Willa Cather said that O Pioneers was her first authentic novel, "the first time I walked off on my own feet-everything before was half real and half an imitation of writers whom I admired." Cather's novel of life on the Nebraska frontier established her reputation as a writer of great note and marked a significant turning point in her artistic development. No longer would she let literary convention guide the form of her writing; the materials themselves would dictate the structure. Cather's O Pioneers is the sentimental and somewhat controversial story of the Bergsons, a family of Swedish pioneers that settles for life on 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 solace and tragedy of forbidden love. A novel surprisingly ahead of its time, this protofeminist work touches on a wide range of enduring themes, including love, marriage, temptation, and isolation. Willa Cather (1873-1947) was born in Virginia; her family moved to Nebraska in 1883 and eventually settled in Red Cloud. After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1895, she returned to Red Cloud briefly before moving east to work on Home Monthly and eventually McClure's. Her first published books were the poetry collection April Twilights and the short-story collection The Troll Garden. O Pioneers is part of Cather's Prairie Trilogy, which includes The Song of the Lark and My Antonia, all available in Bison Books editions. In 1923 Cather received the Pulitzer Prize for her novel One of Ours."
University of Nebraska Press