O Pioneers!


Willa Cather

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O Pioneers!: Part 4, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

When Frank arrives home in the evening, he is shocked to find Emil’s mare in his stable. He has been drinking all day and is in a bad temper. He is upset further when he discovers that the house is dark, and he grabs his gun in a rage. He doesn’t have any real sense of grievance, but it satisfies him to feel like a desperate man, so he brings his gun with him as he walks towards the orchard.
Frank gives into the temptation to act recklessly, like a desperate man. He doesn’t truly believe that he intends to shoot anyone, but he likes the extremity of feeling, so he brings the gun along as he searches for Marie.
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Frank walks around the outside of the orchard hedge, and when he reaches the wheatfield corner, he’s stopped by a low murmuring sound. He peers through the hedge and sees two figures in the dark. In an unthinking rage, he takes up his gun and fires three times through the hedge. He peers again through the hedge and sees the man’s hand spasming, and then he hears the cries of the woman as she begins to drag herself up. Frank recoils in horror, drops his gun, and runs back up the path.
Frank, having brought his gun, is unable to keep himself from shooting when the scene in the hedge surprises him. His body acts before he can think. When he sees the violence he has caused, he realizes the enormity of what he has done and flees in terror. Again, Frank is not portrayed as a villain but rather as a victim—of circumstances and of himself.
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When Frank reaches the dark door of the house, he realizes that he has shot Marie, and he prays that she is not suffering. He takes Emil’s horse and starts off for Hanover, all the while regretting his actions, and lamenting that Marie had been so careless when she knew very well that he was like a crazed man when in a rage. He feels terrified by the prospect that she might still be alive and suffering. He suffers a violent attack of nausea halfway to Hanover, and he is overwhelmed by a desire to return home and be comforted by his wife.
Frank’s horror at his own actions forces him finally to appreciate Marie’s presence. He wishes, at that moment, to be able to go home and be comforted by her. He regrets his own behavior, and his terror and the bout of nausea show that Frank is not truly a violent man. His words have always been louder than his actions, until now. But these actions can’t be taken back. He has killed the “wild duck.”
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