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AGENDA• My Antonia • Book II 9-15 Books III • Themes • Discussion Questions • QHQs
Difference It is through the eyes of Jim Burden, an orphan and thus something of an outsider himself, that Cather considers differences of class, nationality, and gender. Even before young Jim arrives in Nebraska, he is met with prejudice against foreigners. Jake thinks that foreigners spread diseases. But Cather makes it clear that prejudice was not invented in America. Otto tells Mrs. Burden, "Bohemians has a natural distrust of Austrians." And Norwegian Lena feels fated by the Lapp blood of her paternal grandmother. "I guess that’s whats the matter with me; they say Lapp blood will out."
Difference (continued) Throughout the novel, Jim himself is a perpetrator of pervading prejudices and conventions. As a boy, he is indignant that Antonia, a girl, should have a superior attitude toward him. After his success in killing a snake wins her admiration, he cannot help insulting her, "What did you jabber Bohunk for?"• Q: What are the differences Jim sees between the country girls and the town girls?• Q: Why does Cather continue to contrast Lena and Ántonia?• Q: Why did she include Lena, the complete antithesis of her main protagonist?• Q: What characteristics of female role models that Jim admires are consistent/analogous to characteristics of lovers that he desires? What similarities can we draw between his female role models and his potential lovers?
Coming of Age• My Ántonia is a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, that traces Jim Burdens development from the age of ten. • It begins when he is orphaned and newly transplanted to his grandparents farm in Nebraska, where he first feels erased. • His escape into romanticism first takes the form of a young boys fascination with outlaws, such as Jesse James, and lost adventurers, such as the Swiss Family Robinson. • As an adolescent, he remains estranged although conventional. Bored by the sameness of his small, pioneer town, he is intrigued by the romantic foreignness of the hired girls, girls he will never marry, and he keeps away from girls that would be suitable for him. • As an adult, he remains virtually without a real home. His marriage is childless; he and his wife live almost separate lives, his being a life of travel on the railway through the land that he loves.
Are the women coming of age too?• Q: on page 127, when the girls are teasing Jim about his possible future occupation, are they fantasizing future occupations vicariously through Jim?• Q: if the girls are fantasizing about an unobtainable future through Jim, then why is there also the switch in gender personalities?• Q- Why don’t Lena and Jim don’t have a relationship?
Coming of Age• What is the importance of the dance pavilion to Jim and Antonia? Does it play a part in their “coming of age”?• What is the importance of Jim Burden leaving Black Hawk for college life? Is this part of his “coming of age”? Does it serve another purpose in moving the plot?• Q- Lena and Jim go to see a new play called “ Camile.” How does play connect with Jim?
MORE QHQ Questions• I continue to be interested in how Cather so successfully captured the hearts and imagination of her contemporary audience in spite of her unconventional depictions of women…• Could the fact that Antonia has moved in with the Cutters be foreshadowing an event to occur in the future? How does Antonia really feel about the Cutters, (after all, the Cutters lead Pavel to “commit suicide” right?)
HOMEWORKRead My Antonia (1918) and Book IV Chapters 1-3 and Book V Chapters 1-3Post #8: Answer one of the following prompts: 1. Compare and contrast Tiny Soderball and Lena Lingard’s success with money. 2. Discuss the reasons why Willa Cather chose to have Antonia return to the Shimerda farm as an unwed mother. 3. Explain Antonia’s choice of names for each of her children and how each of these names ties in to characters from her past. 4. . Discuss the differences between the Cuzak household and the Shimerda household from many years before. 5. Write your own QHQ
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