O PIONEERS FINAL PAPER

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Nariman Muldashev
American Literature Essay
Relationship between an individual and the society

The Relationship between an individual and society has played a significant role in the American history. Waves of diverse communities have come here in the Colonial Regime, early 19th century and a period between 1880s and 1920s. People of various nations, religions, ethnicities moved here seeking prosperity and freedom. In “O Pioneers!” Willa Cather depicts the struggle of European immigrants in the Mid-West in their pursuit of happiness. In famous American gangster films like “The Godfather II” and “Once Upon A Time in America” we can see how “the Land of Opportunities” affected the mindsets of foreigners in the cities. In these works, the farmers chase the idealistic American Dream as opposed to the urban criminals who pursue their selfish goals. In the end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century, a stream of immigrants from Northern and Western Europe flowed to the United States: mostly Germans and Irish but there was also a significant number of Scandinavian newcomers. Many of them moved to the Mid-West looking for a better life. In the novel “O Pioneers!”, all of the main events take place in Nebraska, where Willa Cather grew up. In her work, she depicted various immigrant communities that inhabited the place. But mainly she showed appreciation for living in this rigorous region – the land of hope, optimism and determination. “Freedom so often means that one isn’t needed anywhere. Here you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed. But off there in the cities there are thousands of rolling stones like me. We are all alike; we have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing. When one of us dies, they scarcely know where to bury him…We sit in restaurants and concert halls and look about at the hundreds of our own kind and shudder.” (Part 2, Chapter 4, Page 47). Here Cather presents living in a rural area to be superior to urban. In the novel “O Pioneers!” Willa Cather brought the concept of human vs. society by making the land of the Divide the main character of the story. The wild land wanted to be let alone to preserve her uninterrupted beauty. Many farmers attempted to tame the land but failed. “The concluding line of the excerpt, "She had not the least spark of cleverness," speaks directly to the anti-intellectualism of the era. English author Samuel Smiles wrote a popular work, Self-Help, first published in 1859, in which genius, native talent, and intellect were minimized, and the moral qualities of hard work and persistence were emphasized”. The scholar mentions that during this era of anti-intellectualism people were expected to devote their lives to labor and hard work rather than getting involved into politics or higher education. Indeed, that was the main concept of the famous American Dream, according to which, the only way for farmers to succeed was to work on the plains to provide for their country. When the whole country prospers – its citizens prosper too. Lou, Oscar and John Bergson failed on their task to cultivate the Divide. Alexandra, on the other hand, took another approach and devoted herself fully to the land. Similar to the gods from the Greek Mythology, the Divide appeared as a character of high power and had a significant impact on individuals. “We hadn’t any of us much to do with it, Carl. The land did it. It had its little joke. It pretended to be poor because nobody knew how to work it right; and then, all at once, it worked itself…” (Part 2, Chapter 4, Page 45). However in order to achieve prosperity in the region the land required sacrifices to be made – that is what determined full submission. In Iliad Agamemnon decided to sacrifice his own daughter to achieve victory in the upcoming battle. First of all Alexandra had to sacrifice her youth to provide for her family and fulfill her father’s last wish. “I’d rather have...
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