O Pioneers!

Alexandra Bergson Character Analysis

The novel's protagonist, Alexandra Bergson, is a strong, tall woman, the eldest child of the Swedish immigrant John Bergson. Alexandra is a resourceful, practical person who loves and understands the land as no one else in the novel does. However, she is not nearly so intuitive when it comes to understanding other people. She inherits the farm and brings her family prosperity, but in exchange, she works and toils through the prime years of her life. She deeply loves her younger brother Emil, and sees all of her work and effort as dedicated to giving him the opportunity to have an identity that isn't rooted in the soil.

Alexandra Bergson Quotes in O Pioneers!

The O Pioneers! quotes below are all either spoken by Alexandra Bergson or refer to Alexandra Bergson. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power of the Land Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of O Pioneers! published in 1994.
Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

She had never known before how much the country meant to her. The chirping of the insects down in the long grass had been like the sweetest music. She had felt as if her heart were hiding down there, somewhere, with the quail and the plover and all the little wild things that crooned or buzzed in the sun. Under the long shaggy ridges, she felt the future stirring.

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson
Related Symbols: Land, Ducks and Wild Birds
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 4 Quotes

“We hadn’t any of us much to do with it, Carl. The land did it. It had its little joke. It pretended to be poor because nobody knew how to work it right; and then, all at once, it worked itself…”

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson (speaker), Carl Linstrum
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

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“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:

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“Freedom so often means that one isn’t needed anywhere. Here you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed. But off there in the cities there are thousands of rolling stones like me. We are all alike; we have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing. When one of us dies, they scarcely know where to bury him…We sit in restaurants and concert halls and look about at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder.”

Related Characters: Carl Linstrum (speaker), Alexandra Bergson
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

“Maybe,” said Alexandra placidly; “but I’ve found that it sometimes pays to mend other people’s fences.”

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson (speaker)
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

He and Amédée had ridden and wrestled and larked together since they were lads of twelve…It seemed strange that now he should have to hide the thing that Amédée was so proud of, that the feeling which gave one of them such happiness should bring the other such despair. It was like that when Alexandra tested her seed-corn in the spring, he mused. From two ears that had grown side by side, the grains of one shot up joyfully into the light, projecting themselves into the future, and the grains from the other lay still in the earth and rotted, and nobody knew why.

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson, Emil Bergson, Amédée Chevalier
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 10 Quotes

“Hard on you? I never meant to be hard. Conditions were hard. Maybe I would never have been very soft, anyhow; but I certainly didn’t choose to be the kind of girl I was. If you take even a vine and cut it back again and again, it grows hard, like a tree.”

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson (speaker), Lou Bergson, Oscar Bergson
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

“I have a feeling that if you go away, you will not come back. Something will happen to one of us, or to both. People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world. It is always easier to lose than to find. What I have is yours, if you care enough about me to take it.”

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson (speaker), Carl Linstrum
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3, Chapter 1 Quotes

Alexandra had never heard Marie speak so frankly about her husband before, and she felt that it was wiser not to encourage her. No good, she reasoned, ever came from talking about such things…

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson, Marie Shabata, Frank Shabata
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 3, Chapter 2 Quotes

If Alexandra had had much imagination she might have guessed what was going on in Marie’s mind, and she would have seen long before what was going on in Emil’s. But that, as Emil himself had more than once reflected, was Alexandra’s blind side, and her life had not been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her training had all been toward the end of making her proficient in what she had undertaken to do. Her personal life, her own realization of herself, was almost a subconscious existence; like an underground river that came to the surface only here and there, at intervals months apart, and then sank again to flow on under her own fields.

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson, Emil Bergson, Marie Shabata
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

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There were certain days in her life, outwardly uneventful, which Alexandra remembered as peculiarly happy; days when she was close to the flat, fallow world about her, and felt, as it were, in her own body the joyous germination in the soil.

