My Antonia

My Antonia

by Willa Cather

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Overview

In this powerful and astonishing novel, Willa Cather created one of the most winning yet thoroughly convincing heroines in American fiction. Antonia Shimerda, the daughter of Bohemian immigrants, not only survives her father's suicide, poverty, and a failed romance, she triumphs with high spirits.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681951959
Publisher: Xist Publishing
Publication date: 07/02/2015
Series: Xist Classics
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 177
Sales rank: 86,060
File size: 372 KB

About the Author

Willa Cather was an American author and pastoralist known for her vivid depictions of the American Midwest and its inhabitants. Her works include Alexander’s Bridge, O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark, and many more. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her novel One of Ours in 1923. After receiving great acclaim upon its publication in 1918, My Ántonia was considered an instant classic. Cather continued to write until later in her life despite suffering from an enflamed tendon in her hand. She died in New York City at age seventy-three.

Date of Birth:

December 7, 1873

Date of Death:

April 27, 1947

Place of Birth:

Winchester, Virginia

Place of Death:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., University of Nebraska, 1895

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I first heard of Ántonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America. I was ten years old then; I had lost both my father and mother within a year, and my Virginia relatives were sending me out to my grandparents, who lived in Nebraska. I travelled in the care of a mountain boy, Jake Marpole, one of the 'hands' on my father's old farm under the Blue Ridge, who was now going West to work for my grandfather. Jake's experience of the world was not much wider than mine. He had never been in a railway train until the morning when we set out together to try our fortunes in a new world.

We went all the way in day-coaches, becoming more sticky and grimy with each stage of the journey. Jake bought everything the newsboys offered him: candy, oranges, brass collar buttons, a watch-charm, and for me a Life of Jesse James, which I remember as one of the most satisfactory books I have ever read. Beyond Chicago we were under the protection of a friendly passenger conductor, who knew all about the country to which we were going and gave us a great deal of advice in exchange for our confidence. He seemed to us an experienced and worldly man who had been almost everywhere; in his conversation he threw out lightly the names of distant states and cities. He wore the rings and pins and badges of different fraternal orders to which he belonged. Even his cuff-buttons were engraved with hieroglyphics, and he was more inscribed than an Egyptian obelisk.

Once when he sat down to chat, he told us that in the immigrant car ahead there was a family from ' across the water' whose destination was the sameas ours.

'They can't any of them speak English, except one little girl, and all she can say is "We go Black Hawk, Nebraska." She's not much older than you, twelve or thirteen, maybe, and she's as bright as a new dollar. Don't you want to go ahead and see her, Jimmy? She's got the pretty brown eyes, too!'

This last remark made me bashful, and I shook my head and settled down to 'Jesse James.' Jake nodded at me approvingly and said you were likely to get diseases from foreigners.

I do not remember crossing the Missouri River, or anything about the long day's journey through Nebraska. Probably by that time I had crossed so many rivers that I was dull to them. The only thing very noticeable about Nebraska was that it was still, all day long, Nebraska.

I had been sleeping, curled up in a red plush seat, for a long while when we reached Black Hawk. Jake roused me and took me by the hand. We stumbled down from the train to a wooden siding, where men were running about with lanterns. I couldn't see any town, or even distant lights; we were surrounded by utter darkness. The engine was panting heavily after its long run. In the red glow from the fire-box, a group of people stood huddled together on the platform) encumbered by bundles and boxes. I knew this must be the immigrant family the conductor had told us about. The woman wore a fringed shawl tied over her head, and she carried a little tin trunk in her arms, hugging it as if it were a baby. There was an old man, tall and stooped. Two half-grown boys and a girl stood holding oilcloth bundles, and a little girl clung to her mother's skirts. Presently a man with a lantern approached them and began to talk, shouting and exclaiming. I pricked up my ears, for it was positively the first time I had ever heard a foreign tongue.

