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Literature and management (4). How to face a changing world


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Javier de Navascués

Lecturer at School of Philosophy and Letters

Willa Cather (1873-1947) is one of the great American storytellers of the early twentieth century. Much of her work is devoted to recalling the building of the Midwest through the lives of the common people who came from Europe to settle those lands. Pioneers (1913), one of his earliest and best novels, tells the story of a Swedish immigrant family in rural Nebraska in the early 20th century. The work has five distinct parts that mark the process of overcoming staff of the protagonist, Alexandra Bergson, and her becoming a leader of her community. In the first, The Wilderness, the death of John, the protagonist's father, leaves her family in a very complicated status . The climate is harsh and the land infertile. The farm does not produce results and there is a lack of minimum sustenance for Alexandra, her mother and her three brothers. But where men fail, women succeed. Alexandra decides to take charge of her household and assumes the role of the father. From then on, her resistance to difficulties, her capacity of work and her progressive knowledge of nature allow her to overcome the problems throughout the years.

However, his determination is not blind. On the contrary, he listens to everyone and decides above preconceived ideas. That is why she does not hesitate to ask committee to Ivar, an old man with a reputation for his unorthodox views on things. At that moment Alexandra's specific problem may seem trivial to us: she wants to know what she can do so that the pigs do not die, as happens on the neighboring farms. Ivar warns her that she must provide hygiene for the animals with some very simple advice. Alexandra follows them and checks the positive result . From this point on, in the face of the dominant opinion and the attitude of her brothers, hers will always follow a patron saint: study the status, use the available resources and move forward. This is what a good leader is all about. "A pioneer had to have imagination, he had to enjoy the idea of things, more than the things themselves," says the story.

Three years of drought discourage many in the region. His friend Carl has already decided to move his family to the city. His siblings are of the same opinion. But Alexandra chooses not to give up and to apply her imagination to the long term deadline. Once again, she looks around and takes good grade that the rich people in the area are buying up land. She returns, therefore, to learn how to deal with the problems and, after visiting a good issue of farms and receiving talks from one and all, it becomes clear to her how she should profit from hers. Her brothers, at first, resist her decisions, but, confident in the authority that her role in the family has given her and her thoughtful way of facing challenges, they trust her.

In the second part, Campos colindantes, we already know the result of his work. Sixteen years later the farm has prospered. Alexandra is a middle-aged woman, the brothers ask her committee for anything and little Emil has been able to continue his programs of study. The economic crisis that was looming over the family has disappeared and Alexandra looks serenely at the future. Her land is worth money. Little by little the storm clouds have cleared. The view extends beyond the family environment and the reader gets to know the society in which she is integrated. A society based on cultural heterogeneity: the Bohemian, Swedish, Irish and French neighbors have to understand each other within a new framework , that of the land they are all preparing to populate. And it is nature that becomes the settler's home, the hard and difficult soil in which, if someone persists, he can prosper.

The third and fourth parts, Winter Memories and The Mulberry Tree, continue the focus outside Alexandra's immediate circle. The tragic story of her friend Marie and her brother Emil contrasts with the emerging love between Alexandra and Carl. The fifth and final part, titled after the heroine's name, is the culmination. The drama surrounding Alexandra, which we only sketch here, ends with her reconciliation with the culprit. Only when the balance has been restored, the fullness is reached staff. It is she herself, at last, who, after having lived for others, will have her chance. As a leader she has imposed general interests on her own, but this cannot go on forever. It is time to found her own family.

Narrated with classic simplicity, Pioneers encapsulates much of Willa Cather's narrative universe. Other works of hers that came later present Structures more complex, but in almost all cases there is a protagonist facing a world in transformation. However, it is in this novel where we understand in a clearer and more sustained way the assumptions of a settler society founded on values such as initiative, resistance and leadership within a family environment.