O Pioneers!

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O Pioneers! Part 3, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
If Alexandra had had more imagination, she might have been able to guess at what was going on between Emil and Marie—however, Alexandra’s attention has always been absorbed in doing what she needs to do to make a living. Her personal life and happiest days are almost subconscious and tend to involve the land. She also has fond memories of her time with Emil, including one particular time when the two of them picnicked by a river and saw a solitary wild duck swimming and diving in the water. Both Alexandra and Emil remembered the duck for how beautiful she was, and Alexandra imagines that the duck is still there, never aging or changing.
Even Alexandra’s personal moments tend to involve the land. She has grown up tending to it, and she’s given the best years of her life to it. One of Alexandra’s fondest memories with Emil involves the natural world as well. The solitary wild duck they see and the awe they share when they remember that duck represent their respect for the land they inhabit and nurture. It is interesting that Alexandra sees that duck as an embodiment of the land, while Emil earlier saw the duck’s as connected to Marie. This difference in symbolic interpretation indicates their differences in their focus: Alexandra toward the land, Emil toward other people and Marie in particular.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
All of Alexandra’s happiest moments are similarly impersonal. She has never been in love or indulged many reveries, having grown up in serious times. She does have one recurring dream, however, of being bodily lifted by a very large, strong man. In her imagination, the man is yellow like the sunlight and smells of cornfields. After indulging in this dream, though, Alexandra always rises from bed, angry with herself, and goes to take a vigorous cold bath. The dream occurs more to her as she grows older and more tired. Just before falling asleep, she often has a sensation of being lifted and carried away.
Alexandra’s dream shows that she longs to be taken care of by a force that’s stronger than she is. It seems that the man represents the land, since his coloring is like sunlight and he smells like cornfields. However, when Alexandra awakens, her angry reaction seems to suggest that she views the dream as a foolish reverie. She is too big for any man on the prairie to carry her off like that—and her life has been given to self-sacrifice rather than giving in to temptation. And yet as she grows older she seems to subconsciously want the comfort and ease she has refused herself all through her life.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon