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O Pioneers! | Study Guide

Willa Cather

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O Pioneers! | Part 3, Chapters 1–2 | Summary

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Summary

Part 3, Chapter 1

The winter is unusually bitter and cold. Mrs. Lee, Lou Bergson's mother-in-law, comes to Alexandra Bergson's for a long visit. They are invited to have tea with Marie Shabata, who bakes Bohemian apricot buns for the occasion. Alexandra and Marie eventually go upstairs to look for some crochet patterns for Mrs. Lee, and Marie confesses that she feels she is not the best wife for Frank Shabata. Alexandra is uncomfortable with Marie's frankness, and Marie doesn't say anything more on the subject. As the winter continues, Marie's personality shifts as she becomes increasingly melancholy.

Part 3, Chapter 2

Alexandra Bergson is lonely as the winter wears on, and she spends time reminiscing about happy moments in nature or time spent with Emil Bergson. Since she was young, she has had a fantasy about being lifted up and carried by a strong force, perhaps a man. As she gets older and feels a deep weariness, this fantasy comes to her more frequently.

Analysis

The third section of O Pioneers! dwells on the loneliness and trials of winter, and nature reflects the characters' moods. Alexandra Bergson and Marie Shabata are both lonely in their own way. Alexandra is used to having a bustling household full of people, but since her brothers no longer come to the house and Emil Bergson is in Mexico, she is alone there. Marie feels the loneliness of living with a man she isn't in love with, who doesn't give her the kind of affection she probably needs. She also has no one to talk to and has to keep her troubles and conflicted heart to herself. She can't even take comfort in Emil's letters because they are painful to read. There is a general sense of a shift happening over this winter although what lies on the other side is unclear.

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