"I will go no farther!": reluctant pioneer women in fiction and reality

Date
1986-05-30
Authors
Jagoe, Ann Spotswood
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Abstract

The female protagonists in The Wind by Dorothy Scarborough and Giants in the Earth by Ole Edvart Rolvaag present a realistic view of women participating in the westering experience in nineteenth-century America. Both Letty and Beret are strong characterizations of the reluctant pioneer. Many women were very reluctant to move west, and many who did so were traumatized by their westering experience. It is important to understand that it was principally men who responded to the lure of the West: the promise of a better life, economic independence, and the prospect of wealth. The need to understand and know the relationship of women and the westering experience has emerged in this second half of the twentieth century; and diaries, letters, and personal narratives are rich sources to use for making discoveries about daily life on the frontier. By viewing Letty and Beret in terms of their abilities to cope with their separation from known culture, their isolation enforced by geography and climate, and the lack of supportive female companionship in their lives, similarities can be seen and comparisons can be drawn between the novels. A comparison of these two characters and the personal accounts of real women undergoing the American westering experience makes clear that Letty and Beret were based in reality.

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Language, Literature, Linguistics
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