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Peppermill
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Re: O Pioneers! Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! Random readings


Everyman wrote {excerpted}:
WARNING -- SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T READ BOOK V

And what does this say about, in our modern parlance, her self-esteem? Through the middle of the book she seems to be well endowed with self-esteem; she seems to know what she wants and she isn't hesitant about going and getting it. But perhaps she is just able to conceal a lack of self-esteem. This lack seems to show up in several places. The passage you cited is one. Another is her unwillingness to be upfront with Carl, to tell him that she wants to marry him and doesn't care whether the neighbors think he's just a gold-digger.

I don't necessarily equate "self-esteem" with knowing what one wants and not being hesitant about going and getting it. Nor with lack of human vulnerability. Although the phrase is all over the place in "modern parlance," I usually see it as closely related to the injunction "love others as yourself" -- i.e., the quality of love that one can extend others is (somehow) related to the quality of love that one has for oneself.

Perhaps Alex understood too well the need to be self-reliant and self-respecting to let her needs stand in the way of Carl's.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Choisya
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

[ Edited ]
FC: You may find these Gradesaver references to OP and Dante etc useful:-

http://www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/titles/opioneers/about.html




foxycat wrote:
It's not at all obvious, even though I was very familiar with the story of Francesca. I just happened upon it in several Cather bios. It's one of those tales that's inspired hundreds of works in the arts. The most familiar one would be Rodin's "The Kiss" in his Gates of Hell, and if you're an opera fan, Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini."

Here is just some of the art. You don't need to speak Italian to view the art.

http://tinyurl.com/2qq869

As we go into Parts III and IV you'll see how Cather (and Alex in her stead) plays "Dante" to the two lovers.



Peppermill wrote:
Thanks for this, Rochelle. I would have completely missed the connections to Dante's Inferno without your research and sharing....."The White Mulberry tree" was originally a separate story, but Cather decided to incorporate it into the novel. It's based on the Francesca and Paolo episode of Dante's "Inferno." This in turn, had been based on a true incident during Dante's lifetime.

http://www.wisdomportal.com/Romance/Paolo-Francesca.html

The story has been the inspiration for other art forms. Tchaikovsky wrote a heartbreaking tone poem based on the same story, called "Francesca da Rimini." If you listen, you can hear the winds of Hell as Dante approaches Francesca, and again as she is swept away.


Message Edited by Choisya on 12-18-2007 09:37 AM
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foxycat
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Gradesaver

[ Edited ]
Thanks, Choisya, I already have them.

Message Edited by foxycat on 12-18-2007 11:47 PM
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Peppermill
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Re: O Pioneers! -- The White Mulberry Tree -- Chapters IV-V (SPOILER)

[ Edited ]
Cather presents us a number of marriages in O Pioneers! for the slim volume that it is. One that touched me was the young French couple, Angelique and Amedee, with their baby Baptiste. Their courtship must have been gay and merry; I enjoyed the scene of Emil carrying her teasingly to her husband (in his white ball-shirt) in "Neighboring Fields."

But so poignant is the setting in Chapter IV of Angelique in the kitchen with her mother-in-law and baby Baptiste, all followed so shortly by the hard-working young Amedee's death of appendicitis.

It was typical of Cather that when she described Amedee on the header she wrote: "the slight, wiry figure of his friend, coatless, his white shirt puffed out by the wind, his straw hat stuck jauntily on the side of his head." The second mention of "white shirt" in describing Amedee caught my ear, because such a garment on the plains for field work or ball-playing said so much about both self-caring personality and the hard, willing work of the women in doing washing and probably ironing to keep their beloved Amedee so clothed.

Message Edited by Peppermill on 12-21-2007 06:24 AM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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foxycat
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Re: O Pioneers! -- The White Mulberry Tree -- Chapters IV-V (SPOILER)

Re: Amedee--

You're very observant, Pepper. I don't notice such things as the white shirt. But I was reasonably sure they're playing baseball. "Base ball" had begun in NYC in 1842 and formed into national leagues by the 1870's. Any other opinions on that from baseball fans?

Of all the marriages she cites, most are unhappy or end in disaster. This enforces what I mentioned last week about nobody's dream turning out as they had imagined. These people have taken their destiny into their own hands by immigrating, but now they're not really in control of their lives. Only Signe seems happy, but she's newly married and we don't know yet what her fate might be. Alex and Carl are wise to wait until they both are established financially and mature. Of course, he could get run over by a horse tomorrow.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Peppermill
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Re: O Pioneers! -- The White Mulberry Tree -- Chapters IV-V (SPOILER)


foxycat wrote:
Re: Amedee--

You're very observant, Pepper. I don't notice such things as the white shirt. But I was reasonably sure they're playing baseball. "Base ball" had begun in NYC in 1842 and formed into national leagues by the 1870's. Any other opinions on that from baseball fans?

Of all the marriages she cites, most are unhappy or end in disaster. This enforces what I mentioned last week about nobody's dream turning out as they had imagined. These people have taken their destiny into their own hands by immigrating, but now they're not really in control of their lives. Only Signe seems happy, but she's newly married and we don't know yet what her fate might be. Alex and Carl are wise to wait until they both are established financially and mature. Of course, he could get run over by a horse tomorrow.

