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My Ántonia, by Willa Cather, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

“No romantic novel ever written in America . . . is one half so beautiful as My Ántonia.” —H. L. Mencken

Widely recognized as Willa Cather’s greatest novel, My Ántonia is a soulful and rich portrait of a pioneer woman’s simple yet heroic life. The spirited daughter of Bohemian immigrants, Ántonia must adapt to a hard existence on the desolate prairies of the Midwest. Enduring childhood poverty, teenage seduction, and family tragedy, she eventually becomes a wife and mother on a Nebraska farm. A fictional record of how women helped forge the communities that formed a nation, My Ántonia is also a hauntingly eloquent celebration of the strength, courage, and spirit of America’s early pioneers.

Gordon Tapper is Assistant Professor of English at DePauw University. He is the author of The Machine That Sings: Modernism, Hart Crane, and the Culture of the Body, from Routledge.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593082024
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 7/1/2004
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 37,648
  • Product dimensions: 8.02 (w) x 5.28 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Gordon Tapper is Assistant Professor of English at DePauw University. He is the author of The Machine That Sings: Modernism, Hart Crane, and the Culture of the Body, from Routledge.


Wilella Sibert Cather was born on December 7, 1873, in the small Virginia farming community of Winchester. When she was ten years old, her parents moved the family to the prairies of Nebraska, where her father opened a farm mortgage and insurance business. Home-schooled before enrolling in the local high school, Cather had a mind of her own, changing her given name to Willa and adopting a variation of her grandmother's maiden name, Seibert, as her middle name.

During Cather's studies at the University of Nebraska, she worked as a drama critic to support herself and published her first piece of short fiction, "Peter," in a Boston magazine. After graduation, her love of music and intellectual pursuits inspired her to move to Pittsburgh, where she edited the family magazine Home Monthly, wrote theater criticism for the Pittsburgh Daily Leader, and taught English and Latin in local high schools. Cather's big break came with the publication of her first short story collection, The Troll Garden (1905). The following year she moved to New York City to work for McClure's Magazine as a writer and eventually the magazine's managing editor.

Considered one of the great figures of early-twentieth-century American literature, Willa Cather derived much of her inspiration from the American Midwest, which she considered her home. Never married, she cherished her many friendships, some of which she had maintained since childhood. Her intimate coterie of women writers and artists motivated Cather to produce some of her best work. Sarah Orne Jewett, a successful author from Maine whom Cather had met during her McClure's years, inspired her to devote herself full-time to creating literature and to write about her childhood, which she did in several novels of the prairies. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for her novel about World War I, called One of Ours.

She won many other awards, including a gold medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Prix Femina Americaine. On April 24, 1947, two years after publishing her last novel, Willa Cather died in New York City of a cerebral hemorrhage. Among Cather's other accomplishments were honorary doctorate degrees from Columbia, Princeton, and Yale Universities.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of O, Pioneers!.

Good To Know

When Cather first arrived at the University of Nebraska, she dressed as William Cather, her opposite sex twin.

Cather was the first woman voted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame, in 1961.

She spent forty years of her life with her companion, Edith Lewis, in New York City.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Wilella Sibert Cather (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 7, 1873
    2. Place of Birth:
      Winchester, Virginia
    1. Date of Death:
      April 27, 1947
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Read an Excerpt

From Gordon Tapper's Introduction to My Ántonia

In one of Jewett's most important letters to Cather, she addresses the relationship between fiction and its autobiographical sources in words that would resonate deeply with the narrative design of My Ántonia. Jewett was concerned that Cather had not yet learned to see her "backgrounds . . . from the outside,—you stand right in the middle of each of them when you write, without having the standpoint of the looker-on" (quoted in Lee, p. 22). In My Ántonia, Cather makes just this kind of effort to see her experience "from the outside" by inventing Jim Burden, the transformed version of herself who serves as the first-person narrator. In addition to giving Jim many of her own experiences, Cather sets him on a journey into his past that echoes the imaginative reconstruction of her own childhood. In the introduction that establishes the narrative framework for My Ántonia, we learn that Jim is a very successful middle-aged man—"legal counsel for one of the great Western railways"—living in New York. Like Cather, who also lived most of her adult life in Manhattan, he is therefore geographically and culturally remote from his small-town origins. As Jewett suggested, Cather's appreciation for her provincial "parish" would be made possible by her knowledge of the wider world, and Cather places Jim in a similar position. But if Jim represents a fictional alter ego who allows Cather to observe her own return to the past from the "standpoint of the looker-on," Cather begins the novel by very explicitly distinguishing herself from her narrator.

Cather revisits her Nebraska childhood in several of her early novels, but it is only in My Ántonia that she creates an intriguing dialogue between herself and one of her characters, which occurs in a brief introductory section of the novel. Instead of writing from the point of view of Jim, as she does everywhere else in the novel, Cather adopts the voice of a first-person narrator who meets Jim by chance aboard a train. Although she never names this speaker, Cather suggests that it is yet another version of herself, since she very unobtrusively reveals that the narrator is both a woman and an experienced writer. (In order to distinguish Cather the author from this female narrator, who never reappears in the novel proper, many critics refer to the narrator as "Cather.") The narrator and Jim are old friends who grew up together in a small Nebraska town, and during their reminiscences they talk fondly of Ántonia, who "seemed to mean to us the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of our childhood".

Although Jim and the narrator agree that Ántonia somehow embodies the essence of their childhood, their individual relationships to her differ in several critical ways. Unlike the narrator, who has lost touch with her, Jim has reestablished a close friendship with Ántonia. When Jim expresses his surprise that the narrator has "never written anything about Ántonia," the narrator confesses that she had never known Ántonia as well as he had. The two then agree that they will both try recording their memories of this "central figure" of their past. Jim cautions, however, that he is not a practiced writer (implying that "Cather" is) and will therefore have to write about Ántonia "in a direct way, and say a great deal about myself. It's through myself that I knew and felt her". In response, the narrator draws attention to the distinction between their male and female perspectives:

I told him that how he knew her and felt her was exactly what I
most wanted to know about Ántonia. He had had opportunities that I, as
a little girl who watched her come and go, had not.

On one level, the narrator is simply trying to reassure Jim that there is nothing wrong with writing about himself in the process of remembering Ántonia, but Cather also seems to be offering an indirect justification for adopting a male persona in her novel. Behind the essentially transparent mask of "Cather" the narrator, Cather the author is asserting that the female perspective of "a little girl" will not do Ántonia justice, because it does not allow her to understand Ántonia as the object of someone's desire. Cather thought of Ántonia as her heroine, yet she gives the reader very little access to Ántonia's inner life, which is only conveyed secondhand through Jim's perspective. By allowing Jim to control the narrative, Cather distances the reader from Ántonia, but it is precisely because Cather wants to imagine a man's feelings for Ántonia that she wrote the novel from a man's point of view.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 229 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 231 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 26, 2010

    Top 10 American novel published during 20th century

    Since contemporary novels seldom draw me in and retain my interest past the first 60 pages, I sometimes pursue the bookstore for quality classic literature that I have yet to read. Thanks B&N for including Willa Cather's My Antonia in your Classic Series. Although relatively well-educated and well-read, I discovered this novel when browsing in-store. Cather's story-telling style and vivid descriptions transported me to a different time and place while her character development prompted me to continue reading. The quality of the story made it a page-turner and one of the two novels I have enjoyed reading most in the last 10 years.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:


    This dynamic novel does what too many contemporary novels fail to do- it portrays heartbreakingly authentic characters without drowning the reader in nonessential details. This style of writing allows the story to become personal to the reader as he or she subconsciously fills the unexpressed components with his or her own unique thought process. As the principal character discovers his own personal "patria" {home, or rather, home of the heart} the reader cannot help but to reflect upon their own "patria". Perhaps this, out of many other contributing factors, was the most essential element in creating this American masterpiece. With a flawlessly imperfect setting and ruggedly realist situations, Miss Cather's writing simply jumps off the page and captures the very mind, heart, and soul of the reader.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Where has this book been all my life?!

    I will read this book over and over, every 5 years or so. The writing style (may I please call it lyrical?) is beautiful, separate and apart from the story-line. And the story-line complements the style. I was never bored. I never felt hurried reading this. I was sorry when I got to the end of the book. It is an experience, a journey, with a satisfactory ending, totally unexpected, but 'just right'. I learned a lot about this time period, but mostly, I fell in love with the characters and the story. And I keep musing about what might come next if the author had kept writing...

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2006

    A MPHS reviewer

    Willa Cather¿s My Antonia is a timeless masterpiece in literature. The coming of age story of Jim Burden is told in a way that allows the book to withstand the ages of time. The setting, plot, and theme of the story along with other elements give the story a depth, and realness, that few novels achieve. My Antonia tells the story of Jim Burden as he grows up on his grandparents¿ farm in Nebraska around the turn of the century. Embedded in the story line of this novel are many literary themes. The coming of age story with Jim shows how he grows from a boy to a teenager, and finally becomes an adult. The trials that Jims goes through and the lessons he learns in his life show how people have to work hard at life and try their best to become the person they want to be. Another theme of this book is to appreciate the people around you and what you are surrounded by. At times in the novel Jim and Antonia don¿t get along and they dislikes each other. But in the end, Jim realizes that despite their disagreements and differences Jim still needs and values her (as she does him) and wants to stay friends with Antonia. The themes of this novel surround the fact of how the people around individuals shape who they are and who they are going to become in their life. Another part of this book that makes it so amazing is the characters. The characters of this book are so believable and their problems make them easier for you to relate to despite the 100-year time difference in setting. In the beginning, the title character Antonia has just immigrated to Nebraska with her family from Bohemia. Throughout the book, all the hard work Antonia has to do to help support her family after her father¿s death, and the way she almost loses herself in the town life but the finds herself again in the end, gives her a realness and a sense of strength to all readers. Jim Burden, the protagonist of the book, gives the story depth as he struggles with inner conflicts. As Jim is growing up he wants to please his grandparents but he also wants to live life and get away from the small town he has grown up in and their image of him as a little boy. The supporting characters such as Mr. and Mrs. Shimerda (Antonia¿s parents), Jim¿s grandfather, and Lena Lingard, also add to and complete the story by creating conflict and helping the two main characters. The lessons characters learn and the way they grow as people also gives the story a realistic feel because the struggles of Jim and Antonia are problems that people could face in real life. The literary element of setting has given My Antonia a very fitting world. Although it is not obvious exactly when the story takes place it is obvious that the novel is set in Black Hawk, Nebraska, sometime around the beginning of the twentieth century. The fact that this book is set in the country as opposed to the city gives it a much more laid back feel and causes you to focus more on the people and their stories without the distracting hustle and bustle of the city. The lack of great importance or activity in the setting, gives the story over completely to plot and character development. Without having to focus on keeping track of an ever-changing setting it is possible for the reader to focus more on aspects of the story such as Antonia and her family, Jim and his family, and the relationship between the two. Two final literary elements in My Antonia are the point of view and plot. Told in 1st person by Jim Burden, the point of view of this story gives Jim a deepness as you get to look at all of his thought and feelings. This point of view also allows you to look at one of the major conflicts of the plot, Jim vs. his inner self. Jim is trying to find and become the kind of person he wants to be beyond high school and find his own identity. There are other plots of the story as well but this plot wouldn¿t be possible if the book were told from a different point of view. Other plots of the story include the ups and dow

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2005

    My Antonia

    A young Jim Burden is sent west in the early 1900's to live with his grandparents. On the train to his new house meets a young girl a couple of years older than he is. Although he doesn't know it, this is the beginning of a long-lasting friendship. After settling into his house on the plains of Nebraska, he ventures out to greet his new neighbor. Antonia Shimerda is her name and her family had immigrated from Bohemia. As Jim grows up he has many experiences with Antonia. When Jim is twelve, he and his family move into the nearby town, Black Hawk. Antonia also goes into town to find work. Because they belong to separate 'classes' they start to separate. As Jim settles down and continues his education, Antonia goes wild and goes to every town dance possible. After a failed marriage and an unwanted baby, Antonia moves back into the country to help her family's farm. Jim, meanwhile, transfers from the Lincoln University to Harvard. Forty years later Jim revisits Antonia to find her happily married and living a farm life full of content. Even though Antonia isn't as successful as Jim she seems to get more out of life. My Antonia is a wonderful piece of literature that shows the true meaning of happiness and the life and times of the early 1900's.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    I just graduated with a BA in English and throughout my time at

    I just graduated with a BA in English and throughout my time at college I have read My Antonia three times because it is by FAR my favorite book of all time. (I suppose it helps when your favorite professor is a Willa Cather expert). Originally it was a book I stumbled upon my senior year of high school and every time I read it, it offers me something new and I can't help but get sucked into the atmosphere Cather creates.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    This book is absolutely stunning. Setting is the protagonist of this novel, Willa Cather did not disappoint!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Womanhood personified