Another lantern came along. A bantering voice called out: 'Hello, are you Mr. Burden's folks? If you are, it's me you're looking for. I'm Otto Fuchs. I'm Mr. Burden's hired man, and I'm to drive you out. Hello, Jimmy, ain'tyou scared to come so far west?'

I looked up with interest at the new face in the lantern-light. He might have stepped out of the pages of Jesse James. He wore a sombrero hat, with a wide leather band and a bright buckle, and the ends of his moustache were twisted up stiffly, like little horns. He looked lively and ferocious, I thought, and as if he had a history. A long scar ran across one cheek and drew the corner of his mouth up in a sinister curl. The top of his left ear was gone, and his skin was brown as an Indian's. Surely this was the face of a desperado. As he walked about the platform in his highheeled boots, looking for our trunks, I saw that he was a rather slight man, quick and wiry, and light on his feet. He told us we had a long night drive ahead of us, and had better be on the hike. He led us to a hitching-bar where two farm-wagons were tied, and 1 saw the foreign family crowding into one of them. The other was for us. Jake got on the front seat with Otto Fuchs, and I rode on the straw in the bottom of the wagon-box, covered up with a buffalo hide. The immigrants rumbled off into the empty darkness, and we followed them.

I tried to go to sleep, but the jolting made me bite my tongue, and I soon began to ache all over. When the straw settled down, I had a hard bed. Cautiously I slipped from under the buffalo hide, got up on my knees and peered over the side of the wagon.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Willa Cather: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

My Ántonia

Appendix A: Cather’s Revised Introduction to the 1926 Edition of My Ántonia

Appendix B: Cather’s “Mesa Verde Wonderland is Easy to Reach”

Appendix C: Cather’s “Nebraska:The End of the First Cycle”

Appendix D: Cather’s “Peter”

Appendix E: Interviews and Commentary by Cather on My Ántonia

  1. Latrobe Carroll, “Willa Sibert Cather,” Bookman, 3 May 1921
  2. “A Talk with Miss Cather,” Webster County Argus, 29 September 1921
  3. Eleanor Hinman, “Willa Cather,” Lincoln Sunday Star, 6 November 1921
  4. Rose C. Field, “Restlessness Such as Ours Does Not Make for Beauty,” New York Times Book Review, 21 December 1924

Appendix F: Contemporary Reviews of the Novel

  1. Randolph Bourne, The Dial, 14 December 1918
  2. H.W. Boynton, Bookman, December 1918
  3. C.L.H., New York Call, 13 November 1918
  4. A.L.A. Booklist, 1918
  5. Book Review Digest, 1918
  6. Independent, 25 January 1919
  7. New York Times, 6 October 1918
  8. Nation, 2 November 1918
  9. The Globe and Commercial Advertiser, 11 January 1919
  10. H.L. Mencken, The Smart Set, 17 February 1919

Appendix G: Photographs of Nebraska

  1. Primitive Dugout
  2. Sod House
  3. Threshing Scene
  4. The Pavelka Farm
  5. Anna Sadilek
  6. Blind Boone
  7. The University of Nebraska

Appendix H: Immigration to and Migration Across America

  1. Nebraska Land Company, Czech Language Immigration Poster
  2. Welcome to the Land of Freedom
  3. Emigrants Coming to the “Land of Promise”
  4. Crossing the Great American Desert in Nebraska

Appendix I: Music from My Ántonia

  1. “Oh, Promise Me”
  2. “O Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie”

Select Bibliography

What People are Saying About This

H. L. Mencken

No romantic novel ever written in America, by man or woman, is one half so beautiful as My Ántonia.

From the Publisher

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Reading Group Guide

1. For discussion: My Antonia

The first narrator in My Antonia is an unnamed speaker who grew up with Jim Burden and meets him years later on a train. Jim tells his story in response to this mysterious figure, who disappears from the novel as soon as the Introduction is over. How does this first narrator's disappearance foreshadow other withdrawals within this novel, which at times resembles a series of departures? Why might Cather have chosen to frame her narrative in this fashion?

