Alexandra Bergman in Willa Cather’s O Pioneers
Works Cited Not Included
Alexandra Bergman’s lack of self awareness allows others to forget that she is a woman and, at times, even human, which continuously builds the wall of isolation that surrounds her. As a result, when she reacts to situations as a woman would, rather than as “she” should, those around her don’t know what to make of it. Because she has been such a steady influence for so many years, those around her do not understand that perhaps she did have another dream besides working the land that she seems to care so deeply about. Her brothers in particular are unable to comprehend that Alexandra is a woman and was forced into the life she has lead by their father’s fantasy rather than by her own free will. Perhaps the only people who truly understand her dilemma are Ivar and Carl. Ivar is a “natural man” and a religious mystic and Carl a man who was unable to make a living from the land– neither is respected by their peers, and yet they have some sort of insight to Alexandra’s heart that even she has failed to acknowledge. Alexandra’s walls are brought down only by love: love of her youngest brother, love of the land, and the return of the childhood love she thought was lost to her– as these loves begin to change her, her outlook on her entire life begins to change and meld into something that only those who actually know who and what she is recognize: a woman.
Although Alexandra begins working the land to fulfill her father’s dying wish, no one in her early life ever realizes that perhaps she had other dreams and other wishes. “You feel that, properly, Alexandra’s house is the big out-of-doors, and that it is in the soil that she expresses herself best,” and although this is without a doubt true, it became true because farming is all she has ever known– she never had a single chance to broaden her horizons past the endless fields of Nebraska. (50) Her family assumes that she is happy... or perhaps they give it no thought at all. Lou and Oscar have always seen her as the provider rather than as their sister, and because they are the family who are around the most, their views have the most influence on Alexandra’s self-image, which is therefore reduced to a simple person and worker. They never, ever think of their sister as a sister and a woman– she is simply Alexandra, with all that implies in their community: namely, money and success, neither of which are thought of as particularly feminine qualities. She is Alexandra, the one “who read the papers and followed the markets, learning from the mistakes of their neighbors.” (14) Thus, when she begins to court the idea of marrying Carl, they are completely taken aback because all they can think about is that Carl might inherit the land that is “theirs.” During the conversation between Alexandra, Lou, and Oscar, Lou exclaims, “Don’t you know he’d hold of your property?... Our property, our homestead?”like Alexandra was too...