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My Ántonia

Willa Cather

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title  ·  My Ántonia

author  · Willa Cather

type of work  · Novel

genre  · Frontier fiction, autobiographical fiction

language  · English

time and place written  · 1917, New Hampshire

date of first publication  · 1918

narrator  · The main part of the story is Jim Burden’s memoir narrated in his first-person voice, from the perspective of an older man looking back on his childhood. The introduction to the novel is narrated by an unnamed individual, one of Jim’s childhood acquaintances. Like Jim, this narrator uses a friendly, first-person voice.

point of view  · Except for the introduction, written from the perspective of the unnamed narrator, the entire novel is written from Jim’s perspective.

tone · Jim’s attitude toward his story is somewhat sad, extremely nostalgic, and full of yearning for a lost past. Throughout Book V, as he narrates the story of his reunion with Ántonia, he becomes much more optimistic and less elegiac in mood.

tense  · Past

setting (time)  · 1880s–1910s

setting (place)  · In and around Black Hawk, Nebraska; also Lincoln, Nebraska

protagonist  · Jim Burden

major conflict  · Jim has an extremely close, loving relationship with his childhood friend Ántonia, but their friendship is tested by the different paths their lives take them down, as Jim acquires an education while Ántonia is forced to work to help support her family. As a secondary conflict, Jim, a middle-aged lawyer, looks back longingly toward his childhood with Ántonia but feels he has lost it forever; his feelings of nostalgia impede him from reestablishing contact with the real Ántonia, now the matriarch of a large family in Nebraska. On a more concrete level, Ántonia must struggle against various hardships, such as the death of her father and her fiancé’s betrayal of her.

rising action  · Many modernist authors broke from dramatic or narrative conventions; My Ántonia does so by avoiding a conventional plot shape with rising action, climax, and falling action. Still, as Ántonia’s life becomes fraught with increasing hardship, we might say that her father’s suicide, the betrayal of her fiancé, and the birth of her child act as rising action. In Jim’s life, his move to Black Hawk, his time with Lena, and the dances all serve as rising action in his transition from childhood to adulthood.

climax  · The structure of My Ántonia does not yield one singular moment of dramatic intensity in which the conflict is resolved. The novel becomes calmer and less conflicted as the final books progress, -leading to a warmly optimistic conclusion that is not the result of any definitive struggle. The closest thing the novel has to a climactic moment is Jim’s reunion with Ántonia, twenty years after their last meeting.

falling action  · If Jim’s reunion with Ántonia is taken as the climax, then the falling action is his time at the Cuzak farm as he grows to know and admire Ántonia’s husband and children, and resolves to spend more time with them.

themes  · Humankind’s relationship to the past; humankind’s relationship to environment; the immigrant experience in America; the traditional nature of late nineteenth-century American frontier values

motifs  · Religion, childhood, and adulthood

symbols  · The Nebraska landscape, the plow

foreshadowing  · The information divulged in the Introduction contains the blueprint for everything to come in the novel; in a sense, the whole novel is foreshadowed. Also, Ántonia’s statement to Jim that things will be easy for him but hard for her foreshadows his eventual departure for college and a high-powered job and her difficult life on the prairie.

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Plot

by heggedunk, August 19, 2012

My Antonia is a modernist novel about the coming of age. Modernism is a style of writing used from the late 19th century till the 1930s. Modernism is a style that has no central plot instead it is more of a series of episodes. Please take note that most teachers ask for a specific plot where this novel doesn't really have one. My advice here would be to talk about the aging of the main characters or Jim's attraction to Antonia as a main plot. Also take note that both Jim Burden and Antonia can be considered Protagonists. I hope this helps as... Read more

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207 out of 238 people found this helpful

Regarding Mr.Shimerda

by STianF223, October 10, 2013

Mr. Shimerda CANNOT possibly have committed suicide for this is impossible. The scene has showed that Mr. Shimerda, laying on his side with the gun beside him. Otto's suspicion was that Mr. Shimerda was to lay on his side and put his long rifle in his mouth, using his big toe to pull the trigger, and kill himself. This would make sense, seeing how the scene was created and how there was a bullet hole in the wall until it takes up on account of two major problem, being the Shimerdas are HIGHLY religious and that there were pieces of his head,... Read more

1 Comments

17 out of 41 people found this helpful

Another Harling

by rachelnolan, November 20, 2013

Actually, Sally is not the youngest Harling child, Nina is. They have 5 children.

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