O Pioneers!

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Oscar Bergson Character Analysis

Oscar is Alexandra’s younger brother and the eldest son of John Bergson. He is solidly built, but a slow thinker. He doesn’t mind hard work, as long as it is part of his routine. Oscar and Lou stick close together, and they both resent Alexandra’s unconventional ways and relationship with Carl Linstrum.

Oscar Bergson Quotes in O Pioneers!

The O Pioneers! quotes below are all either spoken by Oscar Bergson or refer to Oscar 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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Oscar Bergson Character Timeline in O Pioneers!

The timeline below shows where the character Oscar 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
...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 of the... (full context)
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...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 her best... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Power of the Land Theme Icon
...way he talked to the horse while doctoring her, and the description makes everyone laugh. Oscar expresses scorn and skepticism about Ivar’s animal doctoring skills, but Alexandra defends him. She describes... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
...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 Emil inside... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...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 will get... (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 not to... (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 over the... (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 of their... (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 in order... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...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 worth much... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Before bedtime, Oscar goes out to fetch a pail of water and doesn’t return, prompting Alexandra to go... (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 her dining... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
The conversation at the table proceeds in English, as Oscar’s wife is ashamed of having married a foreigner, and none of their children understand Swedish.... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...get a bathtub herself, but that first she wants to buy a piano for Milly. Oscar looks up and asks what Milly wants from a piano, causing Annie to become flustered.... (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 girls, and... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...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 for Alaska.... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
...that she’s been asking him to pay them a visit for years, and Lou and Oscar express their disapproval of Carl’s wandering ways. Annie calls back that Alexandra must bring Carl... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...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 have farms... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...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 enter the... (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 talking about... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Lou and Oscar argue that the land rightly belongs to the men of the family, since they’re the... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Lou and Oscar say that Alexandra shouldn’t marry Carl, since she is only making a fool of herself... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...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 angry about.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
...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 admits that... (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
...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 used to... (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 says that... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...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 be so... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...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 responds that... (full context)