2. When Jim arrives in Nebraska, he sees "nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made." [11-12] Yet at the novel's end that landscape is differentiated. It has direction and color--red grass, blue sky, dun-shaded bluffs. We are reminded of the beginning of the Book of Genesis, and of God's parting of the heavens from the earth. To what extent is My Antonia an American Genesis? What are its agents of creation and differentiation?

3. Just as My Antonia's setting is initially raw and featureless, its narrative at first seems haphazard: "'I didn't arrange or rearrange. I simply wrote down what of herself and myself and other people's Antonia's name recalls to me. I suppose it hasn't any form.'" [6] Is Burden's description really accurate? Although the narrative proceeds chronologically, its structure is unconventional, as Antonia is present in only three of the five sections and much of her story unfolds via exposition. What effect does Cather produce by telling her story in this fashion?

4. One of the greatest difficulties facing the Shimerdas and other immigrant families is that posed by their lack ofEnglish, which seals them off from all but the most forthcoming of their neighbors. Yet even American-born arrivals to Nebraska find themselves set apart. As the narrator notes in the Introduction, "no one who had not grown up in a little prairie town could know anything about it. It was a kind of freemasonry, we said." [3] What is the nature of this freemasonry? What experiences do the inhabitants of this world share that are alien--and perhaps incommunicable--to people raised elsewhere? Does the shared experience of the novel's pioneers end up counting for more than their linguistic and ethnic differences?

5. What is it that makes Mr. Shimerda unable to adapt to his new home and ultimately drives him to suicide? Is he simply too refined--too rooted in Europe--to endure the harshness and solitude of the prairie? Before we jump to too easy a conclusion, we might consider the fact that the novel's other suicide, Wick Cutter, is a crass, upwardly mobile small-town entrepreneur. What do these two deaths suggest about the prerequisites for surviving in Cather's world?

6. From their first meeting, when Jim begins to teach Antonia English, he serves as her instructor and occasional guardian. Yet he also seems in awe of Antonia. What is it that makes her superior to him? What does she possess that Jim doesn't? What makes her difference so desirable?

7. At times Jim's feelings towards Antonia suggest romantic infatuation, yet their relationship remains chaste. Nor does Jim ever become sexually involved with the alluring--and more available--Lena Lingard. Curiously, Antonia appears to disapprove of their flirtation. And, whether he is conscious of it or not, Jim seems wedded to the idea of Tony as a sexual innocent. Following the failed assault by Wick Cutter, "I hated her almost as much as I hated Cutter. She had let me in for all this disgustingness." [186] How do you account for these characters' ambivalent and at times squeamish attitude toward sexuality? In what ways do they change when they marry and--in Antonia's case--bear children?

8. Just as it is possible to read Lena Lingard as Antonia's sensual twin, one can see the entire novel as consisting of doubles and repetitions. Antonia has two brothers, the industrious and amoral Ambrosch and the sweet-natured, mentally incompetent Marek. Wick Cutter's suicide echoes that of Mr. Shimerda. Even minor anecdotes have a way of mirroring each other. Just as the Russians Peter and Pavel are stigmatized because they threw a bride to a pursuing wolf pack, the hired hand Otto is burdened by an act of generosity on his voyage over to America, when the woman he is escorting ends up giving birth to triplets. Where else in the novel do events and characters mirror each other? What is the effect of this symmetry and its variations?

9. In one of her essays, Willa Cather observed, "I have not much faith in women in fiction." [cited in Hermione Lee, Willa Cather: Double Lives. New York, Vintage, 1991, p. 12] Yet in Antonia Cather has created a genuinely heroic woman. What perceived defects in earlier fictional heroines might Cather be trying to redeem in this novel? Do her female characters seem nobler, better, or more deeply felt than their male counterparts? In spite of this, why might Cather have chosen to make My Antonia' s narrator a man?

