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Cather’s sentimental and somewhat controversial novel tells the story of the Bergsons, a family of Swedish pioneers that settles for life in the American prairie. While Alexandra, the family matriarch, is able to turn the family farm into a financial success, her brother Emil must grapple with the tragedy of solace and forbidden love. A novel surprisingly ahead of its time, this proto-feminist work touches upon a wide range of themes, including love, marriage, temptation, and isolation.
year more come this way. They have their roads up there, as we have down here.” Emil rubbed his knees thoughtfully. “And is that true, Ivar, about the head ducks falling back when they are tired, and the hind ones taking their place?” “Yes. The point of the wedge gets the worst of it; they cut the wind. They can only stand it there a little while—half an hour, maybe. Then they fall back and the wedge splits a little, while the rear ones come up the middle to the front. Then it closes up and
her new pig corral. IV FOR THE FIRST THREE years after John Bergson’s death, the affairs of his family prospered. Then came the hard times that brought every one on the Divide to the brink of despair; three years of drouth and failure, the last struggle of a wild soil against the encroaching plowshare. The first of these fruitless summers the Bergson boys bore courageously. The failure of the corn crop made labor cheap. Lou and Oscar hired two men and put in bigger crops than ever before.
girls fell behind their aunt and peeped out at him from among the castor beans. The stranger came up to the gate and stood holding his hat in his hand, smiling, while Alexandra advanced slowly to meet him. As she approached he spoke in a low, pleasant voice. “Don’t you know me, Alexandra? I would have known you, anywhere.” Alexandra shaded her eyes with her hand. Suddenly she took a quick step forward. “Can it be!” she exclaimed with feeling; “can it be that it is Carl Linstrum? Why, Carl, it
I am to stay with him there and learn something about prospecting before we start north next year.” Lou looked skeptical. “Let’s see, how long have you been away from here?” “Sixteen years. You ought to remember that, Lou, for you were married just after we went away.” “Going to stay with us some time?” Oscar asked. “A few days, if Alexandra can keep me.” “I expect you’ll be wanting to see your old place,” Lou observed more cordially. “You won’t hardly know it. But there’s a few chunks of
December 1908 Jewett wrote Cather an extraordinary letter that would change her life. Responding to “On the Gull’s Road,” a short story Cather published in McClure’s, Jewett said she loved the story but found Cather’s use of a male narrator false. In another letter, written two weeks later, Jewett advised: “I cannot help saying what I think about your writing and its being hindered by such incessant, important, responsible work as you ... have now. You must find your own quiet center of life and