Category Archives: Cather

Cather Steinbeck

Cather’s O Pioneers! and the "Old Story"

“And now the old story has begun to write itself over there. Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.”

Earlier this month, I blogged on Willa Cather’s novel O Pioneers! about the immigrant farming experience. How interesting to continue reading along and come to a sentence similar to one in another past blog, John Steinbeck’s epic book East of Eden. Steinbeck writes there is only one story — the fight between good and evil. Cather’s “old story” is that farming families stay on their land repeating traditions and continuing the struggle for survival, generation after generation. I’d like to hope we learn from past evil and past struggles rather than going through life like Sisyphus, forever destined to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to watch it fall down again. Tell me Steinbeck and Cather are “wrong!”


Cather’s O Pioneers!

“The rattle of her wagon was lost in the howling of the wind, but her lantern, held firmly between her feet, made a moving point of light along the highway, going deeper and deeper into the dark country.”

If you assume from this sentence that Alexandra is a strong young woman, then you’d be right. In Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, she writes of the immigrant farming experience in the plains states. The wind may be howling but Alexandra remains a bright light in the dark.

Cather is known for her novels depicting this unique period in American history. I think she’s a must-read to understand the frontier life. After all, she was honored on a postage stamp!