10. For her epigraph Cather uses a quote from Virgil: Optima dies... prima fugit: "The best days are the first to pass." How is this idea borne out within My Antonia? In what ways can the novel's early days, with their scenes of poverty, hunger and loss, be described as the best? What does Jim, the novel's presiding consciousness, lose in the process of growing up? Does Antonia lose it as well? How is this notion of lost happiness connected to Jim's observation: "That is happiness: to be dissolved into something complete and great"?

11. Although My Antonia is elegiac in its tone--and has been used in high school curricula to convey a conservative view of the American past--it is also notable for its striking realism about gender and culture. Not only does the novel have a female protagonist who prevails in spite of male betrayal and abuse (and two secondary female characters who prosper without ever marrying), it also portrays the early frontier as a multicultural quilt in which Bohemians, Swedes, Austrians, and a blind African-American retain their ethnic identities without dissolving in the American melting pot. Significantly, at the novel's end Antonia has reverted to speaking Bohemian with her husband and children. How important are these themes to the novel's overall vision? Do they accurately reflect the history of the western frontier?

Comparing My Antonia and The Professor's House:

1. How does the small university town in The Professor's House resemble or differ from My Antonia's Black Hawk? To what extent are those differences due to the different historical eras in which the two novels are set? Read together, what kind of relationship do these novels posit between towns and the prairie? Which region does Cather seem to identify with the "best times" of My Antonia's Virgilian epigraph?

2. How do the female characters in The Professor's House compare with those in My Antonia? How do both sets of women confirm or challenge stereotypes about their gender? What significance do you see in the fact that Antonia marries relatively late, and her friends Lena and Tina not at all, while the St. Peter women have married early? What role does class play in Cather's treatment of her female characters?

3. Why is suicide a theme in both novels? What do Cather's suicides appear to have in common? Does she seem to associate the act with moral failure or mental breakdown or portray it as a natural, and even honorable, response to intolerable circumstances? What role did suicide play in the age and society in which Cather wrote? (You may want to look at such novels as Sister Carrie to see how some of her contemporaries treated the same theme.)

4. Given the evidence of these novels, how does Cather seem to view relations between the sexes? What prospects of happiness and fulfillment do they hold for both men and women? Which of her characters ends up happily married and for what reasons? Why do so many others--from Jim Burden to Godfrey St. Peter--end up regretting their attachments?

5. The Professor's House has as its epigraph, "A turquoise set in silver, wasn't it?... Yes, a turquoise set in dull silver." Although these words of Louie's describe a ring that Tom once gave Rosamund and thus allude to the abandoned cliff-dwelling where Tom presumably unearthed it, they may also refer to the structure that Cather uses in this novel. Discuss the way in which the author embeds Tom Outland's narrative within the professor's story. What similarity do you see between this strategy and the embedded narratives in My Antonia?

6. In both My Antonia and The Professor's House Cather uses two sorts of language, one conventional and expository, the other heightened and rhapsodically sensual, a language attuned to colors, fragrances, and grand effects of light and shadow. Where does she employ these different kinds of prose, and to what effect?

