author of the youthful recollection that makes up the body of the
novel. As a youth in Nebraska, Jim develops a close friendship with
a Bohemian immigrant girl, Ántonia Shimerda. Jim is an intelligent, introspective
young man who responds strongly to the land and the environment
in which he lives. Unlike most other boys his age, Jim is more interested
in academics and reflection than in roughhousing; in fact, he seems
to prefer spending time alone or with girls such as Ántonia. At
the time of the narrative’s composition, Jim is married, but without
children, and working as a legal counsel in New York City.
in-depth analysis of Jim Burden.
The focus of Jim’s recollection, and one of his closest
childhood friends. Ántonia moves to Nebraska from Bohemia with the
rest of her family in her early teenage years. Intelligent, optimistic,
loyal, and kindhearted, the naturally gregarious Ántonia is forced to
accept a difficult life after the death of her father. At the time
Jim writes the narrative, she is raising her large family on the
Nebraska prairie, not far from where she and Jim grew up.
in-depth analysis of Ántonia Shimerda.
Norwegian immigrant’s daughter and a friend of Ántonia’s. Lena has
a brief liaison with Jim in Black Hawk and a more extended relationship
with him in Lincoln, where she sets up her own dressmaker’s shop. Lena
is pretty and blonde, and craves independence and excitement. Men
are always attracted to her, but she refuses to marry and give up
in-depth analysis of Lena Lingard.
grandfather. Josiah is a strongly religious man, silent and given
to hard work.
Jim’s grandmother. Emmaline shows great concern
and compassion for the Shimerdas and is a loving maternal figure
Burdens’ hired hand, who looks like a cowboy out of one of Jim’s
books but is actually an Austrian immigrant. Good-natured despite
his rough appearance, Otto decides to seek his fortune in the West
after the Burdens move to Black Hawk.
hired hand of the Burdens. Jake makes the trip from Virginia to
Nebraska along with Jim and accompanies Otto out west after the
Burdens move to Black Hawk. Jake has a powerful temper but generally displays
a good-natured and even childlike innocence about the world.
patriarch of the Bohemian immigrant family. A melancholy man given
to artistic and scholarly pursuits, Mr. Shimerda feels very much
out of place in foreign land. His depression eventually leads to
suicide, leaving his family members to pick up the pieces and struggle
to make a living on their own.
matriarch of the Bohemian immigrant family. Mrs. Shimerda is a brusque,
bossy, and often curt woman. After the suicide of her husband, she
is forced to make do with the little that she has in an attempt
to provide for her family.
youngest of the Shimerda children. Yulka is a pretty, young girl
who later helps Ántonia raise her baby.
The Shimerdas’ oldest son. Mrs. Shimerda and her
daughters dote on Ambrosch, claiming that he is brilliant and the
reason they came to America. Ambrosch shares his mother’s curt and
presumptuous attitude, but becomes the unquestioned head of the family
after Mr. Shimerda’s suicide.
The younger of the two Shimerda brothers. Marek’s
physical deformities are accompanied by a handful of psychological
instabilities and mental deficiencies.
of the hired girls in Black Hawk and a friend to Ántonia and Lena.
After working with Mrs. Gardener in the Boys’ Home, Tiny travels
west and makes a small fortune during the Alaskan gold rush.
gaunt, and nervous, Pavel is an immigrant who falls ill under the
care of the Shimerdas. He had been ostracized and forced to leave
his native Russia after a frightful incident involving a wolf attack
on a wedding party.
housemate, and a fat, happy man. Like Pavel, Peter was forced into
exile from his native Russia following a wolf attack on a wedding
party. Peter eventually finds himself severely in debt and sells
off his belongings, leaving America for a job as a cook in a Russian
patriarch of the Harling family, neighbors to the Burdens in Black
Hawk. A businessman of keen ability, Mr. Harling disapproves of
Ántonia’s frequent carousals at the dancing pavilion and eventually
forces her to leave her post as their housekeeper because of her
matriarch of the Harling family, and a charismatic and active woman.
Mrs. Harling develops a strong affection for Ántonia, and she provides
myriad activities for her children, Ántonia, and Jim, to take part
The oldest of the Harling children. Frances has
a sound business mind and manages her father’s accounts with a great
deal of skill.
The only Harling son. Charley is of a military persuasion
and eventually goes on to a successful career at the Naval Academy
middle Harling daughter. Julia is Jim’s age and has a penchant for
youngest Harling daughter, and something of a tomboy.
fiancé, and an arrogant and selfish young man. After being fired
from his job as a railroad conductor, Donovan leaves Ántonia on
the eve of their wedding, running away to Mexico in search of a quick fortune.
proprietress of the Boys’ Home in Black Hawk.
A blind, black pianist. D’Arnault comes to Black
Hawk on a blustery March weekend and gives a concert at the Boys’
Home that brings down the house.
leading moneylender in Black Hawk and a shady character.
tutor at the university in Lincoln. Cleric eventually moves on to
a teaching position at Harvard University and brings Jim along with
him. His premature death from pneumonia has a strong effect on Jim.
Burdens’ tenant at their old farmhouse. Widow Steavens develops
a close relationship with Ántonia in the time surrounding the breaking
of Ántonia’s engagement.
Bohemian homesteader and friend of the Shimerdas who later moves
to Black Hawk and becomes a saloon proprietor.
Bohemian immigrant and neighbor to the Burdens who sells the Shimerdas
their first farm in America and cheats them out of several comforts.
Bohemian immigrant to America who marries Ántonia and raises a large
family with her.