O Pioneers!


Willa Cather

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O Pioneers!: Part 4, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

After 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 grumpy fellow, and Alexandra says that Swedish girls tend to have a “good deal of the cow” in them—they prefer to be led. Alexandra jokes that Bohemians wouldn’t understand the sentiment. Marie feels a little irritated by this and heads out into the night, telling Emil that he needn’t walk her. However, Emil follows her until he overtakes her and confronts her about his feelings. Marie tells Emil that if she were as free as him, she would take the first train and go off and have all the fun there is. Emil responds that he tried that, but he couldn’t stop thinking of Marie.
Marie gets annoyed at Alexandra’s joke because Marie sees Signa and Nelse as similar to her and Frank—a happy girl marrying a grumpy fellow. When Alexandra says that Bohemian girls aren’t like Swedish girls who are “willing to be led,” Marie feels it as a kind of accusation because she is unhappy being “led” by Frank. She feels guilty about kissing Emil, and that makes her touchy here. Alexandra, of course, realizes none of this. Marie and Emil, meanwhile, seem to be unable to separate themselves from each other, despite their impossible circumstances.
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Emil asks Marie why she ran away with Frank Shabata, and Marie says simply that she loved him. She says that she loved the way she wanted him to be, and now she’s paying for it. Emil responds bitterly that she’s not the only one paying, and Marie tells him that at least he can go away. Emil says that he cannot leave her behind though, and recklessly asks her to run away with him. Marie indignantly responds that she isn’t that kind of girl. Emil takes her arm and says that he will leave her alone if she will only say that she loves him. Marie responds that she couldn’t help loving him, and after Emil leaves Marie at her gate, he wanders the fields all night.
Marie responds relatively calmly to Emil’s questions—she is the one doing most of the work in resisting temptation. Emil, on the other hand, is neither capable of understanding Marie’s pain nor able to resign himself to reality, as Marie does.
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