O Pioneers!

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O Pioneers! Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The evening after Carl and Alexandra’s visit, Frank reads about their neighbors’ divorce, growing angry at the details about how they purportedly spend their money. Marie sighs, always dreading the arrival of the Sunday papers, since they tend to give Frank more reasons to become angry at the doings of rich people. Frank and Lou have similar political ideas on this point.
When Frank becomes jealous, he is also giving into the temptation to indulge emotionally. He wants to feel like a desperate man, so he finds sources to target, even if they might be far-fetched. In this case, he is jealous of and angry with the neighbors for their wealth and extravagance.
Themes
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
The next morning turns out to be clear and sunny, but Frank heads to the saloon because he claims that the ground is too wet to plough. Marie heads to her porch to do some butter churning, but she longs to go out into the orchard, which looks inviting in the sun. She hears the sound of a scythe mowing, however, and that decides her—she puts on boots and heads out to the orchard with a tin pail to pick cherries. Emil has already been mowing there for a while, and he looks up when Marie arrives. She tells him not to let her disturb him and rambles about how beautiful everything looks after the rain. Emil tells her she seems flighty, and Marie attributes that to the wet season too. She goes off to pick her cherries, and Emil continues to mow.
Marie begins to settle down to work at butter churning, but the weather and the promise of company tempt her outside to the orchard. The wet season seems to affect Marie just as it reflects the land—another parallel between Marie and the wild country. She acts flighty, as Emil says, and rambles incoherently about how beautiful things are after the rain. She also might be a bit nervous around Emil.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
When Emil reaches Marie, she is sitting beneath the white mulberry tree with the cherries beside her. She tells Emil about the Bohemian belief that certain trees bring good or bad luck. Emil expresses doubt, but Marie says that she likes the saying—she feels, for example, that the white mulberry tree she sits beneath knows about all the thoughts that come to her when she sits there. Emil has nothing to say to this and picks a handful of the fruit to drop into Marie’s lap. Marie then asks Emil what he thinks about Carl Linstrum, adding that she thinks Alexandra may be in love with him—an idea that makes Emil laugh.
Marie recalls an old Bohemian belief—a remnant of her immigrant past—about the significance of trees. She enjoys trees, especially her white mulberry, because she feels that they are resigned to their fate. The statement seems to signify that she wishes she could be more resigned to her own fate with Frank. She seems to be in a particularly reflective mood this morning, sharing her perception that Alexandra may be in love with Carl as well. Emil, however, is blind to the possibility that his sister might be in love—he is focused on his own feelings for Marie, and takes Alexandra for granted (just as he takes the land for granted).
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Emil says that he likes to talk to Carl about New York, and Marie seems alarmed that he might go off there. Emil defiantly responds that there is nothing for him in the prairie—Alexandra can run the farm just fine on her own, and he feels that he should be doing something in his own right. Marie says sadly that she wishes he weren’t so restless, and Emil accuses her of pretending not to understand what’s going on between them. Marie says that if she acknowledges it, then all their good times together would be over. She says she wishes he would pray, but Emil refuses to try. He agrees, then, that their good times are over, and he returns to his mowing, as Marie returns to the house with her cherries, crying bitterly.
Emil expresses a desire to work in his own right—to make a name for himself that exists outside his sister’s shadow. The idea of restlessness in the novel seems always to be connected to a lack of connection to the land, and also to an ego-driven desire to make a mark in the world. The unspoken innocence of Emil and Marie’s relationship is here broken, as now Emil brings their feelings out into the open, feelings that Marie can’t give into as she is already married.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
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