"O Pioneers" by Willa Cather

Essay by Mike ModanoA, January 1997

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Until the late eighteenth century, any land located beyond the Alleghany mountains

was believed to be savage, uninhabited land. Thus, it became known as the American

frontier. According to Turner, the definition of frontier means, 'the meeting point

between savagery and civilization and a region of sparse settlement.' 1 With the

overwhelming number of frontiersmen invading this uninhabited land, many myths about

winning the West arose, some containing truth, while others neglecting to tell the truth

about treatment of Indians. Many of these myths referred to them as being the victims of

white man's progress. In the short tale, O Pioneers, written by Willa Cather in 1913, tells

a tale of the oncoming future of the Great Plains. Although this tale tells about the great

fortune of the plains, it forgets to mention the heartaches of the Native Americans.

Willa Cather was born December 7 , 1873 in a town west of Winchester, Virginia.2

In 1884, the Cather's moved their four children to a town called Red Cloud in Nebraska

where they arrived to a place uninhabited, but with much fortune and hard work ahead of

them. 3 In 1890, Willa attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she gained the

knowledge and creativity to write such beautiful work. In her first works, Willa's

animosity towards Nebraska was relevant in her work. 4 After she went east in 1896 and

became editor of McClure's Magazine and gained success, her feeling toward Nebraska

changed, which was evident in 'The Bohemian Girl,' in 1912. 5

When she published O Pioneers in 1913, many of her memories of childhood and

life on the prairie were depicted in the tale. For example, a phrase in the tale O Pioneers is

a memoir of the Divide when she was a child:

'The variegated field,