O Pioneers!


Willa Cather

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O Pioneers!: Part 2, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

On a Sunday afternoon, a month after Carl’s arrival, he accompanies Emil to the French country to attend a Catholic fair. Some of the boys come straight from a ball game and are still wearing their uniforms. Emil’s best friend, the newlywed Amédée, has pitched particularly well, and Emil tells him that he’s pitching even better than he did the previous spring. Amédée says that it’s because he’s a married man now, and he doesn’t lose his head anymore. He advises Emil to get married too, but Emil just laughs and asks how he’s supposed to get married without any girl. Amédée tells him to go after any of the French girls, but gives up when Emil seems unresponsive.
Emil’s friend Amédée serves as a foil for Emil. While Emil is stuck in love with a woman he can’t have, Amédée has been lucky in love and is remarkably happy. Amédée connects his marriage with a kind of rootedness—no longer losing his head—and in contrast it is clear that Emil lacks such rootedness, to the land or in love.
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Amédée challenges Emil to a high jump contest, which Emil wins. Angélique, Amédée’s wife, tells Emil that Amédée would surely win if only he were as tall as Emil. Emil laughs at her teasing and picks her up, pretending to steal her away as she calls to her husband. Emil continues to tease until he catches sight of Marie’s flashing eyes, and then he returns Angélique to Amédée.
Amédée’s relationship with his wife amuses Emil, and he gets caught up in their silliness and affection for one another—before he’s broken out of his reverie by a glimpse of Marie’s jealous, flashing eyes. Marie’s jealousy speaks to her love for Emil, and reminds him of what he both has, sort of, and cannot have: Marie.
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Emil wonders at how the same kind of emotion could manifest so differently in himself and his friend, Amédée. He compares the two of them to two ears of corn that have grown side by side, except one ear thrives and the other remains rotting and buried in the soil.
Emil wonders how the same emotion—love—could seem so different in himself and in Amédée. Amédée is so proud of his newlywed status, yet Emil must hide his feelings for Marie because she’s married. He compares himself to the rotting ear of corn, fighting the temptation to express his feelings for Marie and therefore keeping that love in darkness, while Amédée—the other ear—thrives in the sun.
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