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

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Sometimes, as she lay thus luxuriously idle, her eyes closed, she used to have an illusion of being lifted up bodily and carried lightly by some one very strong. It was a man, certainly, who carried her, but he was like no man she knew; he was much larger and stronger and swifter, and he carried her as easily as if she were a sheaf of wheat. She never saw him, but, with eyes closed, she could feel that he was yellow like the sunlight, and there was the smell of ripe cornfields about him.

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part 5, Chapter 3 Quotes

“You belong to the land, “ Carl murmured, “as you have always said. Now more than ever.”

Related Characters: Carl Linstrum (speaker), Alexandra Bergson
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

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“The land belongs to the future, Carl; that’s the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk’s plat will be there in fifty years? I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother’s children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it—for a little while.”

Related Characters: Alexandra Bergson (speaker), Carl Linstrum
Related Symbols: Land
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

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Alexandra Bergson Character Timeline in O Pioneers!

The timeline below shows where the character Alexandra Bergson appears in O Pioneers!. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 1
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...man put his kitten outside, and a dog chased her up the pole. His sister, Alexandra, calls for the kitten, but she refuses to come down. Alexandra resolves to go and... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Alexandra removes her veil to wrap around Emil, and a traveling man remarks on what a... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...into the depot to get some spikes to strap onto his feet. When he returns, Alexandra watches him anxiously as he climbs to the top of the pole to retrieve the... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Alexandra enters the store and finds Emil playing with Marie Tovesky, a pretty little Bohemian girl... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...Emil about this as he tries to hide his face in his sister’s skirts, and Alexandra scolds him for being such a baby. Carl enters the store to let Alexandra know... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
As Carl and Alexandra ride into the cold dusk, the remaining light falls upon their faces, revealing both Alexandra’s... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Carl asks Alexandra about her family, and she expresses uncertainty over what will happen after her father dies.... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...different professions in their native countries: tailors, locksmiths, cigar-makers, etc. John Bergson has depended on Alexandra’s judgments ever since she was twelve—she has always been more resourceful than her brothers, Lou... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
John Bergson compares Alexandra to her grandfather, a successful shipbuilder who lost his fortune eventually, after marrying a woman... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
John Bergson calls to Alexandra and tells her to bring her brothers, Lou and Oscar. He makes her promise that... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3
Power of the Land Theme Icon
...description makes everyone laugh. Oscar expresses scorn and skepticism about Ivar’s animal doctoring skills, but Alexandra defends him. She describes a time when he took care of a neighbor’s injured cow,... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
...hears the Bergsons’ wagon approaching, he jumps up and shouts, “No guns, no guns!” until Alexandra reassures him that there are indeed no guns. Alexandra explains that they would like to... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Emil, having lost his fear, asks Ivar about birds, while Alexandra selects a hammock. After she finishes choosing the hammock and speaking about other subjects, she... (full context)
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...however, the boys forget their ill humor and joke about Ivar’s crazy notions about farming. Alexandra doesn’t propose any reforms out loud, but later in the evening, as she sits alone... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4
Power of the Land Theme Icon
During the second summer of drought, Carl finds Alexandra in her garden, where she had gone to dig sweet potatoes. When he finds her,... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Alexandra accepts the news sadly, and Carl expresses his distress at running off and leaving Alexandra... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Alexandra worries that Lou and Oscar will become even more discouraged when they hear the news,... (full context)
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Alexandra opens the discussion by mentioning Carl’s news, and Lou and Oscar jump in to argue... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The next day, Lou and Oscar sulk in the morning, and Alexandra encourages Carl to play cards with them in order to relieve their feelings. When evening... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Alexandra and Emil spend five days among the river farms, learning a great deal about poultry... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
When Alexandra reaches home in the afternoon, she holds a family council, describing her conclusion to her... (full context)
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 1
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...rattle of a cart on the road behind him. He assumes that it’s his sister, Alexandra, and he continues working. However, when a contralto voice calls to Emil, he turns to... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Emil and Marie drive westward, towards Alexandra’s homestead, which is impressive in its trimness and care for detail. If one were to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 2
