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foxycat
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Re: O Pioneers! -- themes

Would you like to move on to some of the other themes? I can't carry this book on through the end of the month, although anyone else can if they wish.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Peppermill
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Moderator

Rcohelle -- thanks for all you have done to moderate O Pioneers!!

Happy New Year to you and yours! P.


foxycat wrote: Would you like to move on to some of the other themes? I can't carry this book on through the end of the month, although anyone else can if they wish.
"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! -- Moderator

Thanks, Pepper. I'm still here.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec 17 --Part V "Alexandra" and Book as a Whole-- Money


Choisya wrote: ...So how do folks think Alexandra was affected by the possession of land/money?

POTENTIAL SPOILERS IF HAVE NOT FINISHED THE BOOK
Been mulling this one, Choisya. Will note here a few of the obvious ways and a few conjectures: she was able to take care of her family, but eventually to free herself of day-to-day frictions with her brothers by parceling their family land holdings. She had earned enough aloof respect in the community to get by with supporting Ivar. She could sponsor others to immigrate from Europe. She could indulge herself in a fancy dining room for family occasions and her niece in a piano. Probably most important to her, she was able to send Emil to college. And, eventually, she was able to arrive at a suitable arrangement for herself with Carl.

(I wonder if her brothers would handle the farm while she traveled with Carl to the Klondike in the spring -- and what that might do to their senses of mutual obligations.)
"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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Everyman
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec 17 --Part V "Alexandra" and Book as a Whole [POSSIBLE SPOILER]

I wonder whether she would feel the same way if she had children herself and had to decide whether or not to will the land to them.

But the whole passage, frankly, doesn't make sense. Somebody will own the land in fifty years. She can decide who that might be, or she can not, in which case the state will decide.

If she wills the land to her brother's children, it will certainly make a difference to them (whether for better or worse we don't know, but certainly a difference).

And who is the future if not the children?

What does it mean to say that developed land belongs to the future? It strikes me as one of those things that sounds nice, but makes no sense when you actually look at what it might mean.

Lathan wrote:
It had a quiet ending, I thought, but an appropriate one. This is the quote that focused the novel for me in its entirety:

"Lou and Oscar can`t see those things," said Alexandra suddenly. "Suppose I do will my land to their children, what difference will that make? The land belongs to the future, Carl; that`s the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk`s plat will be there in fifty years? 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."

Here's what I took away: Alexandra desires to be a part of something larger than herself. In her case, that's the land, which is older and greater than human civilization (and perhaps symbolized by the golden agrarian deity). I'm always struck at how short a time people have been on the planet in comparison with the planet's history.

To connect to something greater is a human desire, acquired in so many ways, I think. Some people pursue this through public/humanitarian service. Some people pursue this in the private sector or in the clergy. Others read books (like this one perhaps), to connect to something larger.

I'm interested in what others took away, particularly if they think Alexandra is completely fulfilled by the novel's end, or if she is simply consoled.


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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec 17 --Part V "Alexandra" and Book as a Whole [POSSIBLE SPOILER]

I agree with Lathan - I think working with the land so closely develops in one a certain respect for it and understanding that the land was here long before, and will be here long after. Even with all our talk of global warming/catastrophies, blowing up the entire planet seems not likely to happen. Regardless of what we do while we're here, it's the land itself that is a constant in life on this planet.

I think that's what the quote Lathan listed is trying capture - that land is nature you can't 'own' nature. Who holds the copyright on a sunset, a rainbow, a blizzard? It simply is, and we exist within it.



Everyman wrote:
I wonder whether she would feel the same way if she had children herself and had to decide whether or not to will the land to them.

But the whole passage, frankly, doesn't make sense. Somebody will own the land in fifty years. She can decide who that might be, or she can not, in which case the state will decide.

If she wills the land to her brother's children, it will certainly make a difference to them (whether for better or worse we don't know, but certainly a difference).

And who is the future if not the children?

What does it mean to say that developed land belongs to the future? It strikes me as one of those things that sounds nice, but makes no sense when you actually look at what it might mean.

Lathan wrote:
It had a quiet ending, I thought, but an appropriate one. This is the quote that focused the novel for me in its entirety:

"Lou and Oscar can`t see those things," said Alexandra suddenly. "Suppose I do will my land to their children, what difference will that make? The land belongs to the future, Carl; that`s the way it seems to me. How many of the names on the county clerk`s plat will be there in fifty years? 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."

Here's what I took away: Alexandra desires to be a part of something larger than herself. In her case, that's the land, which is older and greater than human civilization (and perhaps symbolized by the golden agrarian deity). I'm always struck at how short a time people have been on the planet in comparison with the planet's history.

To connect to something greater is a human desire, acquired in so many ways, I think. Some people pursue this through public/humanitarian service. Some people pursue this in the private sector or in the clergy. Others read books (like this one perhaps), to connect to something larger.

I'm interested in what others took away, particularly if they think Alexandra is completely fulfilled by the novel's end, or if she is simply consoled.





~ Happiness is a good book, a sleeping cat, and a glass of wine. ~
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec 17 --Part V "Alexandra" and Book as a Whole [POSSIBLE SPOILER]

[ Edited ]
I'm reading "The Woman at the Washington Zoo" and realized yesterday that Marjorie Williams never graduated college. ("My name is AJ and I'm a bookaholic. I must be reading at least 6 books at once.") ) It occurred to me that the mind and spirit of a writer really has nothing to do with education or higher learner - there's something in these people's souls that allows in insight into life and the connectedness of it all.

I don't know how much sense that makes, but Lathan's comment:

>>>"Here's what I took away: Alexandra desires to be a part of something larger than herself. In her case, that's the land, which is older and greater than human civilization (and perhaps symbolized by the golden agrarian deity). I'm always struck at how short a time people have been on the planet in comparison with the planet's history.

To connect to something greater is a human desire, acquired in so many ways, I think. Some people pursue this through public/humanitarian service. Some people pursue this in the private sector or in the clergy. Others read books (like this one perhaps), to connect to something larger."

makes me think the same thing. Some people will go about their lives, getting the degree, the marriage, the job, the promotion, the kids, never feeling there is anything more to life. Then others - the writers, the philosophers, those with a certain 'sense' - can't believe that's all there is and must feel they are connected to something on a deeper level.

Following, Alex felt this need and she was connected via the land. Oscar and Lou never felt the need. Marie felt it, and searched for it (disastrously, as many do) in love. Finding connection seems like a longshot when you're searching for it, but once you find it things click, you have a sense of where you stand in the world (as the quote summarizes) and a certain for pity for those you simply can't feel it as you do.

Frankly, I think Alex is fulfilled at the end of the novel. She appreciates what she has and those she loves, and is able to fully enjoy them rather than striving after something unattainable, or by looking for joy in something fallible.

Message Edited by AJ981979 on 12-22-2007 12:42 PM

Message Edited by AJ981979 on 12-22-2007 12:43 PM
~ Happiness is a good book, a sleeping cat, and a glass of wine. ~
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Dec 17 --Part V "Alexandra" and Book as a Whole

How about conquering life? I don't really see how love overall is a theme other than looking for someway in which to feel connected.

I'm really liking my whole connectedness theory. :smileyhappy::smileyhappy:



Peppermill wrote:
Gradesaver lists these six as themes of O Pioneers:

1. Creating Civilization in the Wild
2. Work and Morality
3. Passionate Love vs. Reasonable Love
4. Imagination
5. Friendship
6. Temptation

I would certainly add one called "Land" or "Earth." Do others of you agree with these themes, do you think they are the ones Cather intended, or do you see others?

This query owes thanks to Choisya, who called our attention elsewhere to this site:
www.gradesaver.com/classicnotes/titles/opioneers/themes.html


~ Happiness is a good book, a sleeping cat, and a glass of wine. ~
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Re: O Pioneers! --Themes

Everyman-

We're talking about a spiritual feeling, not something concrete, but carried out through concrete actions. The families portrayed here have taken part in a movement much greater than themselves, as did my grandparents and yours and millions of other immigrants. They were part of the great experiment, a movement to civilize the land from shore to shore that had never been done anywhere before, as you yourself said back in Part I.

Cather and her heroine felt this had a spiritual quality. You may or may not agree with that. You're being very literal here.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. --Oscar Wilde

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

[ Edited ]
Re Lathan's comment:
Here's what I took away: Alexandra desires to be a part of something larger than herself. In her case, that's the land, which is older and greater than human civilization...


The discussion over the ownership of land reminds me of the speech made by the Native American Chief Seattle in the 19th Century, which I happen to know about because the youth organisation to which my family belong use a summary of it as one of their mottoes (as well as using other NA ideas about peace and cooperation):-

'Teach your children what we have taught our children;
That the Earth does not belong to humanity;
Humanity belongs to the Earth.
This we know.
All things are connected like the blood that unites one family.
Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth.
Men and women did not weave the web of life;
They are merely a strand in it.
Whatever they do to the web, they do to themselves.'

This speech has often been summarised as 'We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.'

(Again, I am reminded of Middlemarch and the allegory of the web which George Eliot frequently uses in the novel to draw attention to the interconnectedness of people.)

Message Edited by Choisya on 12-22-2007 03:54 PM
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

Great quote, Choisya. It puts me in mind of Black Elk Speaks. I believe Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux, was a contemporary of Cather. Black Elk's narrative emphasizes his tribe's interdependence with the land, and in many ways, is the larger tale of the Sioux at that time. I'd like to think he told an anthropological tale of his people in the way Cather told a tale of the European-American settlement of the Midwest.
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

These sentiments are sweet, and very politically correct, but in reality, those civilizations which generally see the land as something to be be owned, to be tamed, to be bent to the will of humans, are the ones which have survived and, if you define prosper in the Western manner, have prospered.

You have to have respect for the land and its needs in order to make it produce its best for you, just as you have to respect and care for any tool, from a chisel to a car to a computer, to make it serve your needs. But humans have overpopulated the earth to the extent that land ownership and management are now essential to the survival of Western civilization as we know it. Of course, you may feel that Western civilization deserves to die off. But everyone (or virtually everyone) posting here lives in a house built from cutting down timber, extracting minerals from the ground, and constructing housing materials to build structures far more complex and resource demanding than tepees, caves, or yurts; travels in cars or planes or trains made from materials ripped from the bowels of the earth and processed in land- and air- polluting factories; relies on electricity generated by air and water polluting technologies and computers made with toxic materials also ripped from the bowels of the earth, etc. We can respect the land, but as long as we rely on large-scale mining, manufacturing, deforestation, etc. to sustain our way of life it's hypocritical, IMO, to pretend that we can view the land in the same way as the Native Americans viewed it.


Lathan wrote:
Great quote, Choisya. It puts me in mind of Black Elk Speaks. I believe Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux, was a contemporary of Cather. Black Elk's narrative emphasizes his tribe's interdependence with the land, and in many ways, is the larger tale of the Sioux at that time. I'd like to think he told an anthropological tale of his people in the way Cather told a tale of the European-American settlement of the Midwest.


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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

Good point. I think I'm more interested in this from a literary than an anthropological perspective. That is, there were multiple tales going on at this time: Black Elk had his tale, Cather had hers, and in other areas of the nation, there were other contemporaries' tales from Dreiser, Wharton, Lewis, and so on. It gives one a fascinating broader historical perspective, I think.
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

True Lathan but as well as giving a broader historical perspective, it can point the way towards future living which is less exploitative. My daughters and their friends are heavily into ecological living as a result of being members of the Woodcraft Folk and do all they can to recycle all their waste etc. They have cars which use less 'gas' and are having them converted for bio fuel. They also buy many of their clothes secondhand, eat organic foods delivered straight from a farm, and Fair Trade food, and do many other things which are designed to be lighter on the earth's resources. If everyone did their bit in this regard and bore in mind Native American and other aboriginal wisdom we might not go to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we seem to be doing at present:smileysad:. Perhaps we heavy readers here should also emulate Laurel and get electronic book readers, so as to use less paper/trees:smileyhappy:.




Lathan wrote:
Good point. I think I'm more interested in this from a literary than an anthropological perspective. That is, there were multiple tales going on at this time: Black Elk had his tale, Cather had hers, and in other areas of the nation, there were other contemporaries' tales from Dreiser, Wharton, Lewis, and so on. It gives one a fascinating broader historical perspective, I think.


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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'


Everyman wrote:
These sentiments are sweet, and very politically correct, but in reality, those civilizations which generally see the land as something to be be owned, to be tamed, to be bent to the will of humans, are the ones which have survived and, if you define prosper in the Western manner, have prospered.

You have to have respect for the land and its needs in order to make it produce its best for you, just as you have to respect and care for any tool, from a chisel to a car to a computer, to make it serve your needs. But humans have overpopulated the earth to the extent that land ownership and management are now essential to the survival of Western civilization as we know it. Of course, you may feel that Western civilization deserves to die off. But everyone (or virtually everyone) posting here lives in a house built from cutting down timber, extracting minerals from the ground, and constructing housing materials to build structures far more complex and resource demanding than tepees, caves, or yurts; travels in cars or planes or trains made from materials ripped from the bowels of the earth and processed in land- and air- polluting factories; relies on electricity generated by air and water polluting technologies and computers made with toxic materials also ripped from the bowels of the earth, etc. We can respect the land, but as long as we rely on large-scale mining, manufacturing, deforestation, etc. to sustain our way of life it's hypocritical, IMO, to pretend that we can view the land in the same way as the Native Americans viewed it.
Highlight added. May Pakistan not solve the overpopulation crisis.

And, yes, you are right, the responsibilities and challenges belong not just to others, but to each of us and to all of us -- West and East, if it is still relevant to divide this planet that way.
"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! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

[ Edited ]
Yes, certainly we can (and have a responsibility to be) better stewards of the planet. (On a related note, I'm trying my first year without a car.)

I must bow out for the holiday, but O Pioneers! was a great selection. Thanks to all for a lively discussion, to Rochelle for moderating, and best wishes to all in 2008. I look forward to future selections.

Message Edited by Lathan on 12-28-2007 08:56 AM
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Choisya
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

[ Edited ]
Congratulations for deciding to try life without a car Lathan - I know that for Americans that is a difficult decision as their liives seem to have been built around the motor car and the highway. Is public transport good where you are? Are you able to use a bicycle? I haven't driven for 20 years but public transport is good where I live - I am on a main train line and at the hub of many bus routes.

Have a wonderful, healthy holiday!






Lathan wrote:
Yes, certainly we can (and have a responsibility to be) better stewards of the planet. (On a related note, I'm trying my first year without a car.)

I must bow out for the holiday, but O Pioneers! was a great selection. Thanks to all for a lively discussion, to Rochelle for moderating, and best wishes to all in 2008. I look forward to future selections.

Message Edited by Lathan on 12-28-2007 08:56 AM



Message Edited by Choisya on 12-28-2007 09:44 AM
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foxycat
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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

It's been my pleasure, Lathan, and everyone who participated.



Lathan wrote:
Yes, certainly we can (and have a responsibility to be) better stewards of the planet. (On a related note, I'm trying my first year without a car.)

I must bow out for the holiday, but O Pioneers! was a great selection. Thanks to all for a lively discussion, to Rochelle for moderating, and best wishes to all in 2008. I look forward to future selections.

Message Edited by Lathan on 12-28-2007 08:56 AM


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

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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

Access to public transportation is, of course, the big issue in most of this country. Within some big cities it's possible to get around without a car, but in most of the country, it simply isn't possible, and the population density simply doesn't allow public transportation to work.

The UK, for example, has a population density of 246 persons per square kilometer. The US has 31, and outside of our major cities the population density is far lower than that. It simply can't support public transit.

In my own case, if I didn't have a car my only access to the nearest store would be by a ten mile walk or bicycle ride over hilly terrain. There simply is no public transit, and there isn't nearly the population to support any sort of public transport.

It's a totally different living environment than in Europe.


Choisya wrote:
Congratulations for deciding to try life without a car Lathan - I know that for Americans that is a difficult decision as their liives seem to have been built around the motor car and the highway. Is public transport good where you are? Are you able to use a bicycle? I haven't driven for 20 years but public transport is good where I live - I am on a main train line and at the hub of many bus routes.

Have a wonderful, healthy holiday!






Lathan wrote:
Yes, certainly we can (and have a responsibility to be) better stewards of the planet. (On a related note, I'm trying my first year without a car.)

I must bow out for the holiday, but O Pioneers! was a great selection. Thanks to all for a lively discussion, to Rochelle for moderating, and best wishes to all in 2008. I look forward to future selections.

Message Edited by Lathan on 12-28-2007 08:56 AM



Message Edited by Choisya on 12-28-2007 09:44 AM


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Re: O Pioneers! -- Themes : 'We do not inherit the land...'

Lathan -- ventures like this one are helping make forgoing car ownership more feasible for American large city dwellers:

http://www.zipcar.com/index

The ability to rent for a couple of hours, as well as before the age of twenty-five without huge penalties, can be a real boon.

Everyman wrote:
Access to public transportation is, of course, the big issue in most of this country. Within some big cities it's possible to get around without a car, but in most of the country, it simply isn't possible, and the population density simply doesn't allow public transportation to work.

The UK, for example, has a population density of 246 persons per square kilometer. The US has 31, and outside of our major cities the population density is far lower than that. It simply can't support public transit.

In my own case, if I didn't have a car my only access to the nearest store would be by a ten mile walk or bicycle ride over hilly terrain. There simply is no public transit, and there isn't nearly the population to support any sort of public transport.

It's a totally different living environment than in Europe.

Choisya wrote:
Congratulations for deciding to try life without a car Lathan - I know that for Americans that is a difficult decision as their liives seem to have been built around the motor car and the highway. Is public transport good where you are? Are you able to use a bicycle? I haven't driven for 20 years but public transport is good where I live - I am on a main train line and at the hub of many bus routes.

Have a wonderful, healthy holiday!

Lathan wrote:
Yes, certainly we can (and have a responsibility to be) better stewards of the planet. (On a related note, I'm trying my first year without a car.)

I must bow out for the holiday, but O Pioneers! was a great selection. Thanks to all for a lively discussion, to Rochelle for moderating, and best wishes to all in 2008. I look forward to future selections.


"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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