O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On a Sunday afternoon in July, six months after John Bergson’s death, Carl hears the Bergsons’ wagon passing by. He runs out to greet them, and they invite him to ride with them to Crazy Ivar’s place, where they hope to buy a hammock. Carl agrees to go, saying that he hears Ivar has the biggest pond in the country.
Carl and the Bergsons manage to be close friends, despite the distance between their houses. In more severe weather, however, or more difficult times, the land and the elements may keep the friends apart. Even personal relationships are subject to the circumstances of nature.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Carl teases Emil, asking him if he isn’t scared to go to Ivar’s. Emil admits that he would be frightened if he weren’t with everyone else in the wagon. Carl reassures Emil that Ivar wouldn’t hurt him, however, describing a time when Ivar went out to doctor the Linstrums’ mare. Carl describes Ivar’s familiar way with the mare, the way he talked to the horse while doctoring her, and the 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, easing her suffering and helping her recover in just two days. Ivar is content in his solitude and proximity to nature. Lou and Oscar express regret that they did not bring their guns to hunt the wild birds.
The party is split between those who respect nature (Alexandra, Carl, Ivar) and those who would attempt to master it by force (Lou and Oscar). This is one of the keys to Alexandra’s success as a pioneer—even as she tames and cultivates the land, she maintains respect for it and for the natural, wild creatures that inhabit the land. Lou and Oscar—and many others, considering Ivar’s nickname—think the care that Ivar shows to the animals and his willingness to live alone in the land makes him crazy. Alexandra, with her own connection to the land, knows better.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
When Ivar 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 buy a hammock and also that she would like to show the big pond to Emil. Ivar grins and describes some of the birds that have stopped by his pond, including one sea gull that strayed far from the ocean and seemed to be very mournful. Ivar gives Lou and Oscar permission to water their horses at the pond and then leads Alexandra and Emil inside to see the hammocks.
Ivar is the ultimate example of a character who understands the innate joyfulness of wild creatures like the birds who visit his pond. He forsakes human company for solitude and the natural world instead, and though it causes his neighbors to scorn him, he actually has some deep insight into farming and animals, as the Bergsons discussed previously.
Themes
Power of the Land 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 asks Ivar for advice about her hogs. Many of her neighbors are losing their hogs, and she worries that she may too. Ivar tells her that hogs prefer to be clean and that she must build a shed for them and bring them clean water and feed. Lou and Oscar overhear this conversation from the doorway and accelerate their departure, worried that Alexandra will get notions. Lou and Oscar prefer not to be experimental or to do things differently from their neighbors.
Emil is drawn to the wild birds, foreshadowing his attraction to Marie Tovesky, who is also described as a wild creature. Alexandra, recognizing Ivar’s intuition when it comes to animals, asks him for advice about her hogs, but Lou and Oscar worry that they will stand out from their neighbors if they try to do anything differently than everyone else does. Lou and Oscar lack the imagination necessary for a pioneering spirit. They can only see how they might look strange in the present moment, without considering the future benefits that a change might yield.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
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On the ride home, 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 on the kitchen doorstep, she plans out where she will place her new pig corral.
Alexandra’s pioneering spirit pushes her to adapt more changes, even if her neighbors don’t. She also spends most of her time working—even when she takes a break in the evening, it isn’t long before she starts making plans for the farm.
Themes
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon