Read Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! (1913)
In this work we will examine the American Dream with an eye to gender. Do women dare to dream too, and what are those dreams? How do they compare with those of men? In this country, women have achieved a measure of equality not common in many parts of the world. How unusual was Alexandra for her place and time? How did the actions of women like her pave the way for the “equality” for women that we see materializing?
In O Pioneers! we connect with another aspect of the American Dream, and that is the American romance with the land. In the past, Americans have explored and conquered the vast lands of the South, Midwest, and West. If you had failed in one place, you could always pick up and move on to start again. This was true in “the old days” but is it still true? Do we still feel like we can start again in a new place? Do we still seek to own our own piece of land?
Week 3 — Who is Alexandra and what is her Dream? Does she attain it?
Walt Whitman, the famous American poet who wrote during the Civil War and into the late 1800s, created a poem called Pioneers! O Pioneers! That Willa Cather would be familiar with this work is certain. You can access this poem and photographs that seem to go with the verses on YouTube at the address below. It will take you about 6 minutes to listen to this poem.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hWeTaL4ovI (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
What observations can you make about this poem? What does it have to do with Cather’s book? What are the qualities celebrated in Whitman’s imaginative work? He was writing mostly from his home in New York City, so he would be more familiar with Ragged Dick than he would have been with the types pictured here. What is he saying about the American Dream? Do women have a part in this dream?
According to Emerson, would we consider Alexandra an example of a self-reliant person? What is Alexandra’s American Dream, exactly? By the end of the book, has she realized it? What is the key to Alexandra’s success? Compare what’s “key” for her and what is key for Ragged Dick or for Emerson to Alexandra.
**** What does this book say about women, their status, and their opportunities? How important is and has gender been in pursuing and seizing the American Dream? What does the relationship between Alexandra and her field hand brothers say about gender? What is wrong with Alexandra’s suitor, Carl, in the world of the Great Plains farms? Would he get the same kind of criticism today?
In “The American Nightmare” by Lauren Sandler, we see a different take on women and the American dream. Indeed, Sandler is not exactly a fan of the way things have been going, as she sees it. What is her take on the American dream? In her opinion, what are we doing wrong and why? Sandler says we need to have a discussion about what matters. What does matter, according to her article? What matters according to you? How would Alexandra view Sandler’s ideas? Remember that Alexandra has no children, no marriage, no education, and really, no family? What would she say about the state of the nuclear family as analyzed by Sandler?
Develop a topic, write, and submit ESSAY #1,
Use direct references to Kamp’s text, to Emerson’s work from the first week, and from Alger’s Ragged Dick and/or Oh Pioneers! Be sure to have a main idea that you would like to discuss, based on your readings and/or upon the discussion boards from these last three weeks. I will be looking for that thesis statement in your opening paragraph.
For instance, you might be struck by Ragged Dick’s self restraint as he goes forward in his life. Currency conversion shows that $5 dollars he got would be about $88 today. He doesn’t spend it all though, does he? What is Alger telling us about how money should be spent, exactly? What is the relation of frugal behavior to successfully fullfilling a dream? What does self restraint take, exactly?
You might consider how Alexandra is treated as a successful female among the people of her tightly bound immigrant community. When her father selects her for the head of the household upon his death, he basically remakes her future. How does her life change and why? Can Alexandra pursue the American Dream, once given these responsibilities? Can she attain it? Can any woman?
Emerson tells us that imitation is suicide. Each of us must pursue our own dreams based on our beliefs, talents, and curiosities. It’s as if we are riding in that plane when the oxygen mask drops down to us and we are told we must fit it over our own mouth and nose before helping anyone else. This indicates self love but also a sort of selfishness. Equate Emerson’s idea to characters we are reading and thinking about.
This short paper should be about 750 words in length, double-spaced, and well organized. There is a word count available in Word. If you are not using word, this translates to about two and a quarter pages.
This work is due at midnight on Sunday night and it will automatically go through turnitin.com, so be sure to properly cite your sources using APA documentation. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
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