O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Emil reaches home, Alexandra is already seated at the head of the long table, having dinner with her workers. The three young Swedish girls who do Alexandra’s housework cut pies, refill the coffee, and set the table, giggling at each other’s mistakes. Alexandra tells her sisters-in-law that she keeps the girls around for entertainment more than for work purposes. Alexandra is particularly fond of the youngest girl, Signa, who is being courted by one of the men at the table, Nelse Jensen. Ivar also sits at the table. He lost his land a dozen years ago through mismanagement, and Alexandra took him in, allowing him to stay in the barn, which he prefers to the house.
Alexandra, true to her pioneer spirit, does things differently from her neighbors. For example, she insists on eating with her workers unless she has company—they are all united in their work with the land. Additionally, she has taken in Ivar, allowing him to care for her farm animals and land with his intuition. These habits also hint at Alexandra’s loneliness—she does not often have company, so she seeks it in her help—the Swedish girls.
Themes
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 talk at the table, rather than joining in. Today, Barney Flinn, Alexandra’s foreman, grumbles about the new silo on the farm. Nelse Jensen joins in, saying that Lou claims he wouldn’t have a silo at his place even if it were given to him. Alexandra calmly responds that it’s a good thing that she and Lou have different notions about farming so that they can learn from each other’s mistakes.
Alexandra’s desire for innovation still causes trouble for her, in the form of doubts and complaints from her neighbors and workers. The mention of Lou’s attitude towards the new silo highlights how much more he and Alexandra have grown apart. His conservative opinions have grown more extreme, even as Alexandra has grown bolder with her new farming techniques.
Themes
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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 asylum. Alexandra reassures him, telling him not to listen to such nonsense. She allows him to talk out his fears, which eventually helps to lift him out of his gloom. The conversation shifts to the new bathtub installed at Lou’s house, and Mrs. Lee’s complaints that it’s impossible to wash oneself clean in so much water. They laugh about the idea, and Ivar goes away feeling much relieved.
Alexandra has a special bond with Ivar, who she vows to protect from prying neighbors. Their understanding and mutual respect stem from their love of nature and fondness for certain Old World habits—like washing in a small basin rather than a bathtub.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon