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O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

[ Edited ]
Dec. 10--

Discussion of Part III "Winter Memories" and Part IV "The White Mulberry Tree" If you must refer to something later in the book, please mark the post: SPOILER.

"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 foxycat on 11-25-2007 08:25 PM
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

[ Edited ]
I noted earlier that I greatly admire the strength of Alex's character, and her achievements, but she is no without faults. In these two parts, in what ways do we see Alex as lacking in empathy and understanding of others? Does she understand her own emotions? Do you think a woman of more passion would have understood what was happening between Emil and Marie? Do you think the tragedy could have been prevented?

Message Edited by foxycat on 12-10-2007 12:58 AM
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

[ Edited ]
Thanks for this, Rochelle. I would have completely missed the connections to Dante's Inferno without your research and sharing.

foxycat wrote:
Dec. 10--Discussion of Part III "Winter Memories" and Part IV "The White Mulberry Tree" If you must refer to something later in the book, please mark the post: SPOILER.

"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 Peppermill on 12-10-2007 10:15 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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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

[ Edited ]
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 Peppermill on 12-10-2007 10:15 AM



Message Edited by foxycat on 12-10-2007 07:31 PM

Message Edited by foxycat on 12-10-2007 07:34 PM
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--connections to Dante

More art inspired by Dante's story, this time in English:

http://www.wisdomportal.com/Romance/Paolo&Francesca-Art.html
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

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

Rochelle -- Looking forward to your comments -- even with the excerpts you have suggested, I am not familiar enough with The Inferno to know Dante's "role."

I consolidated your art links below. Have enjoyed perusing them -- could probably return multiple times if had/made the time.

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.

More art inspired by Dante's story, this time in English:

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

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.

"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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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

Do you think the tragedy could have been prevented?

Yes -- and it is almost a place in the story where I felt Cather may have gotten pulled into a bit of sensationalism -- that writing the story differently might actually have been harder. But, she apparently was aware of an actual similar event and you call our attention to The Inferno parallel.

As much as I respected her subsequent treatment of Frank, I had a sense of expected behavior, more than actions from the heart. For me, Cather didn't quite deeply enough plumb the fortitude necessary -- rather like reading about the Amish forgiveness of the inane school shooting in their community a year or so ago. And, yet, I do recognize the simple factualness as true to the culture. Still, not quite enough grief expressed for the loss of Emil and Marie -- perhaps burning his clothes and collapsing in tears, perhaps a pleasure to share with Marie immediately quashed, or other small, but poignant, anecdotes of loss would have helped.

foxycat wrote {ed}:
I noted earlier that I greatly admire the strength of Alex's character, and her achievements, but she is not without faults. In these two parts, in what ways do we see Alex as lacking in empathy and understanding of others? Does she understand her own emotions? Do you think a woman of more passion would have understood what was happening between Emil and Marie? Do you think the tragedy could have been prevented?
"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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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

Seems none of the other readers are here, so we'll move on

I only know it peripherally. Dante is being guided by the spirit of the poet Virgil, and they are observing the various rings of Hell. Dante the poet has condemned the lovers to Hell in his poem, but at the same time the Dante in the poem has great compassion for them and feels they were not in control by giving in to their passion.

Cather also has a fatalistic view, that we aren't in control of our lives. Fatalistic is not exacly the right term. I need Everyman to help here. More like destiny, that people are impelled towards certain actions. Both Alex and Cather are nonjudgmental toward the lovers and Frank. If you think about the other couples in the novel, no one is really in control of their destiny.



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

Rochelle -- Looking forward to your comments -- even with the excerpts you have suggested, I am not familiar enough with The Inferno to know Dante's "role."

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

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--The murder and SPOILER

The similar event was in Dante's time, not hers. I can't tell you what led her to use it, but the result is that she contrasts Alex's love for Carl with that of Emil and Marie. It fits in perfectly. Marie's marriage was based on very little, love at first sight, bringing much later regret. She later realizes she's the wrong kind of woman for Frank. Her uncontrolled passion for Emil, and his, is disastrous. Alex and Carl base their love on a lifelong friendship, little or no passion, economic stability. Thus her comment at the end about friends making good marriages.

Actually we don't see the scene that followed the discovery of the bodies. Mulberries ripen in late July here (don't know about Nebraska) The next chapter begins in October.



Peppermill wrote:
Do you think the tragedy could have been prevented?

Yes -- and it is almost a place in the story where I felt Cather may have gotten pulled into a bit of sensationalism -- that writing the story differently might actually have been harder. But, she apparently was aware of an actual similar event and you call our attention to The Inferno parallel.

As much as I respected her subsequent treatment of Frank, I had a sense of expected behavior, more than actions from the heart. For me, Cather didn't quite deeply enough plumb the fortitude necessary -- rather like reading about the Amish forgiveness of the inane school shooting in their community a year or so ago. And, yet, I do recognize the simple factualness as true to the culture. Still, not quite enough grief expressed for the loss of Emil and Marie -- perhaps burning his clothes and collapsing in tears, perhaps a pleasure to share with Marie immediately quashed, or other small, but poignant, anecdotes of loss would have helped.

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

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV

So you think Alex is too stoic? But we don't know what she did between July and October.



Peppermill wrote:
Do you think the tragedy could have been prevented?

Yes -- and it is almost a place in the story where I felt Cather may have gotten pulled into a bit of sensationalism -- that writing the story differently might actually have been harder. But, she apparently was aware of an actual similar event and you call our attention to The Inferno parallel.

As much as I respected her subsequent treatment of Frank, I had a sense of expected behavior, more than actions from the heart. ...

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

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV



Peppermill wrote:
Do you think the tragedy could have been prevented?

Yes -- and it is almost a place in the story where I felt Cather may have gotten pulled into a bit of sensationalism -- that writing the story differently might actually have been harder. But, she apparently was aware of an actual similar event and you call our attention to The Inferno parallel.

As much as I respected her subsequent treatment of Frank, I had a sense of expected behavior, more than actions from the heart. For me, Cather didn't quite deeply enough plumb the fortitude necessary -- rather like reading about the Amish forgiveness of the inane school shooting in their community a year or so ago. And, yet, I do recognize the simple factualness as true to the culture. Still, not quite enough grief expressed for the loss of Emil and Marie -- perhaps burning his clothes and collapsing in tears, perhaps a pleasure to share with Marie immediately quashed, or other small, but poignant, anecdotes of loss would have helped.

foxycat wrote {ed}:
I noted earlier that I greatly admire the strength of Alex's character, and her achievements, but she is not without faults. In these two parts, in what ways do we see Alex as lacking in empathy and understanding of others? Does she understand her own emotions? Do you think a woman of more passion would have understood what was happening between Emil and Marie? Do you think the tragedy could have been prevented?





I did not feel that this could have been avoided. What Alex thought about Marie and Emil, wasnt told in the story. So maybe she did think something was not right with them but it doesn't say that she knew. Sometimes we can be real dumb with something right in our backyard. Cather does not say whether Alex knew or what she thought that I remember. People and their hearts sometime are unstoppable. Cather did paint Frank as a real whiner.
He certainly wasn't very emotionally stable even before this happened. And you are right,peppermill, alot of emotion was not written about the incident. It made it seem less important. It was like this was rolling down a hill, and no gravity to hold it back. It just played out. All elements had been set forth, Frank came home. Emil went to Marie.
Marie was at a standstill emotionally. Of course the main characters made the action start down the hill, Marie and Emil spoke of their love for each other and before it had always been just friend talk.
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! --The murder

[ Edited ]
Kiakar--
You're right about the feeling of inevitability, but Alex never suspected. I mentioned above that her blind side was her lack of empathy. She's more geared towards action than on reflection. And because the lovers were swept along by their own passion, and Frank was violent and didn't feel responsible for his actions, the murder became inevitable. At first he blames Marie in his mind, but by the time he's fleeing, he sees he IS responsible by mistreating her.

From Part III, section II:
If Alexandra had had much imagination she might have guessed what was going on in Marie's mind, and she would have seen long before what was going on in Emil's. But that, as Emil himself had more than once reflected, was Alexandra's blind side, and her life had not been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her training had all been toward the end of making her proficient in what she had undertaken to do. Her personal life, her own realization of herself, was almost a subconscious existence; like an underground river that came to the surface only here and there, at intervals months apart, and then sank again to flow on under her own fields. Nevertheless, the underground stream was there, and it was because she had so much personality to put into her enterprises and succeeded in putting it into them so completely, that her affairs prospered better than those of her neighbors.

Message Edited by foxycat on 12-12-2007 03:43 AM
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! --The murder

Pepper, you said it might have been averted. At what point?
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! --The murder

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.

foxycat wrote:
Kiakar--
You're right about the feeling of inevitability, but Alex never suspected. I mentioned above that her blind side was her lack of empathy. She's more geared towards action than on reflection. And because the lovers were swept along by their own passion, and Frank was violent and didn't feel responsible for his actions, the murder became inevitable. At first he blames Marie in his mind, but by the time he's fleeing, he sees he IS responsible by mistreating her.

From Part III, section II:
If Alexandra had had much imagination she might have guessed what was going on in Marie's mind, and she would have seen long before what was going on in Emil's. But that, as Emil himself had more than once reflected, was Alexandra's blind side, and her life had not been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her training had all been toward the end of making her proficient in what she had undertaken to do. Her personal life, her own realization of herself, was almost a subconscious existence; like an underground river that came to the surface only here and there, at intervals months apart, and then sank again to flow on under her own fields. Nevertheless, the underground stream was there, and it was because she had so much personality to put into her enterprises and succeeded in putting it into them so completely, that her affairs prospered better than those of her neighbors.

Message Edited by foxycat on 12-12-2007 03:43 AM


_______________
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! -- Empathy

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.

foxycat wrote:
Kiakar--
You're right about the feeling of inevitability, but Alex never suspected. I mentioned above that her blind side was her lack of empathy. She's more geared towards action than on reflection. And because the lovers were swept along by their own passion, and Frank was violent and didn't feel responsible for his actions, the murder became inevitable. At first he blames Marie in his mind, but by the time he's fleeing, he sees he IS responsible by mistreating her.

From Part III, section II:
If Alexandra had had much imagination she might have guessed what was going on in Marie's mind, and she would have seen long before what was going on in Emil's. But that, as Emil himself had more than once reflected, was Alexandra's blind side, and her life had not been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her training had all been toward the end of making her proficient in what she had undertaken to do. Her personal life, her own realization of herself, was almost a subconscious existence; like an underground river that came to the surface only here and there, at intervals months apart, and then sank again to flow on under her own fields. Nevertheless, the underground stream was there, and it was because she had so much personality to put into her enterprises and succeeded in putting it into them so completely, that her affairs prospered better than those of her neighbors.
"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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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! -- Empathy

Pepper--I agree. Everyman--I think you're needling us. :smileyvery-happy: Or maybe you and the rest of us are not reading the same book. Someone here has a signature that states: "No two people ever read the same book."

She's not physically demonstrative, but I think that's part of Swedishness and having hard a difficult time for many years. By lack of empathy I mean she's not always aware of other people's emotions at a given moment, or her own. I think the murder really opens her up, as we see in the last part.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! --The murder



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.

foxycat wrote:
Kiakar--
You're right about the feeling of inevitability, but Alex never suspected. I mentioned above that her blind side was her lack of empathy. She's more geared towards action than on reflection. And because the lovers were swept along by their own passion, and Frank was violent and didn't feel responsible for his actions, the murder became inevitable. At first he blames Marie in his mind, but by the time he's fleeing, he sees he IS responsible by mistreating her.

From Part III, section II:
If Alexandra had had much imagination she might have guessed what was going on in Marie's mind, and she would have seen long before what was going on in Emil's. But that, as Emil himself had more than once reflected, was Alexandra's blind side, and her life had not been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her training had all been toward the end of making her proficient in what she had undertaken to do. Her personal life, her own realization of herself, was almost a subconscious existence; like an underground river that came to the surface only here and there, at intervals months apart, and then sank again to flow on under her own fields. Nevertheless, the underground stream was there, and it was because she had so much personality to put into her enterprises and succeeded in putting it into them so completely, that her affairs prospered better than those of her neighbors.

