Willa Cather's book "O`Pioneers!" takes place on the Divide of Nebraska and uses the location as a theme throughout the novel. In this paper I will be tracing different aspects of this theme throughout the novel. The novel contains many different aspects involving every character in this book. Whether it's Ivar and his traditional "old world values", or Emil representing the "new world values", there are many different aspects of comparing and contrasting in this novel. There are rich and poor people, educated and not, feminism and sexism, I will be covering all aspects presented in this novel.
Ivar was a character in this book that represented old world values. Ivar lived a life that went along easily with his old world values. When we were first introduced to him, he was described as living far from anyone. He had a house next to the river where he would see all different types of birds. "Ivar found contentment in the solitude he had sought out for himself. He disliked the litter of human dwellings: the broken food, the bits of broken china, the old wash-boilers and tea kettles thrown into the sunflower patch. He preferred the cleanness and tidiness of the wild sod" (41). He would become attached to those birds and have a heart for them. The book also made it be known that he was a "God fearing" man who read his Bible religiously.
Later on during the book, when he was living with Alexandra, it seems his old world values weren't being accepted. Alex's two brother, Lou and Oscar, wanted Ivar to be put into an asylum. They thought he was crazy for having "visions" and they keep telling Alexandra that he will one day snap and attack her. They also state that the townspeople know that Ivar is living with Alex, and it'll only be time until they rally together to turn him in.
Ivar and Alexandra don't see the big deal and don't understand why his values are being so ridiculed. He is just an old fellow living like he always has. He would tell Alexandra this is how all the people would act where he was from. It's all he has known and it was never questioned until now. Overall, Ivar's once thought to be normal values are for some reason not being tolerable at this time in the book. It is because people were not use to seeing people act the way he did and the only conclusion they could come up with is that he was crazy. It clearly states in the book many times that Ivar is different and the towns people will not accept him.
Emil, Carl, and Alexandra represent a mix of both new and old world values. Although Emil was born and raised on the Divide of Nebraska, we find that he would later set himself free and break away from the "norm". In the beginning of the book he was stuck to live in his hometown. Although, once he reaches his twenty's, we find that he has gone away to school and graduated college. He was an athlete that always wanted to travel and do something with his life. Alex also encouraged Emil to go to college because she knew how important it would be. He could experience things that life throws him and he will also receive an education. He would be the first to have a college degree in his family. He knew the farm life was something he did not want to do, and he demonstrated going out and not living the typical farm boy's life.
Carl also was born and raised on the Divide, but would later find himself breaking away. He was a childhood friend of Alexandra's but later left with his family. He was gone from the town for a few good years and later came back as a trader.
Alexandra also was using a mix of new and used world values by doing new techniques of farming. She would go down and meet new people and find out new farming techniques. She didn't just do the usual routine, and her perseverance paid off. She was the one that brought farming back successfully with the planting of the alfalfa. Those were some of the characters in the book that showed a mix of new and old world...