    After reading this book, I was simply amazed at how timeless it is. There are far too many people who become concerned with "page turners". While a reader should not expect to find that in this book, they should expect to find a character who moves their soul. This book truly captures the essence of what it meant to be an early american settler, and what it still means to be a woman. Cather makes it very easy to relate to Antonia. The only complaint that I have (and I admit it is superficial) is the ending. I would have liked to see it work out differently, but I understand why it ended the way it did. This is one of the few "classics" that celebrates the heritage of America.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2009

    It was Rather Nice :)

    Upon first reading this book I thought it extremely simple and enjoyable. Although the whole concept wasn't profoundly enlightening it was most definitely an interesting book. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to escape the heavy complex reads often assigned in colleges. You won't be dissapointed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2012


    Most of the time, I don't like books about immigrants; I have nothing against the immigrants themselves, but the books are usually written in a certain style, like the author is pretending that english is actually their second language. But I have always been a fan of the classics, and living in Nebraska (Willa Cather's Origin), I decided to give this a try. When I began the first page, I was pleasantly surprised that it not only wasn't that style at all, but that I actually couldn't put it down! The characters felt alive in the pages and relateable to anyone, no matter who was reading it. You get a glimpse of the original American Dream, too, which I love. This book is definately worth reading, give it a try.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 16, 2008

    A Reliable Review on My Antonia by Willa Cather

    I definitely liked this book. It really helped me connect with what it was like to live in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It made me realize that you could meet all types of new people while living your life in the 1800s that you could end up staying extremely close with. I also learned about the type of work you would do if you lived back then, most likely on a farm. Death was also very common. You could become very close with someone, until the next day they could come down with a deadly disease that could kill them that die. The book made me realize that I am very glad to be living in the 21st century and not in the 1800s or even the early 1900s. It would have been very difficult to have lived back then, and this book gave me an idea of what it would have been like if I had lived back then. It gave me a specific example of how people felt about life and their relationships with the people they met along their journeys through life. This book also helped my understand some of our country's history. I would recommend this book to students in high school because I feel it is probably too dry for anyone in college or older, but I think that high school students would be interested in learning about life in the late 1800 and early 1900s. It should also help high school students understand some of America¿s history just like it helped me. Overall, this was a great book and I especially like how it helped me understand life in the 1800s and helped me to appreciate my life now, knowing what it would have been like back in the day, over one hundred years ago.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2014

    The novel ¿My Antonia,¿ by Willa Cather, is a great piece of wo

    The novel “My Antonia,” by Willa Cather, is a great piece of work that explores the relationship one can have with their homeland and memories. Antonia, a girl from Bohemia who settles on the Nebraska prairie, possesses innocence and moral integrity. Her character embodies the naturalness, generosity, and abundance of the plains which helps us to value her family’s deliberate transition to a new, fresh life on the prairie. Their new home is a land of dreams that is embraced by the sky during the time of harvest in significance to immigrants and their idealistic goals in America. However, once Antonia’s father commits suicide and leaves her to a greedy and proud mother and self-centered brother, she begins to face the true meaning of hardship. Cather uses this tragedy to portray Antonia’s strength in getting through the death of the one she loved most. This is the moment when the two children begin to grow up a bit, despite their young age. As they grow into their teenage years, Jim and Antonia begin to see how the real world works, despite them living in the rural part of Nebraska. Jim realizes that despite all of the great things his immigrant friends will do, they will always be seen as the “hired girls.” Antonia, on the other hand, after being left at the altar with a baby on the way, comes to the conclusion that she can’t always only focus on the good in people because that is how she will be left disappointed and betrayed. Despite this, Jim nor Antonia never seem to forget what they have meant to one another, and Cather strongly employs this point. What gave the novel a sense of homesickness was the tone and appreciation Jim Burden had on Antonia as well as memories of a lost home. The novel is a great inspiration for reflection on your younger years and the values of your hometown. It opens a new perspective of an intimate perception one can have towards their homeland and youthful memories. Compared to other books, this piece of work explored more of human emotions and symbolism in characters and landscape settings. The characters represented different types of characteristics such as freedom and optimism that contributed to the story’s plot and theme. Overall, this novel has earned respect throughout a large amount of readers. It has made many remember their past and reflect on their lives bringing them a feeling of homesickness and a walk down memory lane.    