Message Edited by foxycat on 12-12-2007 03:43 AM







I guess its a shame that Willa Cather is not alive and we could do a author interview with her. About her real intentions with her story on "Oh! Pioneers! Do you think it was poor writing on her part for not showing more feelings on Alex's part.? I didnt feel this way, I felt just reading the things she did for others, she did care but we all have diffeent opinions. I thought of Alex as a very likable person because of the author's skillful writing of her. Alex was a strong character that was dedicated to her land and her people.
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! -- Empathy



foxycat wrote:
Pepper--I agree. Everyman--I think you're needling us. :smileyvery-happy: Or maybe you and the rest of us are not reading the same book. Someone here has a signature that states: "No two people ever read the same book."

She's not physically demonstrative, but I think that's part of Swedishness and having hard a difficult time for many years. By lack of empathy I mean she's not always aware of other people's emotions at a given moment, or her own. I think the murder really opens her up, as we see in the last part.




Thanks, Foxycat, now I understand why Cather does not put more emphesis on Alex's feelings for her family. Probably because of the SWedish traditions.
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! -- Empathy

On the subject of stoic Alexandra, I thought the close of Part III particularly revealing (and great writing):

"There was one fancy indeed, which persisted
through her girlhood. It most often came to
her on Sunday mornings, the one day in the
week when she lay late abed listening to the
familiar morning sounds; the windmill singing
in the brisk breeze, Emil whistling as he blacked
his boots down by the kitchen door. Some-
times, as she lay thus luxuriously idle, her eyes
closed, she used to have an illusion of being
lifted up bodily and carried lightly by some one
very strong. It was a man, certainly, who car-
ried her, but he was like no man she knew; he
was much larger and stronger and swifter, and
he carried her as easily as if she were a sheaf
of wheat. She never saw him, but, with eyes
closed, she could feel that he was yellow like the
sunlight, and there was the smell of ripe corn-
fields about him. She could feel him approach,
bend over her and lift her, and then she could
feel herself being carried swiftly off across the
fields. After such a reverie she would rise has-
tily, angry with herself, and go down to the
bath-house that was partitioned off the kitchen
shed. There she would stand in a tin tub and
prosecute her bath with vigor, finishing it by
pouring buckets of cold well-water over her
gleaming white body which no man on the
Divide could have carried very far.

As she grew older, this fancy more often
came to her when she was tired than when she
was fresh and strong. Sometimes, after she had
been in the open all day, overseeing the brand-
ing of the cattle or the loading of the pigs, she
would come in chilled, take a concoction of
spices and warm home-made wine, and go to bed
with her body actually aching with fatigue.
Then, just before she went to sleep, she had
the old sensation of being lifted and carried by
a strong being who took from her all her bodily
weariness."
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec. 10 --Part III and Part IV--Re: O Pioneers! -- Empathy

He's like a corn god. And he does excite her passion, judging by her need to pour cold water over herself. But she doesn't have those fantasies about Carl. It sounds like she's identifying with the earth, but she also may be longing for someone to lift her burdens off her shoulders, or to share them with someone.



Lathan wrote:
..."There was one fancy indeed, which persisted
through her girlhood. It most often came to
her on Sunday mornings, the one day in the
week when she lay late abed listening to the
familiar morning sounds; the windmill singing
in the brisk breeze, Emil whistling as he blacked
his boots down by the kitchen door. Some-
times, as she lay thus luxuriously idle, her eyes
closed, she used to have an illusion of being
lifted up bodily and carried lightly by some one
very strong. It was a man, certainly, who car-
ried her, but he was like no man she knew; he
was much larger and stronger and swifter, and
he carried her as easily as if she were a sheaf
of wheat. She never saw him, but, with eyes
closed, she could feel that he was yellow like the
sunlight, and there was the smell of ripe corn-
fields about him. ...


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

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