O Pioneers!


Willa Cather

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O Pioneers!: Part 2, Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Carl enters the sitting room, looking tired 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 the case, saying that Alexandra is unfortunate to be surrounded by little men such as Lou and Oscar—and Carl himself, since he cannot stand up to their criticisms. He plans to leave the next day. Carl says that he hopes to make something of himself so that he may have something to offer Alexandra, but Alexandra responds sadly there’s no good in offering people things they don’t need. She doesn’t need money, but she has needed Carl’s companionship.
Carl recognizes his own smallness in being unable to stand up against Lou and Oscar’s criticism of his intentions. Rather than deny that criticism, he feels that he must evade it by making himself well off enough that no one can see his interest in Alexandra as merely interest in her wealth. Of course, Alexandra knows the truth, and doesn’t want him to go make money. She wants him to stay with her. But Carl doesn’t have Alexandra’s strength of will.
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Alexandra says that she has the feeling that if Carl goes away again, he will not come back. She believes that something will happen to one of them. Carl begs her to give him a year, and Alexandra sighs and says that he should do as he wishes. She feels that she has lost everything in a single day, with both Carl and Emil going away. She follows Carl’s gaze to the portrait of her father, and she hopes that John Bergson cannot see what has become of her or hear tidings from the New World.
Alexandra is back to her lonely days without Carl and Emil. She sees this as part of the sacrifice her father asked her to make in taking care of the family land and hopes that he cannot see how lonely she is—at that moment, she is not sure that his sacrifices, and thus, by extension, her own sacrifices, have paid off.
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