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    A very readable classic

    This novel is well written. It contains much information about the settling of immigrants from Europe in Nebraska. The characters are well-drawn. I read it for a discussion group and recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2013

    I recently read My Antonia out of curiosity and fell in love. Th

    I recently read My Antonia out of curiosity and fell in love. The writing style is beautiful, fluid, masterful, and captivating. On page 11, for example, the narrator says, “There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made,” a statement indicating the land is wild and untamed, yet to be conquered by the early settles. Similar statements throughout the book are thought provoking and engaging. The diction in the book works in more ways than that as well: as I learned more about Antonia, I learned more about the narrator, too. Their lives were so intertwined as children that they remained so as they grew; they molded each other, whether they realized it or not. Hearing about Antonia’s experiences also caused me, as a reader, to greater appreciate the sacrifices the early pioneers and settlers made to shape this country. The challenges Antonia faced were tragic; watching her overcome them, however, made me want to cheer her on. In a way, she can be considered an early feminist because of her determination to work as hard as a man and fill her father’s role. While she was not a hard core feminist, she still displays some of those characteristics early on in the novel. It’s fascinating to watch her ideals change towards the end as she shifts away from her previous ideals and becomes more open to the traditional roles of a woman and embraces them as well. At first, she is as wild and untamed as the land in both her mannerisms and actions. As the novel progresses, however, she becomes more refined as the land also becomes more settled and cultivated. She grows with the land but never loses who she really is: Antonia.
    By, Sarah Schwarze

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    A nice return visit

    I haven't read My Antonia since my college days nearly 30 years ago. I reread it because I had ordered it as part of the Penguin Drop Caps series. It is just as good as I remembered it. A great portrait of taming of the West that includes astute observations about the immigrant experience. Throughout it has a bittersweet feeling of nostalgia and regret--two powerful emotions that sneak up on you. They don't overpower the story, but they give it much of its sense of depth.

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  • Posted June 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    My Ánto­nia by Willa Cather was writ­ten in 1918 and is con­sid­

    My Ánto­nia by Willa Cather was writ­ten in 1918 and is con­sid­ered the last in the “Prairie Tril­ogy” fol­low­ing O Pio­neers! And The Song of the Lark. This book is con­sid­ered one of the great­est nov­els writ­ten by an American.

    Ánto­nia Shimerda’s story is told through the eyes of Jim Bur­den, a child­hood friend. Even though Jim left town, he never for­got the Bohemian girl who influ­enced, and still influ­ences his life from afar.

    Ánto­nia has always worked hard, first help­ing her par­ents farm in an unfriendly land and later to pre­serve though the hard­ships life throws at her. Ánto­nia always pre­vails with spirit that can­not be bro­ken, that of a pioneer.

    My Ánto­nia by Willa Cather is a story within a story. The nar­ra­tor is a friend of Jim who is stuck in a love­less mar­riage. Jim is con­sumed by a fan­tasy girl, Ánto­nia, who he remem­bers from childhood.

    The char­ac­ters in the book well writ­ten, real­is­tic but form a strange group, Ms. Cather does an amaz­ing job writ­ing a book from the per­spec­tive of a young man. To be hon­est, if I knew that this would be the case I prob­a­bly won’t have read the book to begin with. I’m always weary of sto­ries writ­ten from a per­spec­tive which the author can never per­ceive. Even though a man tells the story, this is not how a man would tell a story. The nar­ra­tive might be in the voice of a man, but it is a woman writ­ing as a man, with all the insights, gen­tle­ness and moti­va­tions which comes with it. While writ­ing from that per­spec­tive might not always work, this novel comes off as a real­is­tic fan­tasy of a mid­dle aged man, think­ing back on his life, the mis­takes he has made and what “could have been”.

    Ánto­nia seems to be the per­fect woman, told by an unre­li­able nar­ra­tor who remem­bers her with­out any faults. It’s as if you made con­tact with your high-school sweet­heart, decades after you saw one another and expect noth­ing to change. Jim puts Ánto­nia on a pedestal, the reader knows she’s not per­fect and the mis­takes, is lovely as they are, are still seen through rose col­ored glasses worn by a man who adores her but sim­ply doesn’t under­stand her.

    This is cer­tainly a book of qual­ity; Cather makes this char­ac­ter dri­ven novel come alive with her vivid descrip­tions of Nebraska. It seems that the char­ac­ters belong to each other as much as they belong to the land and to the Amer­i­can immi­grant lit­er­ary experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Bm i

    Rb,evv ruo

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Very good.

    Better than what I have been reading lately. I liked the part where Jim killed the snake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012


    I cannot read the book on my Mac, nor was I able to read the eTextbook I purchased last semester!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2011

    My fave

    Love this classic book. I remember reading it for great books in hs and i hae read it many times since......highly recommend!!!

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