My Antonia Novel Analysis: Stories Of Immigrants That Helped To Build America
My Antonia by Willa Cather has different backgrounds and settings. My Antonia shows them trying to create social and economic identities for themselves as Americans while heavily influenced by their unique cultural experiences mostly from Europe. My Antonia title is the name of Bohemian girl, the friend and love interest James Burden, who first meet as a ten-years old.
According to Polley “it is difficult to read my Antonia without acknowledging its ties to a national identity and, indeed the texts has repeatedly been read in, terms of classic American myths often in longing for a more innocent America” Jim Burden when he grows up he become a lawyer and he marries another woman, but he never forgets Antonia. In My Antonia especially, the young ones (at the beginning) such as Ambrosch Shimerda and Lena Lingard show people striving to create new identities and mingle with other people be it in business or social relations. Antonia just a symbol for the struggle to create a personal identity while maintaining relevance culturally and economically.
Willa Cather in real life wrote a lot and gave speeches on the topic of culture, immigration and what she termed which is a form of adopting new cultures more so by immigrants. Willa Cather envisioned and America where a variety of culture were thriving independently and generally accepted to be part of the larger American culture, In My Antonia novel she portrays immigrants who keep their own identities and still contribute socially, economically and politically to the society. Reading through My Antonia novel will make you ask yourself a few questions, Are immigrants’ useful member of the American society?
Who deserves the most credit for building the country in My Antonia. Jim, when he meets the Shimerdas is only a boy of ten years, but he still has attitudes concerning immigrants especially when he meets the Shimerdas. He focused on what makes them different from him. Jim describes Antonia on meeting her, “Her skin was brown, too, and in her cheeks, she glowed rich, dark color” (Cather). Immigrants like the Bohemians and the Russians Peter and Pavel are treated almost like outcasts. The Russians and Bohemians do odd jobs, have the most difficulty learning the English language, but Cather wants the audience to understand that they are equally crucial to the story if not more.
My Antonia, Jim Burden, who is the story, has to adjust to life in the countryside of Nebraska and the small town of Black Hawk. Jim is originally from Virginia, and at ten years old he is already an orphan. When Jim Antonia as ten years old, she is 13 years old but enthusiastic and curious about life “Antonia had opinions about everything, and she was soon able to make them Known” (Cather). Jim admires Antonia and loves her romantically even through she see him as a little brother. Jim is not an immigrant but he provide an almost natural point of view to show the readers how others live their lives.
Antonia’s father, Mr. Shimerda, has the most tragic story. The title of the novel comes from his words to Jim Burden. Mr. Shimerda was a musician in the “old country” (Cather) and he was depressed in the fact that making music could not fetch him money and respect in Nebraska. The Shimerdas have a very efficient work ethic. Ambrosch is a very hard-working farmer. Antonia too plows the land, and as fourteen and fifteen years old she has a muscular physique for a woman. Antonia’s brother Marek, whom Jim Calls “the crazy one” due to his mental problems, puts an effort in working the land. Most of the adult immigrants in the novel work the farmland.
There are also the “hired girls” called so because they are the cooks, maids, waitresses and other subordinate roles (Cather). The best two are Lena Lingard and Tiny soderbell. Both of them start from rags to riches, establishing themselves as independent women along the way. They are the older girls in their families and so have to work in Black Hawk to send money for their parents and younger siblings. Lena Lingard, a Norwegian, as a nineteen years old girl has a reputation for being a temptress. According to Holley “Neither Antonia or Lena are American-born, and Antonia eventually reintegrates herself back into Bohemian culture. These “new Americans” give up that American myth of undaunted idealism because they can transform the ideal into the real” they do so work odd jobs Lena surprises everybody when she moves to Lincoln and becomes a fashion icon there; designing and making clothes for all kinds of clients. Tiny manages a guesthouse and then gets lucky in the gold prospection business to the point that she is the wealthiest person by the end of the novel.
There is a section where Jim, Tiny and Lena Lingard meet in San Francisco and the two women are good friends and take care of each other. The working immigrants’ women are essential to the immigration as they show that hard work pays regardless of background. Otto Fuchs is another immigrant from Austria. He is a farm-hand and sort of jack of all trades for the Burdens. Fuchs is a hard-worker who has held various jobs, and his life is described to have been adventurous. Fuchs is a survivor, he has experienced growth in the Far West and in that time horned in skills which are valuable practically. Fuchs assists in the farm, doing hard labor work, which considering that. When Antonia’s father dies, Otto is the only carpenter who can make the coffin. He remarks, “I sometimes wonder if there will be anybody about to do it for me” (Cather) Fuchs is concerned that he might not get a proper coffin when he dies. He is an excellent carpenter, and Jim Burden is sure that carpentry could make him more money. Fuchs is that sort of immigrants who is highly under-rated but contributes a lot to society specially given his tremendous work ethics.
Through reading this novel, one might remark how come the title is My Antonia. In the novel, Lena Lingard has more presence than the eponymous Antonia. Comparing the stories of the two, Lena Lingard contributes more economically to society than Antonia. She gets into the fashion and clothing industry and becomes quite successful. She and Tiny Soderbell are strong women; men do not dictate how they live their lives, but still, it feels like they do not quite belong to society even through they have contributed much to it. Antonia gets married, has lots of children and seems to be content with her ordinary life at the end.
At the end of My Antonia, modernization and industrialization have changed the institution of marriage. It is not mentioned just how children Antonia has just that they are many and that the particular trend is not fashionable anymore, with only a large and loving family and not much in terms of material wealth, Antonia is both satisfied and proud of her life. The reader then notes that Antonia’s nurturing spirit for other people is essential towards building a nation and empowering others even though it requires sacrifices. My Antonia manages to weave together many stories, and the main message is adapting to new conditions while upholding the useful components of culture and the past. The last two sentences of the novel, Jim Burden remarks, “Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again, Whenever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past” (Cather).
The two sentences show us a lot; they are personal and also symbolic. Jim remanies over his life long friendship with Antonia, a girl from the other half of the world, who came to the United States with her family. She has a family now; her children will grow up as Americans and Bohemians. She was once a hired girl, but now is the mother of the next generation in the novel. The same can be said about all the other immigrants with young families such as Ambrosch and the Bohemian Marys (Cather) adult Antonia tells Jim how Mary Svoboda is “the best butter-maker” in the whole Nebraska countryside (Cather).
My Antonia is a story of how some immigrants with very little in terms of educations, social status and wealth hard and made life decision which ultimately turned their lives around and more importantly helped build America.
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