Literature Study GuidesO PioneersPart 4 Chapters 4 6 Summary

O Pioneers! | Study Guide

Willa Cather

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O Pioneers! | Part 4, Chapters 4–6 | Summary

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Summary

Part 4, Chapter 4

Emil Bergson visits Amedee Chevalier and finds his wife, Angelique Chevalier, making pies. She tells him Amedee is in the fields even though he is ill. Emil finds Amedee in the wheat field, breaking in his new farm equipment. He complains of a bad pain in his side and has a fever. Emil advises him to go to bed and call the doctor. Later, Amedee can barely walk, and Emil helps Amedee's cousins get him to bed.

Part 4, Chapter 5

At Frank Shabata and Marie Shabata's house, Frank hears the news about Amedee Chevalier being ill and goes to the local saloon to gossip. Marie calls Alexandra Bergson and finds out that Emil Bergson was with Amedee until the doctors operated on him. Alexandra tells Marie that Emil is sleeping now. Marie wanders around her farm, contemplating her feelings for Emil and the fleetingness of life. In the morning, Alexandra tells Emil that Amedee has died during the night.

Part 4, Chapter 6

The day after Amedee Chevalier dies, the bishop is due at the church for a confirmation service. A weird juxtaposition of life and death commences. A cavalcade of boys, Emil Bergson included, escort the bishop to town but pass by the hole being dug for Amedee's grave on the way. At the church service, Emil is transported by the music and reaches a sort of ecstatic calm. Still in a heightened state of peace and clarity, he leaves the church and goes to find Marie lying in the orchard under a mulberry tree.

Analysis

These chapters are charged with foreshadowing and the feeling that the story is beginning to speed toward its climax. The rising action has begun moving upward sharply, carrying the reader toward the crisis. The foreshadowing really takes shape in Angelique Chevalier's lack of worry about her husband's illness. She is concerned that Amedee Chevalier is working while he is ill, but when she talks about his not feeling well she does "not speak with much anxiety, not because she was indifferent, but because she felt so secure in their good fortune." Angelique and Amedee have just had a healthy baby, and they are young and happy in their marriage, so she feels that no misfortune will come close to them.

The foreshadowing continues in Marie Shabata's revelry, where the thought crosses her mind that "it might so easily have been the other way—Emil who was ill and Amedee who was sad!" She has the realization that Angelique does not—that life is fragile and that anyone can be struck ill or be affected by misfortune at any moment. This thought begins to build the tension toward the crisis of Marie and Emil's story together.

Finally, Emil Bergson's heightened state strongly indicates to the reader that something is about to come to a culmination for him. He is drawn to Marie almost without a conscious will, as though following the inevitable path of his life.

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