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O Pioneers! (Bantam Classic) Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1989


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Product Details

  • Series: Bantam Classic
  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books (March 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055321358X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553213584
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,048,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The land belongs to the future... that's the way it seems to me....I might as well try to will the sunset over there to my brother's children. We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it -- for a little while."

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.


From the Trade Paperback edition. -- Review

From the Inside Flap

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Book

"This beautifully produced book is a joy to read and demonstrates the real pleasures to be derived from meticulous attention to detail and the highest standards of scholarship."—American Literary Scholarship.

"The first of the Cather Scholarly Editions sets a high standard of quality. . . . Text and context reveal the splendor of O Pioneers! and enrich both the experience and study of Cather’s extraordinary prose."—Western American Literature.

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.

The paperback edition contains all the text and scholarly apparatus found in the original Willa Cather Scholarly Edition. Edited according to standards set by the Committee for Scholarly Editions of the Modern Language Association, this volume presents the full range of biographical, historical, and textual information on the novel. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

What if Cather wrote the great American Novel and no one noticed?
Piety Hill Booksellers
Cather paints a picture with her words that make you feel like you are walking beside the characters of the story.
Susan J Macy
Some readers may quarrel with the seemingly happy ending of the book.
Robin Friedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Cather published her second novel, O Pioneers, in 1913 at the age of 40. Together with My Antonia it is the novel for which she is best known. Years after writing the book, Cather wrote of it " Since I wrote this book for myself, I ignored all the situations and accents that were then thought to be necessary."
The book takes place on the plains of Nebraska in the late 19th Century as the Prairie is settled be Swedish, Bohemian, and French immigrants trying to eke out a living from what appears to be a harsh, inhospitable land. The heroine of the book is Alexandra Bergson who inherits her father's farm as a young woman, raises his three sons and stays with the farm through the harsh times to become a successful landowner and farmer.
The books speaks of being wedded to the land and to place. In this sense it is an instance of the American dream of a home. It also speaks of a strong woman, not in cliched, late 20th Century terms but with a sense of ambiguity, difficulty and loss.
This is a story as well of thwarted love, of the difficult nature of sexualtiy, and of human passion. There is also the beginning of what in Cather's works will become an increased sense of religion, Catholicism in particular, as a haven and a solace for the sorrow she finds at the heart of human endeavor. Above all it is a picuure of stark life in the midwest.
There is almost as much blood-letting in this short book as in an Elizabethan tragedy. Cather's picture of American life on the plains, even in her earliest books, is not an easy or simple one. Some readers may quarrel with the seemingly happy ending of the book. I don't think any will deny that Alexandra's happiness is dearly bought or that it is bittersweet.
I tendend to shy away from this book in favor of Cather's later novels.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By "b_l_v_d" on January 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
I think that Cather could not have crafted a more beautiful book. The writing and the story are so wholey lovely, without pomp or ceremony. An immigrant father bequeaths his land to the care of his daughter on his deathbed, rather than to his sons, because he sees that her love of the land and her family runs deep and that she has the heart and spirit necessary to survive the harsh reality of the plains. So begins one of the greatest love stories of all time. I don't use the term love story loosely; this book contains love in its many intricate, shifting, and enduring forms: the love of the land, the love of a dream, love within families, love of the past, love of tradition, love of new opportunities, love between friends, the love between men and women, and the love of living. This book gets deep under your fingernails, like the very earth that it celebrates. And though, many of the events recounted are sad, it is the kind of sadness that is rich in hope
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
Cather published her second novel, O Pioneers, in 1913 at the age of 40. Together with My Antonia it is the novel for which she is best known. Years after writing the book, Cather wrote of it " Since I wrote this book for myself, I ignored all the situations and accents that were then thought to be necessary."
The book takes place on the plains of Nebraska in the late 19th Century as the Prairie is settled be Swedish, Bohemian, and French immigrants trying to eke out a living from what appears to be a harsh, inhospitable land. The heroine of the book is Alexandra Bergson who inherits her father's farm as a young woman, raises his three sons and stays with the farm through the harsh times to become a successful landowner and farmer.

The books speaks of being wedded to the land and to place. In this sense it is an instance of the American dream of a home. It also speaks of a strong woman, not in cliched, late 20th Century terms but with a sense of ambiguity, difficulty and loss.

This is a story as well of thwarted love, of the difficult nature of sexuality, and of human passion. There is also the beginning of what in Cather's works will become an increased sense of religion, Catholicism in particular, as a haven and a solace for the sorrow she finds at the heart of human endeavor. Above all it is a picture of stark life in the midwest.

There is almost as much blood-letting in this short book as in an Elizabethan tragedy. Cather's picture of American life on the plains, even in her earliest books, is not an easy or simple one. Some readers may quarrel with the seemingly happy ending of the book. I don't think any will deny that Alexandra's happiness is dearly bought or that it is bittersweet.
Read more ›
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on October 30, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In "O Pioneers!", her classic novel first published in 1913, Willa Cather wrote, "The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman." By revealing to us the hearts of those pioneer immigrants in this book, Cather offers a moving meditation on United States culture and history.
"O Pioneers!" tells the story of a community in Nebraska farm country. Her main character, Alexandra Bergson, is a Swedish immigrant. Cather creates a marvelous portrait of the community and its rich mix of European ethnic groups: Norwegian, Swedish, French, etc. It is especially fascinating to see the multicultural, multiethnic world they created in the United States. Cather also depicts the cultural and linguistic "shift" that takes place along generational lines.
Cather's story deals with issues of economics, gender roles, and sexuality. In addition to the formidable Alexandra, she creates a cast of compelling characters. And her luminous prose style evokes all of the sensations of Alexandra's world: the smell of ripe wheat, the chirping of insects in the long grass, the golden play of light in an apple orchard.
But this is Alexandra's book. She is a great American heroine who reminds me of such beloved characters as Zora Neale Hurston's Janie (from "Their Eyes Were Watching God") or Alice Walker's Celie (from "The Color Purple"). Like those great characters, Alexandra will break your heart, deeply touch your soul, and ultimately leave you feeling richer for having known her.
Finally, as an interesting companion text to "O Pioneers!" try "Anna Christie," the 1922 play by U.S. writer Eugene O'Neill. O'Neill's life and career were contemporary with Cather's, and "Anna Christie," like "O Pioneers!", deals with a Swedish immigrant woman in the United States.
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