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Cather’s sentimental and somewhat controversial novel tells the story of the Bergsons, a family of Swedish pioneers that settles for life in 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 tragedy of solace and forbidden love. A novel surprisingly ahead of its time, this proto-feminist work touches upon a wide range of themes, including love, marriage, temptation, and isolation.
double it. The rich men down there own all the best land, and they are buying all they can get. The thing to do is to sell our cattle and what little old corn we have, and buy the Linstrum place. Then the next thing to do is to take out two loans on our half-sections, and buy Peter Crow’s place; raise every dollar we can, and buy every acre we can.” “Mortgage the homestead again?” Lou cried. He sprang up and began to wind the clock furiously. “I won’t slave to pay off another mortgage. I’ll
minute. Please wait for me, Marie,” Emil coaxed. “Alexandra sent me to mow our lot, but I’ve done half a dozen others, you see. Just wait till I finish off the Kourdnas’. By the way, they were Bohemians. Why aren’t they up in the Catholic graveyard?” “Free-thinkers,” replied the young woman laconically. “Lots of the Bohemian boys at the University are,” said Emil, taking up his scythe again. “What did you ever burn John Hussh for, anyway? It’s made an awful row. They still jaw about it in
Emil,” she clutched his sleeve and began to cry, “what am I to do if you don’t go away? I can’t go, and one of us must. Can’t you see?” Emil stood looking down at her, holding his shoulders stiff and stiffening the arm to which she clung. Her white dress looked gray in the darkness. She seemed like a troubled spirit, like some shadow out of the earth, clinging to him and entreating him to give her peace. Behind her the fireflies were weaving in and out over the wheat. He put his hand on her bent
Pioneers! O pioneers! From Nebraska, from Arkansas, Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental blood intervein’d; All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern, Pioneers! O pioneers! O resistless, restless race! O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all! O I mourn and yet exult—I am rapt with love for all, Pioneers! O pioneers! Raise the mighty mother mistress, Waving high the delicate mistress, over all
December 1908 Jewett wrote Cather an extraordinary letter that would change her life. Responding to “On the Gull’s Road,” a short story Cather published in McClure’s, Jewett said she loved the story but found Cather’s use of a male narrator false. In another letter, written two weeks later, Jewett advised: “I cannot help saying what I think about your writing and its being hindered by such incessant, important, responsible work as you ... have now. You must find your own quiet center of life and