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
When Emil reaches home, Alexandra is already seated at the head of the long table, having dinner with her workers.... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Alexandra has changed very little, still deliberate and calm in nature. She mostly listens to the... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
After the meal, Ivar speaks to Alexandra about his worries. He says that there has been talk of sending him to the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 3
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
On Sunday, Lou and Oscar go to Alexandra’s for dinner. Alexandra asked the Hanover furniture dealer to furnish her dining room for company... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...doctor in Hanover while he was there, and the doctor believed Ivar to be dangerous. Alexandra and Signa laugh off the idea, and Lou says that it’s only a matter of... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
...her daughter, Milly, is terrified of Ivar, but Milly, who is more at ease with Alexandra than with her mother, just grins, and Alexandra winks a reply. Alexandra says that she’ll... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Alexandra says that she might have to get a bathtub herself, but that first she wants... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
...dinner, Lou and Oscar go to the orchard to pick cherries, while Annie gossips with Alexandra’s kitchen girls, and Alexandra takes her three nieces into the flower garden. As they walk... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Carl tells Alexandra that he can only stay a few days before leaving for the coast, where he... (full context)
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Carl asks whether Milly runs about over the country like Annie and Alexandra used to, and Annie protests that things have changed a great deal since then. She... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
...the house and Carl goes to help her down to the carriage. Lou lingers with Alexandra, asking her what she thinks Carl has come for. Alexandra replies that she’s been asking... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 4
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Alexandra feels that Carl has changed less than she expected. He still seems somewhat unconventional and... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Carl asks whether Emil will farm with Alexandra, and Alexandra declares that Emil will do whatever he wants. That’s the reason she worked... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Alexandra tells Carl about Marie Tovesky, who has bought the Linstrums’ old place. Marie ran away... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Alexandra asks Carl why is so dissatisfied with himself, and Carl explains that he has nothing... (full context)
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
Alexandra recalls Carrie Jensen, the sister of one of her hired men, who was so despondent... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 5
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
It’s a busy time on the farm, and Alexandra doesn’t find time to visit her neighbor’s for the next couple of days. She spends... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
After dinner that day, Alexandra puts on her white dress and sunhat, and she and Carl walk towards his former... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Carl and Alexandra admire the orchard Carl used to water, and Alexandra calls Marie, who comes running. She... (full context)
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...fetch something to show Carl. She returns with a branch laden with apricots, which launches Alexandra into an anecdote about her and Carl when they were younger. A circus had come... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Half an hour later, as Carl and Alexandra are leaving Marie, they meet Frank Shabata coming up the path. Marie runs up to... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
The evening after Carl and Alexandra’s visit, Frank reads about their neighbors’ divorce, growing angry at the details about how they... (full context)
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10
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
...ones who must do the most work and are held responsible when things go wrong. Alexandra reminds them, however, that they would have sold the land long ago if it weren’t... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Lou and Oscar say that Alexandra shouldn’t marry Carl, since she is only making a fool of herself at her age—forty... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
When Emil arrives home that evening, he calls for Alexandra, who has been crying in her room. The dusk, however, hides any hint of this.... (full context)
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Alexandra mentions that Lou and Oscar are very angry with her as well, and Emil absentmindedly... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12
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...and worn from his anger. He says that he has seen Lou and Oscar, and Alexandra takes this to mean that Carl will be leaving soon. Carl admits that this is... (full context)
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Alexandra says that she has the feeling that if Carl goes away again, he will not... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 1
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...ground is frozen over. It seems possible that life and fruitfulness will be extinct forever. Alexandra has settled back into her old routine, receiving letters from Emil once a week. She... (full context)
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Mrs. Lee had been afraid that she would not be able to visit Alexandra’s this year, due to the family quarrel, but on the first day of December, Alexandra... (full context)
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A week into Mrs. Lee’s visit at Alexandra’s, Marie calls to invite them over. Frank has gone to town for the day. Mrs.... (full context)