Customer Reviews

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My Antonia 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 295 reviews.
JSAlex000 More than 1 year ago
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.
Emilsay More than 1 year ago
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.
book-a-holick More than 1 year ago
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...
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
readingissexy23 More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely stunning. Setting is the protagonist of this novel, Willa Cather did not disappoint!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
JAHNERS More than 1 year ago
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.
JordanSkye More than 1 year ago
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.
Milda-TX on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anybody up for a road trip to Nebraska? Ms. Cather makes the land sound so beautiful and romantic, even as she tells what strenuous and stark lives were led by the brave immigrants and pioneers who settled it. The stories of the various characters didn¿t wholly go in predictable directions, so this was an interesting book until the end.
StamperCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found it interesting to read of what life was like in Nebraska during the Nineteenth Century. It was harder than I could imagine and seeing it through the eyes of of a 10 year old boy as he grows up was very creative. I found myself underlining and saving quotes from the book as Ms Cather has a unique way of saying things. Her descriptions are marvelous. For instance here is a description of the prairie:"I had the feeling that the world was left behind, that we had got over the edge of it, and were outside man¿s jurisdiction¿..this was the complete dome of heaven, all there was of it."And another toward the end of the book as he reminisces about their childhood:"As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl ran along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass."This is a story that I will not soon forget and I will enjoy going back and reading the quotes I have saved from it.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel a sort of kinship with this book. I wasn¿t forced to read it when I was in school, so I approached it with fresh, adult eyes and I think that made the experience one that is an experience to cherish. I also grew up in Nebraska, and it¿s so farare that I read stories set there that I felt an immediate connection.My Antonia begins somewhat slow ¿ and after reading a particularly difficult book, I¿ll admit, my heart sunk a bit. But once the story got going, once I started being sucked into the narrative of this young boy, I started to fall in love with the writing, the story, and the characters.Immigration, and treatment of immigrants, always provides an interesting topic to read, and write about, and that shows in this book. As an adult, I appreciated much more the hardships and tragedies experienced, then I would have as a teenager, which results in putting Willa Cather on the list of authors I want to experience more of.
Zommbie1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was well written. It had me gripped. I loved that it portrayed the many different aspects of pioneer life. The hypocrisies, the joys and a the sorrows. I also liked that it was told from the perspective of a man who knew these women. It gave an impression of the women that I had not expected. One can tell that the author is female but I find it interesting that she uses a male to tell her story. I wonder if a man at the time would have seen and commented on the things that the narrator commented on?I liked that the story followed several different women and showed them as independent characters, capable of taking care of themselves. The girls are all strong and learn to use their strengths to help themselves but also each other, despite what society around them might think.One aspect that I found very relevant both for the time when the story was written and set and for today was the hypocrisies surrounding men and women and their roles. At the same time as the girls were capable of hard work and industry was admired a girl who worked at a ¿mans job¿ was seen as somehow less of a woman. She was looked down upon and talked about. I still find these attitudes today. The women themselves were doing it to survive and to help their families survive something that was required but they were seen as less than the women who lived in town. Another significant aspect of which I had not thought about was the attitude of the Americans towards the newly arrived immigrants. The immigrants worked hard and were motivated but were often seen as having looser morals and differing attitudes. Lets be honest and say that this attitude still prevails in many societies today (my own included). It is an attitude I find sad.
PaperbackPirate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written story told from a man named Jim's point of view as he reflects on his life, starting at age ten when he moved to Nebraska to live with his grandparents after his mom and dad die within a year of each other. The story takes place in the late 1800s when people in the Midwest were pioneers living off the land. Ántonia is a neighbor girl a little older than Jim whose family has immigrated from Bohemia and are struggling at every turn (not unlike immigrants today).Although Ms. Cather mastered creating imagery with words, I felt the story lacked real problem/solution plot. It is a snapshot of Jim's growth from boy to man with Ántonia a symbol of America itself, as she creates life from soil and labors to survive in this land of opportunity.
Citizenjoyce on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great historical fiction and examination of what it was to settle prairie towns. The characters are well rounded, even though the narrator is male the female characters are the stars. Seeing them rise from dirt poverty to self determined adulthood was a joy. I can't say I was delighted with the way Antonia herself turned out, but the character stayed true.
janemarieprice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a beautiful and wonderful surprise this was. Going in, I knew that this was (1) about Nebraska, and (2) in the realm of things I usually like. I know very little about Nebraska except that there is lots of corn, and they are passionate about their college football. So, though I expected to like [My Antonia], I wasn¿t sure how well I could relate to it. Well, it swept me up into a very intimate tale of Jim Burden who moves to Nebraska as a child and befriends a Bohemian family, especially their daughter Antonia. The story follows their early life on the farm, and then move to town, where Jim goes to school and Antonia works. We then follow Jim to college where he and another of the country girls develop a relationship and he learns of Antonia¿s troubles. Finally, we are left with a view of Antonia, her many children, and her farm. Country girls: ¿¿I can remember something unusual and engaging about each of them. Physically they were almost a race apart, and out-of-door work had given them a vigor which, when they got over their first shyness on coming to town, developed into a positive carriage and freedom of movement, and made them conspicuous among Black Hawk women.¿ Vs. Town girls: ¿When one danced with them, their bodies never moved inside their clothes; their muscles seemed to ask but one thing ¿ not to be disturbed. I remember those girls merely as faces in the schoolroom, gay and rosy, or listless and dull, cut off below the shoulders, like cherubs¿¿ This country girl appreciates those descriptions. Cather has a way of describing the landscape that makes you almost taste it. ¿Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them, and visit them as if they were persons. It must have been the scarcity of detail in that tawny landscape that made detail so precious.¿ It has the melancholy texture of home. There are certain smells, plants, and sounds that instantly transport me to my youth. There is a feeling about the place one grows up that is hard to describe. There is a love that wells up that is not attached to an explicit memory but exists in some larger connection with a place and its people. But there is also the tension of success. There is the idea that leaving and making your way is success, while staying home is a compromise. For someone like me who never wants to live in the home of my youth again, there is also the struggle of infusing your new life with the things of your past that were special to you. There is the urge to move forward, while not forgetting. It is something I think Cather shows us through the immigrants ¿ those who wish to assimilate completely, those who wish to maintain their old life, and those who need to find a balance between the two. For me it was extremely powerful and evoked thoughts that I had not been able to fully form before ¿ and this is the reason I read.And finally, on Antonia: ¿Antonia had always been one to leave images in the mind that did not fade ¿ that grew stronger with time. In my memory there was a succession of such pictures, fixed there like the old woodcuts of one¿s first primer: Antonia kicking her bare legs against the sides of my pony when we came home in triumph with our snake; Antonia in her black shawl and fur cap, as she stood by her father¿s grave in the snowstorm; Antonia coming in with her work-team along the evening sky-line. She lent herself to immemorial human attitudes which we recognize by instinct as universal and true. I had not been mistaken. She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one¿s breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things. She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples, to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last.
missmaya on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've seen this on the bookshelves forever, but finally picked it up. Apparently, I'm in a Little House phase right now - I found it a fast read and very enjoyable, if not terribly memorable.
dee_kohler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best, One cold spring day I was looking for an adventure, Cather provided it for me. Cold wind swept prarie. wonderful
LibrarysCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent social commentary - I loved this book. I thought the television movie was a good representation of the book.
rivetkitten on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was given My Ántonia as an AP American Lit summer reading assignment in high school. It took me most of the summer to plow my way through it, including the duration of two cross-country flights. Seven years later, I can barely remember what it's about, much less any details. Perhaps I should read it again, but the memory of my torturous first attempt keeps dissuading me.
cinnamonowl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think I am becoming, or always was maybe, a fan of pioneer fiction. I grew up reading the Little House series, and I actually still read it from time to time. Last year I read the Children's Blizzard and loved it- I moved up to My Antonia, and I found myself wrapped up in this world of pioneering spirits once again. It was hard not to like Antonia, just like the characters in the book found it hard not to like her. I like how Cather wrote it from the point of view of Jim Burden, a young neighboring boy who grew up alongside Antonia. Jim had advantages that Antonia did not have- first he was male, second his family had more money. Probably the only two advantages that really mattered back then anyway. Jim and Antonia began their lives in the west the same day, on the same train - but after that everyday of the rest of their lives took them further apart.I loved this book, and will be reading the others by Cather.
ECHSLibrary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a more grown-up version of Little House on the Prairie. It's another look at the challenges of life on the prairie. Not a blockbuster, but a good solid read.
readingrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A classic coming of age story.
irinipasi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect to like Willa Cather's works, as I don't really enjoy the "old west" type of genre. But she was stronly recommended to me, so I picked up My Antonia. I ended up really enjoying the book- Cather is very good at telling one of those epic, generational stories. And reading about a younger middle America wasn't so bad either- in fact, I actually enjoyed it.