My Antonia

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  • Topic: Willa Cather, My Ántonia, One of Ours
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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My Antonia

by Willa Cather

Author: Willa Sibert Cather, Nebraska's most noted author was born in Virginia. At the age of ten she moved with her family to Webster County, Nebraska. Many of Cather's acquaintances and Red Cloud area scenes can be recognized in her writings.

Cather wrote poetry, short stories, essays and novels, winning many awards. In 1920 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel One of Ours, about a Nebraska farm boy who went off to World War I.

Willa Cather's reputation as one of America's finest novelists rests on her novels about Nebraska and the American Southwest. These novels express her deep love of the land and her distaste for the materialism and conformism of modern life.

Devoted to values such as the importance of family and the need for human courage and dignity, she created strong female characters whose sort of strength and determination had previously been attributed to only men.

My Antonia, one of Cather's best works, is an unconventional, romantic novel of prairie life. It tells the story of a remarkable woman whose strength and passion epitomize the pioneer spirit.

Characters:

Jim Burden - The man narrating the story.

Antonia Shimerda -The daughter of Bohemian immigrants and the heroine of the story.

Ambrosch Shimerda - Antonia's mean brother

Marek Shimerda -Antonia's mentally disabled brother.

Yulka Shimerda - Antonia's younger sister.

Mr. and Mrs. Shimerda - Antonia's gently father who committed suicide, and her

bitter, complaining mother.

Larry Donovan - The man Antonia thought was going to marry her.

Lena Lingard - A girl that Jim grew up with and was successful.

Anton Cuzak - Antonia's husband.

The Book

The book begins with an introduction. In the introduction it tells about James Quale Burden (Jim Burden) and how the story came to be written. The introduction is written by a woman who is an old friend to Jim and who grew up in the same Nebraska town as he did. They are both now living in New York where Jim is a successful lawyer.

She tells about Jim's wife, Genevieve, who she does not like, and doesn't think she is well suited for Jim. They start talking about Antonia, who they both knew and admired, and wondering why something wasn't written about her. Months later, Jim brings her what he had written and She writes the narrative as Jim had written it.

The story begins with ten year old Jim Burden traveling from Virginia to Nebraska to live with his grandparents after losing his parents. They live on a prairie farm and Jim enjoys the land and doing chores and being with his grandparents and their hired help. The author shows her love of the land by the way she has Jim to describe it: "The new country lay open before me: there were no fences in those days, and I could choose my own way over the grass uplands, trusting my pony to get me home again. . . . I used to love to drift along the pale-yellow cornfields, looking for the damp spots one sometimes found at their edges, where the smartweed soon turned a rich copper colour and the narrow brown leaves hung curled like cocoons about the swollen joints of the stem. Sometimes I went south to visit our German neighbours and to admire their catalpa grove, or to see the big elm tree that grew up out of a deep crack in the earth and had a hawk's nest in its branches"

He soon met the Bohemian immigrants, the Shimerdas, who had come out on the same train as he had. He soon became friends with their daughter, Antonia, whom he thought was very pretty. "I remember what the conductor said about her eyes. They were big and brown and full of light, like the sun shining on brown pools in the wood. Her skin was brown too, and in her cheeks she had a glow of rich, dark color."

The Shirmadas had been conned into buying their place. They lived in a dingy, dirt floor cave and were very poor. They didn't speak English. Jim started teaching...
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