to the floor. This, with her poke bonnet, gave her the look of a quaint little woman. She had a white fur tippet about her neck and made no fussy objections when Emil fingered it admiringly. Alexandra had not the heart to take him away from so pretty a playfellow, and she let them tease the kitten together until Joe Tovesky came in noisily and picked up his little niece, setting her on his shoulder for every one to see. His children were all boys, and he adored this little creature. His cronies formed a circle about him, admiring and teasing the little girl, who took their jokes with great good nature. They were all delighted with her, for they seldom saw so pretty and carefully nurtured a child. They told her that she must choose one of them for a sweetheart, and each began pressing his suit and offering her bribes: candy, and little pigs, and spotted calves. She looked archly into the big, brown, mustached faces, smelling of spirits and tobacco, then she ran her tiny forefinger delicately over Joe's bristly chin and said, "Here is my sweetheart." The Bohemians roared with laughter, and Marie's uncle hugged her until she cried, "Please don't, Uncle Joe! You hurt me." Each of Joe's friends gave her a bag of candy, and she kissed them all around, though she did not like country candy very well. Perhaps that was why she bethought herself of Emil. "Let me down, Uncle Joe," she said, "I want to give some of my candy to that nice little boy I found." She walked graciously over to Emil, followed by her lusty admirers, who formed a new circle and teased the little boy until he hid his face in his sister's skirts, and she had to scold him for being such a baby. The farm people were making preparations to start for home. The women were checking over their groceries and pinning their big red shawls about their heads. The men were buying tobacco and candy with what money they had left, were showing each other new boots and gloves and blue flannel shirts. Three big Bohemians were drinking raw alcohol, tinctured with oil of cinnamon. This was said to fortify one effectually against the cold, and they smacked their lips after each pull at the flask. Their volubility drowned every other noise in the place, and the overheated store sounded of their spirited language as it reeked of pipe smoke, damp woolens, and kerosene. Carl came in, wearing his overcoat and carrying a wooden box with a brass handle. "Come," he said, "I've fed and watered your team, and the wagon is ready." He carried Emil out and tucked him down in the straw in the wagon-box. The heat had made the little boy sleepy, but he still clung to his kitten. "You were awful good to climb so high and get my kitten, Carl. When I get big I'll climb and get little boys' kittens for them," he murmured drowsily. Before the horses were over the first hill, Emil and his cat were both fast asleep. Although it was only four o'clock, the winter day was fading. The road led southwest, toward the streak of pale, watery light that glimmered in the leaden sky. The light fell upon the two sad young faces that were turned mutely toward it: upon the eyes of the girl, who seemed to be looking with such anguished perplexity into the future; upon the sombre eyes of the boy, who seemed already to be looking into the past. The little town behind them had vanished as if it had never been, had fallen behind the swell of the prairie, and the stern frozen country received them into its bosom. The homesteads were few and far apart; here and there a windmill gaunt against the sky, a sod house crouching in a hollow. But the great fact was the land itself, which seemed to overwhelm the little beginnings of human society that struggled in its sombre wastes. It was from facing this vast hardness that the boy's mouth had become so bitter; because he felt that men were too weak to make any mark here, that the land wanted to be let alone, to preserve its own fierce strength, its peculiar, savage kind of beauty, its uninterrupted mournfulness. The wagon jolted along over the frozen road. The two friends had less to say to each other than usual, as if the cold had somehow penetrated to their hearts. Excerpted from O Pioneers! by Willa Cather All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Elizabeth Shepley SergeantEthel M. HockettEleanor HinmanLatrobe CarrollDorothy Canfield FisherWilla CatherWilla CatherHenry JamesEdith WhartonWilla CatherSarah Orne JewettWilla CatherSarah Orne JewettWilla CatherWalt WhitmanEverett DickFrederick Jackson TurnerWilla CatherJoseph AlexisSarka B. HrbkovaRose RosickyMike FischerFloyd DellGardner W. WoodFrederick Taber CooperCelia HarrisDavid StouckJohn J. MurphySharon O'BrienC. Susan WiesenthalMarilee LindemannMelissa RyanGuy ReynoldsWilla Cather
List of Illustrationsp. vii
Introductionp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xxv
Note on the Textp. xxvii
The Text of O Pioneers!p. 1
Contexts and Backgrounds
Autobiographical and Biographical Essaysp. 137
From Willa Cather: A Memoirp. 137
Willa Cather Talks of Workp. 152
The Vision of a Successful Fiction Writerp. 156
Interview with Willa Catherp. 160
Willa Sibert Catherp. 167
Daughter of the Frontierp. 170
Prefacep. 176
My First Novelsp. 178
Literary Contextsp. 181
Peterp. 181
A Wagner Matineep. 183
Review of Kate Chopin's The Awakeningp. 191
[On Henry James]p. 193
From The Lesson of the Masterp. 194
From The House of Mirthp. 201
The Willing Musep. 212
Letters to Willa Catherp. 222
Miss Jewettp. 225
A White Heronp. 233
From Alexander's Bridgep. 242
The Bohemian Girlp. 246
[On Walt Whitman]p. 283
Pioneers! O Pioneers!p. 285
The American Westp. 289
Letters of Mattie and Uriah Oblingerp. 289
Nature Frowns on Mankindp. 320
From The Significance of the Frontier in American Historyp. 327
Nebraska: The End of the First Cyclep. 331
Swedes in Nebraskap. 338
Bohemians in Nebraskap. 340
Bohemian Cemeteries in Nebraskap. 344
From Pastoralism and Its Discontents: Willa Cather and the Burden of Imperialismp. 346
Criticism
Contemporary Reviewsp. 357
O Pioneers! A New Heroine and a New Country Appearp. 357
A Good Novelp. 358
Books of the Dayp. 359
Review of O Pioneers!p. 360
Review of O Pioneers!p. 361
[Review of O Pioneers!]p. 363
A Novel without a Herop. 365
Modern Critical Viewsp. 366
[Willa Cather and the Epic]p. 366
[Biblical and Literary Contexts in O Pioneers!]p. 373
[Gender and Creativity in O Pioneers!]p. 379
Female Sexuality in Willa Cather's O Pioneers! and the Era of Scientific Sexology: A Dialogue between Frontiersp. 396
[O Pioneers! and the Cultural Politics of the Progressive Era]p. 415
The Enclosure of America: Civilization and Confinement in Willa Cather's O Pioneers!p. 417
[Willa Cather and the Pioneer Myth in O Pioneers!]p. 441
A Chronologyp. 453
Selected Bibliographyp. 457

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