Describing the Business of Farming in O Pioneers! by Willa Silbert Cather
Willa Sibert Cather was born in Virginia, December 7, 1873. At the age of nine, Cather's family moved to Nebraska. Willa fell in love with the country, with the waste prairies of the Nebraska. In her life, Willa worked for different journals and magazines and received many honorary degrees, even the Pulitzer Prize. Her literary life was extremely influenced by her childhood in the wild country. In her life story, I actually didn't find any trace of doing a business relative to farming, or running a farm on her own. Therefore she doesn't seem to have practical experience with business of farming. Maybe that's why she describes it in a general way only, without any particulars.
The Cather's novel O Pioneers! gives us a realistic picture of people's life at the end of the nineteenth century. The new incomers, who settled the unfriendly countries of American continent, had very hard times. It was necessary for them to do whatever they were able to, to earn some money or to gain something to eat. As we can see in Cather's novel, many people were farming. But some of them were not farmers in their country of origin, they just started farming in the new home. Even though they knew nothing about it. Willa Cather describes a history of such people, a Norwegian immigrant family, the Bergsons.
The beginnings in the new world were very tough for the Bergson family. And the situation didn't seem to get better. They have met several misfortunes that have held their farming business back.
„One winter his cattle had perished in a blizzard. The next summer one of his plow horses broke its leg in a prairie-dog hole and had to be shot. Another summer he lost his hogs from cholera, and a valuable stallion died from a rattlesnake bite. Time and again his crops had failed. He had lost two children, boys, that came between Lou and Emil, and there had been the cost of sickness and death'
This is Cather's idea of what John Bergson had to fight against. It's clear, that the whole family felt discouraged and helpless when there was no success coming. They saw many people around them selling their land and giving the farming up. They were going to find their fortune somewhere else. After John Bergson died, his sons also wanted to give up and change the hard work on the infertile land for some job in a town. But Alexandra managed to persuade them to stay and keep their land. She was also the only one, who was able to make at least some business with eggs and butter. She decided to made a journey to more prosperous part of the country by the river to look for some better land and to see how the situation was there. She found out that there was no more free land to buy, but she came across a guy who told her there was a new kind of grain to appear soon. A grain that should be able to grow in a less fertile land.
I'm not sure if this information had some influence on what happened...