The white shirt was such a surprising detail to me for someone out doing fieldwork. It was in looking back that I saw Cather had used white for his ball shirt as well, and I conjectured that it wasn't an accident, albeit perhaps unconsciously.

Thx for the baseball history -- I didn't even think about that!

Altho Alex and Carl probably were wise in their waiting, I wondered if Oscar and Lou were implying she was too old to have children at forty -- or were they worrying that she still might. My impression is that most marriage hopes focused on shared work, children, and companionship -- happiness was considered something that happened along the way if you worked hard enough, in small snitches, and if you were lucky. And, I do think Alex and Carl perhaps suggest a transition in the expectations of marriage and relationships -- whether Cather wrote them so intentionally or not. (Maybe Angelique and Amedee, Emil and Maria, Maria and Frank suggest the tragic risk of the quest for happiness, whereas Oscar's, Lou's, the parents', Signa's marriages represent the more traditional pragmatic expectations? Just letting my thoughts wander.)

I laughed at the touch of Signa and Nelse insisting on taking Alex's gift of the two milk cows with them on their wedding night. And how in character of Maria: "I've no patience with Signa, marrying that grumpy fellow!"

I noted this time through a number of single women that are in some ways foils to Alex: Mrs. Hiller, Annie's mother (Mrs. Lee -- "when she grinned she looked very knowing, as if when you found out how to take it, life wasn't half bad" ), the servant girls, possibly Mrs. Chevalier. And, given her lifestyle and attitude, although married, even Maria, who seemed to have found an uneasy solitude and independence within her unhappy situation. (Note the foreshadowing, I didn't see that before: "Under a white mulberry tree there was an old wagon-seat. Beside it lay a book and a workbasket." I had observed only Maria's solitary life, one where she had time to read during the day. Albeit they had no children, but she was not working alongside Frank.)
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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AJ981979
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Re: O Pioneers! Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! Random readings

Hey Foxy. I just got off a 10-day stretch so I'm playing catch up. I'll read all before I post back, but I have some things germinating. :smileyhappy:
~ Happiness is a good book, a sleeping cat, and a glass of wine. ~
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! -- Empathy

I agree with Pepper here. I don't think it's that Alex didn't care, I think it's that she expressed her care differently, i.e. buying the piano for her niece, the cows for her servantgirl, watching over Ivar.

Oscar and Lou feel her to be uncaring because she doesn't just allow them to do whatever they want, which is the relationship they're used to seeing as "care" in a woman (the whole "if she really loves him, whatever makes him happy makes her happy" myth). Because her brothers can only see care in traditional terms, they can't see that Alex was caring for them when she pushed the farm to higher and higher successes, gave them their own parcels so they could live according to their own wishes instead of being tied to her, or even when she maintained family ties with them despite the obvious tension in the family. Alex didn't have to talk to either of them, much less invite them into her home, and yet she did. And we know Alex is not a woman tied to traditional, so I believe that says something right there.

Likewise, she went after what she believed to be best for Emil in sending him to school, for Ivar in bringing him with her, when he would've been just as happy out on his pond somewhere.

Love comes in many different shapes, sizes and styles - just because it's not the one you're used to seeing doesn't mean it doesn't exist.



Peppermill wrote:
Isn't it a pretty harsh indictment to say that Alex didn't seem to care about people in her life as people? I think of Ivar or the young gals who worked for her or Emil or her niece. She does seem to have a judging personality more than a feeling one, which may not be the typical expectation for a woman, but not all that unusual in my experience for the goal or objective oriented person. She did understood that her brothers needed their own places. Also, certain traits, like caring, were sometimes taken for granted among Scandinavian immigrant families and not overtly expressed with words or expressions of feelings. Which may be part of what makes her sympathy for Frank believable, except now Alex has been shaken deeply enough to be open with her empathy. She also seemed to suppress her caring about herself, especially with regards to Carl.

Everyman wrote:
Your talk about lack of empathy rang a bell with me. One reason I never warmed up to Alex was that she didn't seem to care at all about the people in her life as people. They were mostly means to an end, or things occupying roles (brother, girlfriend). I didn't see where she really cared that much about any of them for who they were, or even understood who they were. She didn't understand Lou, or Oscar, or Marie, or Carl, or, heck, anybody. And she didn't seem to care that she didn't.

~ Happiness is a good book, a sleeping cat, and a glass of wine. ~
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foxycat
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Re: O Pioneers! Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! Random readings

You're a teacher?


AJ981979 wrote:
Hey Foxy. I just got off a 10-day stretch so I'm playing catch up. I'll read all before I post back, but I have some things germinating. :smileyhappy:


Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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AJ981979
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Re: O Pioneers! Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! Random readings

No, restaurant manager. My schedule completely varies, and I usually land on a long stretch mid-month.
~ Happiness is a good book, a sleeping cat, and a glass of wine. ~
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