My Antonia

My Antonia

by Willa Cather, Kathleen Norris
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Overview

Saga of an immigrant girl and her family who come to Nebraska from Czechoslovakia. Trade Edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812417531
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 01/01/1978
Pages: 244
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Willa Cather (1873-1947) was born in Virginia and raised on the Nebraska prairie. She worked as a newspaper writer, teacher, and managing editor of McClure's magazine. In addition to My Ántonia, her books include O Pioneers! (1913) and The Professor's House. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours.

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

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I
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Copyright © 2014 Willa Cather.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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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”

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In part an elegy for a way of life almost vanished at the time of its writing, Willa Cather's novel My Ántonia is also an inquiry into what it means to be an American. Cather explores characteristically American questions of identity through the novel's central relationship, the friendship between transplanted Virginian Jim Burden and Bohemian immigrant Ántonia Shimerda. The novel begins with an introduction by an unnamed narrator, a woman who grew up in Nebraska with Jim and Ántonia. This introduction emphasizes the themes that shape the novel—movement, discontinuous identity, and romantic hopefulness. The narrator unexpectedly meets the adult Jim Burden on a train crossing Iowa, and the two renew their acquaintance and reminisce about Ántonia, who represents for both of them "the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of our childhood" (p. 5). At the narrator's suggestion, Jim agrees to write a portrait of Ántonia. As he describes it, Jim's portrait is impulsive, written without notes and without "any form" (p. 6). It is the spontaneous overflow of Jim's recollected emotion, in keeping with his "naturally romantic and ardent disposition" (p. 4). Before giving the manuscript to the narrator, Jim titles it "Ántonia"; after frowning a moment, he adds "my." The narrator notes that this "seemed to satisfy him," without suggesting whether Jim's title is a gesture of possessiveness, an acknowledgment of bias, or indicative of some other meaning (p. 6).

Jim begins his story, at age ten, with his first hearing of Ántonia on what seems to him "an interminable journey across the great midland plain of North America" (p. 9). The recently orphaned Jim, who is going to live with his grandparents, feels that "there was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made" (p. 12). Jim and Ántonia, passengers on the same train, are each challenged to feel at home in this land that initially produces the feeling of being "erased, blotted out" (p. 13).

It is Jim's friendship with Ántonia that enables him to feel at home on the prairie farm. Mr. Shimerda's plea to Jim to "Te-e-ach, te-e-ach my Ántonia!" gives Jim a purpose and a sense of competence (p. 26). His relationship with "Tony" and the adventures they share become the most important part of his life. What makes people who they are is one of the mysteriesMy Ántonia plumbs. To what extent is personality born, and to what extent made? Cather suggests that Jim is shaped by his early friendship with Ántonia, and also that he is drawn to her because they are fundamentally alike. Jim shares Ántonia's love for her father, who comes to represent the culture and sensitivity that life on the prairie tends to crush. Like Mr. Shimerda and Mrs. Steavens, Jim recognizes that Ántonia is special and refers to her as "my Ántonia" (p. 171). Ántonia becomes a touchstone in the novel: other characters reveal themselves through their responses to her. Those who are generous and compassionate—Jim's grandparents, Mrs. Harling, and the Widow Steavens—love and try to defend her. Those who are selfish and corrupt—Ambrosch, Wick Cutter, and Larry Donovan—seek to take advantage of her.

Although she is in this respect the novel's still center, Ántonia is also an image of American freedom and mobility, as evidenced by her choosing to become a "hired girl" at the Harlings, and then by her leaving the Harlings when they object to her going dancing. Ántonia's romance with Larry Donovan points up both Donovan's corruption—he is happy to use and abandon her, as a lower-class immigrant girl—and Ántonia's idealism. Her subsequent embrace of motherhood and farming highlights her vibrant and indomitable nature, the nature that Jim has always felt sets apart the Bohemian "hired girls" from the town girls. When Jim finds her again, she is married to a fellow countryman and has so many children that Jim is made "dizzy" by the sight of them (p. 252). He sees Ántonia's return to farming as a return to a world of timeless realities that has escaped the corruption he associates with small-town life. Her life stands in implicit contrast to Jim's own, which includes a childless marriage to a brittle socialite.

The past that Jim recalls so passionately is not only his own past, but also the past of the West. When we meet him in the introduction, he is working for the railroads that are transforming the West; the industrialized nation is encroaching on the agrarian world of Jim's childhood. Cather suggests that Jim is looking back with longing on a time when the entire country (and he as well) was more innocent and hopeful. The novel's epigram from Virgil's Georgics, "Optima dies prima fugit," is translated by Jim as, "in the lives of mortals, the best days are the first to flee" (p. 199). Each of Jim's moves, after the first move to Nebraska, entails a loss—from the farm to Black Hawk, from Black Hawk to college, from college to work and a wife who does not share his past or his passion. Cather depicts a man who is eager to move away and contend with the larger world, but then spends his emotional energy attempting to recapture the past. Jim describes some memories as "realities" that are "better than anything that can ever happen to one again" (p. 245). The book ends with him going back over the road he and Ántonia traveled the night they first saw each other, giving him a sense of "what a little circle man's experience is" (p. 273). Is Jim's absorption in his childhood memories more a flight from adult disappointments or a valid recognition that those early days were more vital and meaningful? This deeply American novel, which engages the ideas of upward mobility and remaking identity, asks whether we can—or should—ever leave the past behind.


