O Pioneers!

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Lou Bergson Character Analysis

Lou is one of Alexandra’s brother, the middle brother in the Bergson family. He is more intelligent than the third Bergson brother, Oscar, but he’s also petty, small-minded, and flighty, often involving himself in politics and tirades against those with money. He hates to stand out from his neighbors, and he marries Annie Lee.

Lou Bergson Quotes in O Pioneers!

The O Pioneers! quotes below are all either spoken by Lou Bergson or refer to Lou Bergson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power of the Land Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of O Pioneers! published in 1994.
Part 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

The conversation at the table was all in English. Oscar’s wife, from the malaria district of Missouri, was ashamed of marrying a foreigner, and his boys do not understand a word of Swedish. Annie and Lou sometimes speak Swedish at home, but Annie is almost as much afraid of being “caught” at it as ever her mother was of being caught barefoot.

Related Characters: Lou Bergson, Oscar Bergson, Annie Lee
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Oscar and Lou have come to Alexandra's house for dinner. Alexandra has ensured that her house is elegantly furnished for her guests, although she personally prefers "plain things." Oscar, Lou, and their wives are tense and uncomfortable, and in this passage the narrator explains that the dinner conversation was in English, as the wives are embarrassed of speaking Swedish (and one doesn't even know the language). The fact that Oscar's sons "do not understand a word of Swedish" highlights how quickly all connection to the Old World can be lost. Meanwhile, the comparison between Annie's fear of being caught speaking Swedish and "being caught barefoot" emphasizes a symbolic connection between the English language and modern civilization, in contrast to the Swedish language, which––like Alexandra––is associated with an untamed, natural state of being (in the world of the novel, at least). 

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Part 2, Chapter 10 Quotes

“Hard on you? I never meant to be hard. Conditions were hard. Maybe I would never have been very soft, anyhow; but I certainly didn’t choose to be the kind of girl I was. If you take even a vine and cut it back again and again, it grows hard, like a tree.”

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson (speaker), Lou Bergson, Oscar Bergson
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

With Carl and Emil away, Lou and Oscar have come to visit Alexandra. They protest about her relationship with Carl, claiming that she is giving the family a bad reputation. They complain that, as men, they should have controlled the land, not Alexandra. They also complain that Alexandra has been hard on them, to which she responds that this was because "conditions were hard," and that it is not in her nature to be "soft." Alexandra's words emphasize her absolute coherence with the landscape around her. Like the land itself, Alexandra can seem tough and stubborn; yet it is these qualities that have allowed her farm and family to flourish.

In comparison to their sister, Oscar and Lou appear whiny and childish. As this conversation suggests, they do not possess the stoic grit and mature temper required to successfully thrive in harsh surroundings. Indeed, Alexandra's description of the vine suggests that it is the difficulty of her life that has made her so hard and resilient. Like the vine, she has been "cut... back again and again," yet has responded by becoming stronger and tougher. To some extent, this also posits her as possessing more traditionally masculine virtues than her more sensitive, weak-willed brothers. 

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Lou Bergson Character Timeline in O Pioneers!

The timeline below shows where the character Lou Bergson appears in O Pioneers!. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 2
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...Alexandra’s judgments ever since she was twelve—she has always been more resourceful than her brothers, Lou and Oscar. (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
John Bergson calls to Alexandra and tells her to bring her brothers, Lou and Oscar. He makes her promise that she will keep the land and take charge... (full context)
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...with a penchant for preserving and pickling. She misses the old country’s fish diet, making Lou and Oscar go out to the river once a year to catch fish. She does... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Power of the Land Theme Icon
...recover in just two days. Ivar is content in his solitude and proximity to nature. Lou and Oscar express regret that they did not bring their guns to hunt the wild... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
...gull that strayed far from the ocean and seemed to be very mournful. Ivar gives Lou and Oscar permission to water their horses at the pond and then leads Alexandra and... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...that she must build a shed for them and bring them clean water and feed. Lou and Oscar overhear this conversation from the doorway and accelerate their departure, worried that Alexandra... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Alexandra worries that Lou and Oscar will become even more discouraged when they hear the news, and Carl offers... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Lou and Oscar sit down moodily to dinner. They have grown to become more like themselves... (full context)
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Alexandra opens the discussion by mentioning Carl’s news, and Lou and Oscar jump in to argue that they too should quit. They mention that many... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The next day, Lou and Oscar sulk in the morning, and Alexandra encourages Carl to play cards with them... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...the next thing to do is to mortgage the homestead to buy more land—an idea Lou and Oscar object to. Alexandra calmly explains that in six years, the land will be... (full context)
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Lou says that the idea is crazy, or else all their neighbors would be doing the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...foreman, grumbles about the new silo on the farm. Nelse Jensen joins in, saying that Lou claims he wouldn’t have a silo at his place even if it were given to... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...lift him out of his gloom. The conversation shifts to the new bathtub installed at Lou’s house, and Mrs. Lee’s complaints that it’s impossible to wash oneself clean in so much... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
On Sunday, Lou and Oscar go to Alexandra’s for dinner. Alexandra asked the Hanover furniture dealer to furnish... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...wife is ashamed of having married a foreigner, and none of their children understand Swedish. Lou says that he described Ivar’s symptoms to a doctor in Hanover while he was there,... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...and Alexandra winks a reply. Alexandra says that she’ll keep Ivar at home so that Lou won’t have to trouble any more about him and changes the subject to Annie and... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
After dinner, Lou and Oscar go to the orchard to pick cherries, while Annie gossips with Alexandra’s kitchen... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...to Alaska. Carl admires the farm, marveling at all Alexandra has done to the land. Lou and Oscar approach warily, but become more cordial once Carl tells them about his plans... (full context)
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...into town as soon as the girls are old enough to go out into company. Lou grins and sends Annie back to get ready for the drive back to their farmstead... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
...Annie emerges from the house and Carl goes to help her down to the carriage. Lou lingers with Alexandra, asking her what she thinks Carl has come for. Alexandra replies that... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...he wants. That’s the reason she worked so hard on the farm. Carl asks about Lou and Oscar, and Alexandra replies that she doesn’t see much of them now that they... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...about her and Carl when they were younger. A circus had come into town, and Lou and Oscar drove them in to see the parade, though they were too poor to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...give Frank more reasons to become angry at the doings of rich people. Frank and Lou have similar political ideas on this point. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
While Emil and Carl are away, Lou and Oscar pay Alexandra a visit. They approach very seriously, telling her that people are... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
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Lou and Oscar argue that the land rightly belongs to the men of the family, since... (full context)
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Lou and Oscar say that Alexandra shouldn’t marry Carl, since she is only making a fool... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...Alexandra that he plans to go to the Mexico City instead, and he suspects that Lou and Oscar will be sore about it. (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Alexandra mentions that Lou and Oscar are very angry with her as well, and Emil absentmindedly asks what they’re... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
...sitting room, looking tired and worn from his anger. He says that he has seen Lou and Oscar, and Alexandra takes this to mean that Carl will be leaving soon. Carl... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...Emil that their father was a very quiet, intelligent man, not at all small-minded like Lou and Oscar. She recalls that their father belonged to a choir in Stockholm, and she... (full context)
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Eventually, Emil speaks up again, saying that Lou and Oscar might have been happier if they’d been poor. Alexandra smiles at this and... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...before, at the French Church, but he had gotten so angry over his argument with Lou and Oscar that he forgot to mention it to Alexandra. Carl tells Alexandra not to... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...love it and understand it. She doesn’t understand how she can will the land to Lou and Oscar’s children. Carl asks her why she is thinking of such things, and Alexandra... (full context)