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Literature Study GuidesO PioneersPart 4 Chapters 7 8 Summary

O Pioneers! | Study Guide

Willa Cather

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O Pioneers! | Part 4, Chapters 7–8 | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 7

Frank Shabata comes home and finds Emil Bergson's horse in his stable. He begins to slide into a hazy rage and goes to get his gun. Not fully in control of himself or even aware of his own intentions, he goes out looking uncertainly for Marie Shabata and Emil Bergson. When he sees two figures lying on the ground on the other side of the mulberry tree, he fires three shots at them. He hears a cry and then moaning, and he realizes that it is Marie for certain and that she isn't dead. He runs away and rides off for Omaha, trying to work out in his mind what he's done.

Part 4, Chapter 8

Ivar finds Emil Bergson's mare uncared for and running loose near the barn in the morning, and he knows something is wrong. Soon after, he finds the bodies of Emil Bergson and Marie Shabata lying in the orchard. Ivar can tell from the trails of blood that Marie had tried to get back to the house and then had given up and crawled back to die with her head resting on Emil's chest. Ivar goes back to the house to wake up Alexandra Bergson and tell her what happened.


Frank Shabata shows a violent side of his nature that has never completely emerged around Marie before. However, his rage and jealousy have been building throughout his marriage, and the shooting of Emil Bergson and Marie Shabata feels like an inevitable conclusion. Frank oscillates between blaming Marie and having moments of clarity when he realizes what he's done, both over time and in killing Marie, and that it is entirely his fault.

Over the course of this chapter, Frank seems to have a sort of mental breakdown in which he loses his ability to control his own actions or understand reason. "For three years he had been trying to break her spirit," but in the end Frank's small, mean spirit is actually broken by Marie's generous, kind one. In the throes of death, Marie makes her final choice—she chooses with her last ounce of strength to die with Emil instead of alone.

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