O Pioneers!

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in O Pioneers!, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Dignity of Work Theme Icon

The novel suggests that being devoted to one’s work and loving the work for its own sake provides a kind of dignity. Alexandra’s character is the prime example of this. Although she doesn’t demonstrate a vivid inner life or incredible passion, she is the novel’s undisputed heroine because she devotes herself to her work with the land. She sacrifices her youth and femininity in order to take care of the farm and carry out her father’s wish that she bring success to the family, and she succeeds because she yields completely to the work.

In contrast, the other characters who fail to love their work for its own sake—and instead turn to other distractions, like drink or illicit love—meet undignified, tragic ends. Emil and Marie are killed by Frank, who goes to jail, and Lou and Oscar, who are distracted by their jealousy and resentment towards Alexandra and Carl, struggle with the land and never achieve the noble stature or success of their sister.

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Dignity of Work Quotes in O Pioneers!

Below you will find the important quotes in O Pioneers! related to the theme of Dignity of Work.
Part 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

“He shall do whatever he wants to. He is going to have a chance, a whole chance; that’s what I’ve worked for.”

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson (speaker), Emil Bergson
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

Carl and Alexandra have been walking together in Alexandra's garden, discussing her success with the farm. Carl has asked if Emil will farm with Alexandra when he is older, and Alexandra replies that he will "do whatever he wants to." Alexandra's words reflect a quintessential immigrant narrative: the idea that personal self-sacrifice will ensure prosperity and freedom for future generations. Alexandra's attitude toward Emil is striking in its contrast to the serious, stoical approach she takes to her own life. Indeed, Alexandra's indulgence of Emil, although well-intentioned, arguably does not benefit Emil in the long run. Unlike his hard-working sister, Emil feels aimless and finds it difficult to resist temptation––specifically through his love for Marie. As a result, both he and Marie ultimately end up being killed by Marie's husband, Frank. 


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