O Pioneers!

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O Pioneers! Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Alexandra and Emil spend five days among the river farms, learning a great deal about poultry and alternative farming methods. On their sixth day, they turn back, and Alexandra has made up her mind. She tells Emil that there’s nothing for them down by the river. All the best farms can’t be bought, and the other farms are located on land that’s rough and hilly. Even though the inhabitants of the river valley have a certain degree of certainty, they don’t have a big chance the way the Bergsons do on the high land. As they drive home, Emil wonders why Alexandra looks so happy. She’s turned towards the land with a face full of love and yearning, appreciating the strong earth.
Alexandra realizes that the Bergsons should not be tempted into giving up their future in exchange for a small degree of security. She believes that the future lies in their high land, and she gazes at it with love, which distinguishes her from all the other characters that have neglected to appreciate the land as they attempt to cultivate it. That Emil does not understand the cause of Alexandra’s happiness suggests that while he is attached to her, he doesn’t share her connection to the land.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
When Alexandra reaches home in the afternoon, she holds a family council, describing her conclusion to her brothers. She encourages them to go down and see the river land for themselves. Alexandra says that 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 worth much more, and that in ten years time, the Bergsons can become independent landowners. When Lou challenges her, Alexandra says that she can’t explain how she knows that the land will make them rich—she just feels it.
Alexandra sees that the high land they currently inhabit could become much richer than the river land in a few years, and she is willing to sacrifice her present comfort for future success. Lou and Oscar, however, are unwilling to make that sacrifice for an uncertain future—they lack the imagination to see what their land could become. Alexandra is even willing to alienate her brothers, however, in order to keep the land. That she “just feels it” suggests her fundamental connection to the land, a sense more basic than thought.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Lou says that the idea is crazy, or else all their neighbors would be doing the same thing. Alexandra says that the right thing is usually just what everybody else won’t do. She argues that they’re set up better than their neighbors because their father had more brains. Alexandra clears the table as the boys go to the stable to tend to the stock. When they finally return, Alexandra feels sure that they will consent to her plans.
Lou, again, demonstrates his lack of inventiveness in his reasoning that they should do as everyone else is doing. He prefers to play it safe, while Alexandra, like her father before her, is willing to make changes for the possibility of a better future. Pioneers and immigrants often need the same kind of imagination and spirit of self-sacrifice in order to succeed.
Themes
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Before bedtime, Oscar goes out to fetch a pail of water and doesn’t return, prompting Alexandra to go out and look for him. She finds him sitting by the windmill with his head in his hands. Oscar explains that he dreads signing his name to pieces of paper. Alexandra tells him that he doesn’t have to, but Oscar replies that he can see that Alexandra’s right, and there might be a chance that way. Oscar goes back indoors, and Alexandra looks at the stars, reflecting on the great mechanics of nature. Beneath the land, she feels the future stirring.
Although her confrontation with her brothers leaves Alexandra shaken, she still believes that her vision of the land is justified. She feels comforted by the sight of the stars, which remind her that the world is much bigger than the prairie and that nature continuously moves forward into the future.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
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