O Pioneers!


Willa Cather

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on O Pioneers! can help.

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

The next morning, Angélique is in the kitchen baking pies, with her infant in a cradle by her side. Emil arrives for a visit, and Angélique directs him to the field, where Amédée is cutting wheat. She mentions that Amédée has been sick, but she doesn’t sound too anxious, since she feels safe in their good fortune. Emil jokes that the baby looks Indian, and Mrs. Chevalier—Amédée’s mother—grows angry and chases Emil into the field, where he goes to look for his friend, Amédée.
Amédée has been a foil to Emil, a man who has been lucky in comparison to Emil’s lack of luck. And Amédée’s family has come to trust in that luck. Emil’s joke about the baby is a joke that maybe the child is illegitimate, the product of adultery—foreshadowing events to come.
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Emil recognizes Amédée on the wheatfield, directing a team of horses. He feels a pang of admiration for his friend, who does his work with such ease and purpose. When Amédée catches sight of Emil, he hands the reins over to a cousin and goes to Emil. Soon, however, a pain at his side bothers him, and Emil advises him to go straight to bed. Amédée says he cannot, however—there is too much work to be done. Emil sees that this is not a good time to visit and drives on to the French church to bid his friends goodbye. When he rides home later in the day, however, he catches sight of Amédée staggering home, supported by two of his cousins. Emil helps them put Amédée to bed.
Emil admires Amédée’s single-mindedness when it comes to work—he possesses a dignity and grace as he directs his team of horses. Yet the work is also difficult and unrelenting, and Amédée feels the need to keep working in order to provide for his family. Amédée’s fate in the novel provides a stark example of just what Alexandra is trying to save Emil from—a life of backbreaking work, isolated from the benefits of society (such as modern doctors), and a world where luck can turn in an instant (i.e. where there is no security). Things went right for Alexandra, but they could just as easily have gone wrong.
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon