O Pioneers!

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O Pioneers! Part 4, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The day after Emil returns from Mexico, Alexandra proudly drives him to the French Church for a supper. He wears the Mexican costume he brought home, and Alexandra informs him that all the girls there will be wearing fancy costumes—Marie will be wearing a Bohemian dress and telling fortunes. Alexandra is proud of her brother and satisfied with her life’s progress. She believes that her work has been successful because out of her father’s children, there is one of them—Emil—who has a personality distinct from the soil.
Alexandra is happy to have Emil back, and she believes that he has finally become someone who has a personality apart from the land. Alexandra considers this a success—now Emil may do whatever he wants to do in life—and all her sacrifices (and her father’s sacrifices) have paid off. Alexandra still has no idea that Emil has any feelings for Marie, however—that in becoming detached from the land he seems to have become completely attached to Marie—and mentions Marie’s name casually.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
When they arrive at the church, Amédée, now a new father, rushes out to embrace Emil. He tells Emil how wonderful it is to have a son, and Emil laughs and tells him that he has brought cups and spoons and blankets for the boy. The other French boys crowd around Emil, admiring his costume and telling him what has happened in town since he left. Emil has many friends among the French and the Spanish boys, since they are less suspicious of new things than are the Swedish and Norwegian boys. The French boys carry Emil off to see the new clubroom at the post office.
Because of his time away Emil is able to see the changes in the prairie as Carl did before him, but he still maintains ties and an identity at home. His friends greet him happily when he arrives. The boys retain traits from their old countries, and it’s the French and Spanish boys who greet Emil more enthusiastically, as they aren’t as suspicious of new things.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Alexandra wanders into the basement, where the women are setting up their stands. Marie sees her and rushes to her, only to stop short when she sees that Emil is not there. Alexandra reassures her that Emil will be along shortly and compliments Marie’s coral earrings, which once belonged to Marie’s grandmother. Marie wears a Bohemian costume with a short red skirt and yellow turban.
Marie’s costume emphasizes her old country background. Her excitement to see Emil also betrays that she still has feelings for him. However, Alexandra still doesn’t sense that Marie has any more feeling for Emil than she would for an ordinary friend.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
When Emil returns from the post office, he lingers outside with the boys, singing and talking on the terrace. It makes Marie nervous to be able to hear but not see him, but once the boys arrive in the basement, she forgets her annoyance and runs to greet Emil. She admires his costume and asks about Mexico, and when everyone sits down to supper, she drags Frank’s arm so that they are sitting across from the Bergsons. Marie hangs on to every word that Emil says about matadors, breaking out in a volley of questions after he finishes his story.
Marie is unable to contain her exuberance. It’s part of her warm nature. She is clearly excited to see Emil again, and she forgets her brief annoyance quickly. Marie has a wild curiosity that’s fascinated with the foreign land of Emil’s tales.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
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After supper, there is a game of charades and an auction, at which Emil allows everyone to bid on one of his turquoise shirt studs. Marie attempts to get Frank to bid, but he refuses, and the stud goes to a French girl. Marie shrugs and sets up at her fortune-telling tent, which soon becomes very popular. Frank glowers at the side, and his jealousy is all the more painful because he cannot affix it to any one source—Marie is kind to everyone. He broods over the way Marie once loved him and no longer does.
Frank can be perceptive about his relationship with Marie. He understands that it’s in her nature to be kind and generous to everyone, yet he cannot help but be jealous. He realizes that he’s partly responsible for the fact that she no longer loves him as she used to, since he started acting irrationally and bullying her, and yet the loss of his love only makes him angrier. A class self-destructive cycle.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Amédée calls to Emil and tells him that they are planning to play a joke on the girls. At eleven o’clock, Amédée will switch off the electric lights, at which point every boy will have a chance to kiss his sweetheart. The only problem is the candle in Marie’s tent, and Amédée enlists Emil to blow out the candle, as he has no sweetheart. Emil agrees.
Amédée’s lighthearted joke pulls Emil into a situation with Marie. He agrees, but it’s likely that he’ll again face the temptation to make his feelings known.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
At five minutes to eleven, Emil wanders up to Marie’s tent and asks to have his fortune read. He gazes at her intently, and she begins talking quickly, asking him why he put his turquoise shirt stud up for auction—she had wanted it desperately, but Frank would never bid for it. Emil laughs shortly and pulls out a handful of uncut turquoises to drop into her lap, telling her not to let anyone see them. Marie is enraptured by the stones and asks if everything in Mexico is as beautiful as those stones.
Marie and Emil talk with a nervous energy that betrays their feelings. It seems that their time apart hasn’t really diminished the tension at all. If anything, Marie seems more aware of the anxiety between them, talking quickly and avoiding eye contact with Emil. Emil ran away to not have to face his feelings, but in doing so he only made it so that they were all the stronger when he returned.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Amédée turns out the lights, and Marie starts up into Emil’s arms, where she doesn’t have time to think before they kiss. When the lights come back on, Marie is pale, and Emil is already at the other end of the hall. Frank is watching jealously, but he sees nothing. Alexandra notices that Marie seems tired and offers to help her with the card booth. Marie stiffens at Alexandra’s touch, which hurts Alexandra’s feelings—but it’s Alexandra’s calm that seems fatal to Marie, whose heart feels at the mercy of storms.
Marie and Emil’s first kiss surprises them both. It draws the blood from Marie’s face, and Emil is surprised by how natural it feels. It seems that they’ve finally crossed a line between yearning and giving into temptation, and the deception causes Marie to withdraw into herself. She flinches at Alexandra’s touch both because of Alexandra’s calm and the fact that her relationship with Alexandra relationship is no longer honest, since Alexandra doesn’t know about Marie’s relationship with Emil.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon