“O Pioneers!” Essay, Research Paper
American Idealism in “O Pioneers!”
One of the foundations of America and one of the things that make America great
is it’s idealism. Immigrants made their way to America with the attitude that they could
start out with nothing and become successful. An example of one such person is
Alexandra Bergson in the book “O Pioneers!” by Willa Cather. Alexandra exemplified
American Idealism in this book by her stubborn attitude in the things she believed in.
Alexandra believed that she and her brothers could succeed where her father
hadn’t. John Bergson worked hard till he died to give his children a chance to be
successful in life. Just before he died, he asked Alexandra to become the head of the
house, “Alexandra, you will have to do the best you can for your brothers. Everything
will come on you.” Even after learning that Carl and his family were leaving after the
three years of bad farming, and Lou and Oscar were talking of leaving too, she managed
to keep her belief in the land, “Some day the land itself will be worth more than all we
can ever raise on it.” She felt that by taking a chance, they could become rich, “Down
there they have a little certainty, but up with us there is a big chance.”
Alexandra was very much an idealist when it came to her acquisition of the land.
In direct defiance of common sense, Alexandra decided to stick with a land that was
seemingly barren and unfruitful. Just after her father had paid off the loans he needed to
buy the land, and the family was barely making out, Alexandra was ready to get back
into debt by mortgaging the homestead. Her brothers felt very strongly about this.
“Mortgage the homestead again? I won’t slave to pay off another mortgage. I’ll never do
it. You’d just as soon kill us all,” was Lou’s response. Still, Alexandra had a feeling
about the land, a belief in it that gave her courage and reassurance, “When you drive
about over the country you can feel it coming.”
Even after Frank Shabata had killed his wife and Emil, Alexandra had a belief in
him that he didn’t mean to harm them. She said to Frank, “I understand how you did it. I
don’t feel hard toward you. They were more to blame than you.” She did not blame
Frank for what he did, but in fact blamed herself, saying that she forced them to be
together, not thinking that anything bad could come of it. She even said she would try to
get a pardon from the governor to release Frank.
People came and still do come to America with the notion that they can make a
great life for themselves with little or nothing at the beginning. Alexandra Bergson is the
perfect example of American Idealism. And while some don’t succeed, Alexandra
Bergson’s idealistic actions and risk taking are perhaps what allowed her to prosper.