In the early pages of So Big we learn that So Big is the nickname of Dirk DeJong, a young man who has long outgrown the childhood name from his mother, Selina. At this point I figure that the novel would be about the title character, but So Big is really about his mother Selina. Selina takes a job as smalltown schoolteacher in Illinois knowing that in two years she will be eligible to work in a city school and be better paid (the novel is set in the late 1800's). In High Prairie Selina finds out that she is nothing like the hardworking and hard lives of the farmers and farming families of the town. High Prairie is an education for her and when she surprisingly marries one of the farmers her life is ultimately linked to the town and the farming life, one which she never would have anticipated. She hopes, of course, for a better life for her son and struggles to do the best she can for him.
So Big won the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and is a fine novel of argrarian literature. Edna Ferber does well in capturing the hard lives of the farmers without either idealizing their struggle nor demeaning their lives. Literature of this sort (such as A Thousand Acres, which also won the Pulitzer) is strangely appealing to me since I have no real ties to the farming life and have never worked on a farm, but when written well it comes across with great passion and compassion in a novel.