The novel suggests that being devoted to one’s work and loving the work for its own sake provides a kind of dignity. Alexandra’s character is the prime example of this. Although she doesn’t demonstrate a vivid inner life or incredible passion, she is the novel’s undisputed heroine because she devotes herself to her work with the land. She sacrifices her youth and femininity in order to take care of the farm and carry out her father’s wish that she bring success to the family, and she succeeds because she yields completely to the work.
In contrast, the other characters who fail to love their work for its own sake—and instead turn to other distractions, like drink or illicit love—meet undignified, tragic ends. Emil and Marie are killed by Frank, who goes to jail, and Lou and Oscar, who are distracted by their jealousy and resentment towards Alexandra and Carl, struggle with the land and never achieve the noble stature or success of their sister.