In Willa Cather's writing the effect of Trancendentalism is terribly apparent. The way she writes about nature and how she treats right and wrong in her book O Pioneers! are extreemly similar to the Trancendentalist philosophies on those same issues. The writers of that time period, most specifically Emerson, must have been very influential to Cather.
The book O Pioneers! is about a family's attempts at happiness in the wild Nebraska frontier. Despite the incredible hardships she has to face, the main character, Alexandra, has a deep love for the wild prarie, and at the end of the book when she is worn out with life and feeling as though she will never be free again she returns to her home after a short visit to the city. She then says that she feels at peace with the world when she is in her open country (Cather). This is very similar to the Trancendentalist theory that nature is the place where a person can return to purity. Emerson wrote that nature is the model of morality and supported this theory with the fact that many stories illustrating good morals deal with nature (Wayne).
Another aspect of Cather's writing that is similar to Trancendentalis is her view of right and wrong. When Marie and Emil are killed together by Marie's husband for being lovers, she paints the most beautiful picture of a pair of deaths that anyone could imagine. Honestly, a person would be very hard pressed indeed to think of a better way to die. She does not write of their sin or lack of morality, but instead writes of their love for each other (Cather). The Trancendentalists did not put so much stress on the accepted right or wrong actions, but on what an individual thinks is right (Emerson). This is similar to Cather's treatment of ethics because althought what the two lovers did was wrong by conventional standards, she does not write of it as if it were so.
Cather, Willa. "O Pioneers!, by Willa Cather. Read It Now for Free! (Homepage)." Page By Page Books. Read Classic Books Online, Free. Web. 18 Feb. 2012. http://www.pagebypagebooks.com/Willa_Cather/O_Pioneers/index.html.
Emerson, Ralph. "Self-Reliance." Ralph Waldo Emerson Texts. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.
Wayne, Tiffany K. "Nature." Critical Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson: A
Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Chelsea
House Publishing, 2010. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc.
Web. 15 Feb. 2012.