ABOUT WILLA CATHER

Willa Cather was born near Winchester, Virginia, in 1873. When she was nine, her family moved to Nebraska to join her paternal grandparents and uncle. Cather was profoundly affected by moving from the settled Virginia landscape to the untamed Nebraska prairie. On the farm, her neighbors included immigrants from Bohemia (now most of the Czech Republic), Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Their pioneering lives and stories of the old country were among her strongest influences.

Taught at home by her grandmothers, Cather read Latin and the English classics. In later life, she cited Virgil as her first literary influence. While she was a schoolgirl, Cather's family moved to the town of Red Cloud, the model for Black Hawk in My Ántonia, and she attended high school there. She worked her way through the University of Nebraska, planning to study medicine until a professor secretly submitted one of her essays to the Nebraska State Journal. Seeing her work in print convinced her to become a writer. After graduating, she worked for Pittsburgh's Daily Leader and taught high school English. In 1905, she published a collection of short stories, and favorable reviews inspired her to move with her companion Isabelle McClung to New York City, where she became managing editor of McClure's Magazine.

In 1912, Cather left McClure's and published her first novel, Alexander's Bridge, responding to author Sarah Orne Jewett's urging that she make time to fulfill her creative gifts. With her novel O Pioneers! (1913), set on the Nebraska frontier, Cather achieved artistic and critical success as a novelist. In 1916, Isabelle McClung announced her intention to marry, and Cather visited Nebraska in an effort to regain her emotional equilibrium and artistic inspiration. There she renewed her friendship with Annie Sadilek Pavelka, the inspiration for Ántonia. My Ántonia, generally regarded as Cather's masterpiece, was published in 1918.

Cather's simple yet lyrical style and uniquely American subject matter led critics to recognize her as a major author during her lifetime. A Lost Lady (1923), The Professor's House (1925), Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), and Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940) are among her most acclaimed books, as well as One of Ours (1922), which won the Pulitzer Prize. She was living with her companion Edith Lewis in New York City when she died on April 24, 1947.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Why is getting "a picture" of Ántonia important enough to Jim and the narrator of the introduction that they decide to write about her? (p. 5)
     
  • When Jim and Ántonia meet as children, why do they become such close friends?
     
  • Why does Pavel's story about the wolves and the wedding party affect Jim and Ántonia so deeply?
     
  • Who or what does Cather intend us to see as responsible for Mr. Shimerda's suicide?
     
  • Why does Cather repeatedly include images of people and objects silhouetted against the sun? What does the vision of the plough mean to Jim?
     
  • Why does Jim prefer "the hired girls" to the Black Hawk girls? Is Frances right when she says that Jim puts "a kind of glamour" over the hired girls? (p. 175)
     
  • What is Cather suggesting about gender roles with the characters Frances, Ántonia, and Lena?
     
  • Why is Ántonia so determined to keep going to the dancing tent that she would rather leave her job with the Harlings than stop dancing?
     
  • Why does the incident at Wick Cutter's house make Jim feel that he never wants to see Ántonia again and that he hated her almost as much as he hated Cutter?
     
  • Why does Jim leave Lena Lingard in the end, despite how much he enjoys being with her?
     
  • Why does Jim tell Ántonia, "I'd have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sister—anything that a woman can be to a man"? (p. 240)
     
  • What does Jim mean when he says that "Cuzak had been made the instrument of Ántonia's special mission" (p. 270)? What is her mission?
     
  • Why is remembering the past so important to Jim? Why does he agree with Virgil that "optima dies prima fugit"? (p. 199)

  • FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
  • How have immigrants enriched American culture? How have they been transformed by it?
     
  • Would you agree with Virgil and Jim that the earliest days are the best and the most quickly gone?
     
  • Do you agree that happiness consists of being "dissolved into something complete and great" (p. 20)?

  • RELATED TITLES

    Ellen Glasgow, Barren Ground (1925)
    Dissatisfied with the role ordained for Southern ladies, Dorinda Oakley has a premarital affair. Its disastrous outcome leads her to direct her passions into farming and transforming the land.

    Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896)
    Jewett's sketches and tales of life in a rural Maine community lyrically depict the pleasures of living close to nature. Cather considered it a classic of the same rank as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Scarlet Letter.

    Sinclair Lewis, Main Street (1920)
    Lewis indicts the insularity and priggishness of American small-town life through the tale of Carol Kennicott, a doctor's wife who struggles to bring an appreciation of culture to the citizens of Gopher Prairie.

    Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940)
    Mick Kelly, a tomboy alienated from the Southern society around her, seeks out and listens to those who are similarly outcast, including a black doctor, a Jew, a socialist reformer, and a deaf man.

    Virgil, Georgics (37-30 BCE)
    A treatise on agriculture in poetic form, the Georgics contains as much philosophy as practical advice about farming. Virgil projects the return of peace and harmonious life on the land after the Roman civil wars have ended.

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    My Antonia 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 308 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.