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Marie asks whether Alexandra has sent out Emil’s Christmas box yet, and when Alexandra responds that she hasn’t, Marie... (full context)
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After Mrs. Lee declares that she’s tired, Marie and Alexandra head upstairs to look for some crochet patterns for the old woman to borrow. As... (full context)
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After Alexandra and Mrs. Lee head off in the snow, Marie sits down with Emil’s letters, examining... (full context)
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Alexandra later remembers this visit as the last satisfactory visit she has with Marie, who continues... (full context)
Part 3, Chapter 2
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If Alexandra had had more imagination, she might have been able to guess at what was going... (full context)
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All of Alexandra’s happiest moments are similarly impersonal. She has never been in love or indulged many reveries,... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1
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The day after Emil returns from Mexico, Alexandra proudly drives him to the French Church for a supper. He wears the Mexican costume... (full context)
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Alexandra wanders into the basement, where the women are setting up their stands. Marie sees her... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 2
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...Signa’s wedding supper, Signa and Nelse walk their gift cows to their new home on Alexandra’s north quarter. Marie complains that she has no patience with Signa for marrying such a... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 3
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...is packing his books, getting ready to leave for law school at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Alexandra sits sewing by the table. Emil feels that there is something final about his departure... (full context)
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Emil asks Alexandra about the old walnut desk that once belonged to their father, starting up a conversation... (full context)
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...up again, saying that Lou and Oscar might have been happier if they’d been poor. Alexandra smiles at this and says that that might very well be true—but she is glad... (full context)
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Alexandra has no anxiety about how Emil will turn out—she believes in him as she believes... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 5
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...he returns from work in the evening and goes off to the saloon. Marie telephones Alexandra, who tells her that Amédée is in very bad shape and that Emil has only... (full context)
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When Emil wakes the next morning, Alexandra meets him in the sitting room and tells him that she hadn’t wanted to wake... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 8
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...Ivar reaches the hedge and discovers the bodies, he falls to the ground and prays. Alexandra has also been worried and sees Ivar coming up the path from her spot in... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 1
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...of rain, and suddenly, Signa bursts into the shed. She and Nelse now live with Alexandra, who has refused personal care from anyone other than Signa. Signa does not know where... (full context)
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Signa suspects that Alexandra is at the graveyard and worries about the way Alexandra is acting—she needs reminding about... (full context)
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When Ivar reaches the graveyard, the storm has died down, and he finds Alexandra by John Bergson’s grave. She apologizes for worrying everyone and says that she is glad... (full context)
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When they arrive home, Signa and Ivar take care of Alexandra and put her to bed, where she has the illusion of being lifted and carried... (full context)
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When Alexandra awakens the next morning, she has a cold and stays in bed for the next... (full context)
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Alexandra resolves to help Frank, who she feels she is able to understand more than she... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 2
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On an October afternoon, Alexandra arrives in Lincoln. She lingers around her brother’s university, watching the young students pass by.... (full context)
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The next morning, Alexandra presents herself at the State Penitentiary and tells the warden of Frank’s story. The warden... (full context)
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Alexandra remembers the yellow cane she found in his closet and feels that it’s awfully unfair... (full context)
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When Alexandra emerges from the penitentiary, she feels that she is also trapped in a larger prison.... (full context)
Part 5, Chapter 3
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The next afternoon, Carl and Alexandra are both in Hanover. They leave Mrs. Hiller’s after delivering a little present from Lincoln.... (full context)
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Alexandra asks Carl whether he understands what happened between Emil and Marie. Carl explains that they... (full context)
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...women who spread ruin around them just by being too full of life and love. Alexandra sighs and agrees that people couldn’t help loving Marie, but she wishes it had been... (full context)
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Alexandra tells Carl that she would like to accompany him to Alaska in the spring, but... (full context)