About the book
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Get the book
Willa Cather said that O Pioneers! was her first authentic
novel, "the first time I walked off on my own feet—everything before was
half real and half an imitation of writers whom I admired." Cather's novel
of life on the Nebraska frontier established her reputation as a writer of
great note and marked a significant turning point in her artistic
development. No longer would she let literary convention guide the form of
her writing; the materials themselves would dictate the structure.
Cather's O Pioneers! is the sentimental and somewhat
controversial story of the Bergsons, a family of Swedish pioneers that
settles for life on the American prairie. While Alexandra, the family
matriarch, is able to turn the family farm into a financial success, her
brother Emil must grapple with the solace and tragedy of forbidden love.
A novel surprisingly ahead of its time, this protofeminist work touches
on a wide range of enduring themes, including love, marriage,
temptation, and isolation.
University of Nebraska Press
O Pioneers! (1913) was Willa Cather's first great novel, and to
many it remains her unchallenged masterpiece. No other work of fiction
so faithfully conveys both the sharp physical realities and the mythic
sweep of the transformation of the American frontier-and the
transformation of the people who settled it. Cather's heroine is
Alexandra Bergson, who arrives on the wind-blasted prairie of Hanover,
Nebraska, as a girl and grows up to make it a prosperous farm. But this
archetypal success story is darkened by loss, and Alexandra's devotion
to the land may come at the cost of love itself.
At once a sophisticated pastoral and a prototype for later feminist
novels, O Pioneers! is a work in which triumph is inextricably enmeshed
with tragedy, a story of people who do not claim a land so much as they
submit to it and, in the process, become greater than they were .
The Willa Cather Foundation