The author Willa Cather Sibert born on 1873 is an American writer, and one of the country's leading novelists. Here vigilantly skilled prose express dramatic pictures of the American landscape along with those people who were molded.
She was influenced by the writing style of the American regional writer Sarah Orne Jewett. However, she set many of her works in Nebraska and the American Southwest areas with which she was known from her childhood.
Comparison & Contrast of O, Pioneers with My Antonia
The analysis is done by covering briefly Cather's career prior to O Pioneer's and then My Antonia, comparison and contrast of the beginning and work of the novels, the details of the novels along weak points and strengths, about her characters in novels, her relation with the novels in terms of her life as how its related and parallel to her real life and finally close with a few simple critical observations.
Analysis of O, Pioneers:
The well-known line "The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman." narrates everything one needs to know about the novel O, Pioneers. The author Willa Cather has given a touching, moving, emotional and an influential masterpiece, which at the same time is an ideal example of her delicate creativity.
In this dramatic departure, Cather has chosen the modest, poor settlers of the prairie as her theme instead of writing about the more powerful members of society. Thus, she sheds a an exclusive light on the history of a nation by exploring the heart of a pioneer woman and the lives of her family.
The origins of O Pioneers, like in all of Cather's novels, are found in the experiences of her youth. Thus, here pioneering had by tradition been vision as a type of a battle between the land and its defeaters but rather this novel takes an intense, mythological approach to the subject where the is no conquering hero, who is battling savages and restraining nature, instead the author has written on a woman, who tames the beast with her love and intelligence.
The leading character of Cather's novel, Alexandra Bergson, has one great desire, which is not another human, but the great, unconquered prairie. The novel reveals her story after her father's death where she has to manage of the family farm. Although her brothers were ready to give up by returning to life of city, but it was she who thought what is required by a new world is a new way of thinking. As described by Cather, Alexandra's feelings toward the land appears to be a love story, with the land personified as the beloved:
For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich strong and glorious. Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before." (Pg: 44)
This great story of pioneering that has been put together is the very human tragedy that also plays the story between Alexandra's brother, Emil, and the Bohemian girl, Marie. Here the author gives the portrayal of sweet and compassionate relationship of the lovers and their predicament rejected to make a villain of any participant.
The stumbles and falls of its individual inhabitants balance the great strides taken in colonizing the new land. Still the author does not leave its emotions disheartened by human flaws, instead gives optimistic feelings by the strength of those who try to conquer, and the stability of the new life they make as Cather remarked: "We come and go, but the land is always there."
She however, ends her novel by saying of her and her beloved land;
Fortunate country that is one day to receive hearts like Alexandra's into its bosom, to give them out again in the yellow wheat, in the rustling corn, in the shining eyes of youth!" (Pg: 210).
Thus, the book offers an insight into the hearts that initially shapes the life one takes for granted while the pioneers of nation work a great labor of love, as recaptured passion by Cather in a tribute worthy of their sacrifice.
Furthermore, in the novel, the reader can sense the author's significance of form that was fragile, and depended mostly on the preconscious form of dedication instead of sensitive architectural design. Thus, the passion that formed her best work was for the land, called the Nebraska prairies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and as well as for the women and men who respected and valued the land and even made great efforts to change it from a undisciplined grassland into the most productive grain-producing region of the world.
Another difference is that the first thing Cather explored was the conflict between demands of career and the desire in order to remain attached to one's roots. Though this was not completely satisfactory in itself, yet it was an essential preparation for the successful treatment of her novel My Antonia. While on the other hand, the second thing was her exploration that was highlighted in O Pioneers was an expression of her destruction over the losses of life and artistic talent that was due to the World War. These emotions and feelings of her experience was though heart-felt, and emotionally moving even today, yet it still fails to reach the levels of typical experience realized in O Pioneers and My Antonia especially.
Had it not been Cather born in Nebraska, the land and its people would perhaps not have played such a valuable role in her work. It was when her father moved the family there in 1883, she spent first nine years of her life in the gentle, long-settled farming region of northwestern Virginia, and found the raw prairies of south-central Nebraska as an exposure where her encounter with the new land was deep and even shocking. Thus, it was this land and its people that made her write this novel
She sensed that these strong people and the land they cultivated would provide the materials of her best work, for her early efforts in fiction in order to capture their lives but found her hard work unsatisfactory.
There are however, some weak areas as compare to My Antonia such as few of the scenes that were forced and clumsily handled. Furthermore, more often the dialogue is unnatural, which is not as true as the natural speech of My Antonia and even her later work does. Like, Alexandra's brothers Lou and Oscar were borrowed from turn-of-the-century melodrama. While on the other hand, the love story of Emil and Marie is not fully convincible and so does not attain the tragic effect that Cather planned and tried to project. However, as a whole the novel is really moving.
Coming to her main character, Alexandra Bergson, Cather tried to communicate through her the love of the land and her concern for the happiness, welfare and self-respect of her fellow creatures. Moreover, the holiness of landscape is brought to mind with mystical and divine intensity. In addition, the survival, energy, and hopefulness of the pioneers is portrayed without over-romanticizing where Crazy Ivar has been depicted as a good minor character that Cather ever described.
According to her, in terms of reflecting on her own life, and in comparison to My Antonia she considers O Pioneers the work that started her career as a novelist. Though, My antonia proved to be the greater book, yet O Pioneers was the most pleasurable for her to write where the merging of two stories into a usual, organic whole exposed to her a method of germination as well as growth which she perfect in My antonia.
Thus, the publication of O Pioneers was one of the most important events in her career that set the direction of her following work and gained her first important critical appreciation; therefore, she held a devoted affection for this "first novel" throughout her life.
Analysis of My Antonia:
In My antonia, Cather's leading character is male, Jim Burden though whom she describes the experience best. The novel describes the land as the huge sky, with the never-ending plains, and the vast sun reminds a pantheistic and yielding response in the young boy where he feels the individual ego reduces and combines with something much bigger.
As said by Jim Burden, "what would be," similarly, Cather found the settlers of pioneers captivating about their stories, vitality and their self-respect. The land as illustrated in contrast to O Pioneers first seems to be flat and dull that later proves to provide everlasting differences on the theme of fertility. But no mater how far the author roams across the globe, she always comes back to the Nebraska prairies and her best days of her youth.