O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! Part 5, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On an October afternoon, Alexandra arrives in Lincoln. She lingers around her brother’s university, watching the young students pass by. One of the boys accidentally runs into her and apologizes. She engages him in a brief conversation, asking where she might find some of Emil’s friends. Afterwards, heading back to her hotel, Alexandra finds herself unreasonably comforted by the conversation, thinking fondly on the boy and wishing him well in university.
The comfort Alexandra finds in the boy somewhat counters Carl’s assertion that everyone in the city is anonymous. Carl doesn’t take into account that people have personal associations and remembrances that can make a chance meeting with a stranger feel significant.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
The next morning, Alexandra presents herself at the State Penitentiary and tells the warden of Frank’s story. The warden reassures her that they will take care of him, but when they bring Frank along for her to talk to, he seems to Alexandra a changed man. He begins to rant about how he didn’t mean to hurt “dat woman” or “dat man.” He confesses that he’s almost forgotten Marie’s name. Frank seems not altogether human anymore to Alexandra, who tells Frank that she doesn’t blame him and wants to help him.
Even the memory of his relationship with Marie is too painful for Frank to conjure, and he has learned to cope by forgetting Marie’s name. Alexandra sees that Frank is truly being punished for his behavior—and for Emil and Marie’s behavior—in the penitentiary. It is the consequence of giving into reckless behavior and temptation.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Alexandra remembers the yellow cane she found in his closet and feels that it’s awfully unfair that Frank has ended up this way. She blames Marie for making those around her suffer for her affectionate and impulsive nature. She once more reassures Frank that she will get him out, and Frank says that he won’t bother this country anymore once he’s out—he just wants to visit his mother.
Alexandra sees Frank as a victim of circumstance. Alexandra believes that Marie is to blame because her warmth and impulsiveness make her a force of nature—no one can resist her, and her magnetism eventually leaves destruction in her wake.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
When Alexandra emerges from the penitentiary, she feels that she is also trapped in a larger prison. She feels a disgust of life weighing on her. When she arrives at the hotel, there is a telegram from Carl waiting for her. He is in Hanover, and Alexandra bursts into tears upon receiving the news.
Alexandra feels that she and Frank are both being punished for Emil and Marie’s actions, even though Frank is in prison and she is technically allowed to walk free. She feels, however, that she isn’t truly free. There is no one she cares for in the world anymore. When she receives the telegram from Carl, however, these circumstances suddenly shift—Alexandra’s hard shell comes off, and she bursts into tears.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
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