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An Archetypal Analysis of O Pioneers!

Author ZhangZuoZuo
Tutor QinSuZuo
School Sichuan Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords O Pioneers! Frye biblical archetype quest-myth displacement
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
Downloads 330
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Willa Cather is a writer celebrated for her novels of the immigrant experience on the American frontier. She had lived in the Nebraska prairie for a long time, and her experiences there informed much of her work. O Pioneers!was published in 1913, with a vivid description of the pioneering life of the first generation Europeans. Alexandra as a real pioneer and the protagonist of the novel is staunch and intelligent. As regard to the close relationship between literature and culture as well as the influence of Christianity on the early American culture, this thesis is devoted to an archetypal analysis of O Pioneers!. With the support from Frye’s archetypal theory, various archetypes in the novel are traced back to the Bible, thus a better understanding of the novel in its cultural background can be achieved.This thesis comprises an“Introduction”, three chapters and a“Conclusion”. The“Introduction”gives a literary review of O Pioneers!, which is followed by a mentioning of the reason that I wrote this thesis. Chapter one gives an account of Frye’s archetypal theory of archetype, myth and romance. Furthermore, O Pioneers! is proved to be a romance because Alexandra, the protagonist possesses two characteristics that are features for romance. Displacement is used for the“the presence of a mythical structure in realistic fiction”(Frye 136). The displacement of the two concentric quest-myths in the Bible can be found in O Pioneers!. Alexandra is analogous to Joshua who succeeds Moses to take up the unaccomplished task and finally leads people into the Promised Land. Alexandra is the displaced mythical Messiah in the novel.Chapter two follows the conclusion of chapter one that Alexandra is the displaced Messiah and analyzes the Biblical archetypes represented in her, which include the archetype of creation, the archetype of sacrifice, the archetype of death and rebirth and the archetype of forgiveness. All these archetypes found in the protagonist can testify that Alexandra is a larger-than-life figure, a hero who is endowed with greater power than average people and has a sense of mission in her life,which is to lead her families and people to build a prosperous and beautiful homeland in the wilderness.Chapter three deals with the archetype of the Garden of Eden, which is the beginning as well as the destination of the quest-myths in the Bible. The Garden is identical with the Promised Land as they both refer to the place where God is with people and greatly blesses them. The Garden also implies the loss of Edenic innocence as Adam and Eve are driven out of the Garden after the Fall, which is the archetype for the story of Emil and Marie. The wish to build an earthly Garden and the yearning to return to the Garden in this pioneer novel also reflect human beings’wish to regain the original status as the people of God in the quest-myths.“Conclusion”is a summary of the thesis.

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