O Pioneers!


Willa Cather

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O Pioneers!: Part 4, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

When Ivar climbs down from his loft the next morning, he comes across Emil’s mare, lather-stained and exhausted, and Ivar becomes immediately panicked. He believes that something must be very wrong for Emil to treat his mare in such a manner. Ivar hurries down across the fields.
Ivar senses that something is wrong because he knows that Emil would not treat his horse in such a manner. Ivar’s intuition with animals leads him to discover the scene with Emil and Marie.
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In the orchard, the white mulberries are covered with a dark stain. Emil had been shot in the heart and died quickly. Marie, on the other hand, had been shot through the right lung and her carotid artery, and there is a trail of blood leading to Emil’s body, where she must have dragged herself in her final moments. She lies on Emil’s shoulder, with his hand in her hands, and a look of ineffable content on her face. Above the two lovers, a pair of white butterflies flutters in and out among the shadows.
Although Emil and Marie have died, butterflies continue to flutter above them, and flowers still bloom—nature cycles on, even in the face of human tragedy. The bloodstains on the white mulberry tree symbolize the loss of innocence and also allude to Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe, another pair of tragic lovers, reminding the reader of Carl’s theory that there are only two or three human stories that repeat themselves over.
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Love and Relationships Theme Icon
When Ivar reaches the hedge and discovers the bodies, he falls to the ground and prays. Alexandra has also been worried and sees Ivar coming up the path from her spot in Emil’s room where she had been standing and waiting for Emil. She worries that he must be having an especially bad episode of one of his spells and rushes out to meet him. Ivar falls at Alexandra’s feet and says that sin and death has fallen upon the young ones.
Ivar’s declaration that “sin and death” have fallen upon Emil and Marie show that he believes that the two lovers were in the wrong. He believes that they gave into forbidden temptation and therefore are doomed to damnation.
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