O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! Part 5, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next afternoon, Carl and Alexandra are both in Hanover. They leave Mrs. Hiller’s after delivering a little present from Lincoln. Alexandra learns that Carl never received her letter but had learned about Frank’s trial from an old copy of the San Francisco paper. Carl hurried back as quickly as possible. Alexandra worries that he left his business, but Carl laughs at her prudency, assuring her that he trusts his partner in everything. Carl says that he would like to spend the winter with Alexandra. He asks her whether she needs him now, and Alexandra says that she needed him terribly when the deaths first happened. After she didn’t hear from him for a while, her heart grew harder, but as soon as she received Carl’s telegram, she felt the same as she used to. She tells Carl that he is all she has in the world.
Carl has finally achieved some of the dignity that comes with doing his own work. He has a business and affairs to attend to away from Nebraska, and he seems calmer for this reason. He also believes that Alexandra truly needs him now, after suffering the tragedy of losing her brother, so his presence has a sense of purpose.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Dignity of Work Theme Icon
Alexandra asks Carl whether he understands what happened between Emil and Marie. Carl explains that they probably tried very hard to resist their feelings. It’s the reason Emil went away to Mexico, for example. Carl mentions that he had a feeling there was something going on before, at the French Church, but he had gotten so angry over his argument with Lou and Oscar that he forgot to mention it to Alexandra. Carl tells Alexandra not to be so hard on Emil and Marie.
Carl explains to Alexandra what she cannot understand about Emil and Marie—which is that they did try very hard to resist their feelings, but couldn’t resist each other in the end. It’s one of the two or three human stories that Carl mentioned on his previous visit, and something that Alexandra, with her focus on the land rather than people, couldn’t comprehend.
Themes
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Carl describes the day he saw Emil and Marie hunting ducks by the pond, and how he felt they were young and charming and full of grace. He says that it happens sometimes that there are women who spread ruin around them just by being too full of life and love. Alexandra sighs and agrees that people couldn’t help loving Marie, but she wishes it had been another boy. She wonders why it had to have been Emil, and Carl answers that Emil and Marie were both the best they had on the prairie.
Carl’s mention of the duck scene reminds the reader—and Alexandra—of how wild and joyful Emil and Marie were. They couldn’t help their own nature, and they didn’t truly believe they would be harmed for their wildness, nor did they enter into the act with bitterness or anger or an intent to hurt others. Marie, especially, couldn’t help being warm and generous and attracting attention.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Self-sacrifice vs. Temptation Theme Icon
Alexandra tells Carl that she would like to accompany him to Alaska in the spring, but she will always return to the land. Carl agrees that she belongs to the land, now more than ever. Alexandra agrees and says that the land belongs to the future—to the people who love it and understand it. She doesn’t understand how she can will the land to Lou and Oscar’s children. Carl asks her why she is thinking of such things, and Alexandra responds that it was a dream she had before she went to Lincoln. She says that she will tell him about it after they’re married. Alexandra feels that she and Carl will be very happy, since they have been friends a long time and are safe. The two of them enter the house, leaving the Divide behind them.
The land is the true protagonist of the novel, and the book opens and closes with mentions of the land. Carl finally acknowledges that Alexandra doesn’t really belong to him—she belongs to the land, and because he accepts this, he avoids all the jealousy and drama that has characterized the other romantic relationships in the novel. Alexandra feels safe in this understanding, and she’s comforted, also, by the fact that the land will continue to develop and grow, long after she passes away herself.
Themes
Power of the Land Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Pioneering and Immigration Theme Icon
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