Audio Manager Ali, Technology Manager Bottorff, & Exhibit Coordinator Alonso-Emanuel Present: An Introduction to Willa Cather’s My Ántonia
Extra Wall – Diagonal 8 by 12 by 1 feet Settings painted Pictures framed Welcome: Instructions:
Themes: of The recurring idea of nostalgia of people and the natural setting is made evident by Cather through Jim’s memories of Ántonia and the introduction in which the narrator also recalls this Bohemian girl. In the introduction, Cather wrote, “During that burning day when we were crossing Iowa, our talk kept returning to a central figure, a Bohemian girl whom we had known long ago and whom both of us admired. More than any other person we remembered, this girl seemed to mean to us this country, the conditions, the whole adventure of our childhood. To speak her name was to call up pictures of people and places, to set up a quiet drama going in one’s brain” (Cather 10). One can clearly see that both Jim and the narrator are nostalgic of this Bohemian girl, Ántonia.Writing Style: Willa Cather was a very descriptive person and her nature descriptions are only part of her gift. One of Cather’s earliest jobs was as a critic and her description took her critiques to a whole new level to the point where she was delightfully called the “meat-ax” by her editor. She once said as a critic that the actress Effie Ellsler had a "shrill domestic little stage shriek that is suggestive of mice”. As anexample of her description in the novel, she stated, “As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The Character Development: Willa Cather was born in 1873 in Virginia. At the age of nine, she moved tored of the grass made all the great prairie the color of wine stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so Red Cloud, Nebraska to her father’s farm where she was moved by the dramatic environment and much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running” (Cather 20). One can see that Cather writes with a certain various cultural immigrants. Similarly, Ántonia Shimerda travelled to Nebraska from Bohemia and descriptive prowess where she also inputs her own opinions such as grass running as water in the sea. lived on her father’s farm. She is a warm, earthly, and mature girl. Correspondingly, Jim Burden was born in Virginia and moved to Nebraska to live on grandparents’ farm where he met the foreign Shimerda family. On the other hand, he is less mature at first and rigid in beliefs, disliking when Ántonia treats him like an inferior since Jim thinks it should be the other way around him being the male. His rigid views are displayed when Cather writes, “After Ántonia had said the new words over and over, she wanted to give me a little chased silver ring she wore on her middle finger. When she coaxed and insisted, I repulsed her quite sternly” (Cather 26). Jim thought the idea of a female giving him a ring backwards according to his rigid beliefs of males being superior and resisted her. Ántonia’s father, Mr. Shimerda, represents her old life in Bohemia and he also shapes her into an idealistic, scholarly, and adventurous woman. However, Mrs. Shimerda represents new life for Ántonia since she frequently is portrayed as the one who asks the Burden’s how to do various jobs in their life on the farm. She is always moving forward away from their old life in Bohemia. For example, she cares mainly about money and forgets quickly about their life in Bohemia, unlike Ántonia who was seen crying by a river longing for her life back in her old country. Setting: The setting of this story plays an important, symbolic role, but it is also important because the author of My Àntonia, Willa Cather, is very gifted in her unique and wonderful descriptions and how they impact characters. This scene is a prairie in summertime where Jim and Àntonia, the two protagonists, first meet in the story and become friends. Cather states, “The country and I had it out together, and by the end of that first autumn, that shaggy grass country had gripped me with a passion I have never been able to shake. It has been the happiness and the curse of my life” (qtd. in Johnson). Her descriptive language eloquently portrays the landscape of the prairie in the summertime.
Very Descriptive in Setting Summer Prairie First Setting of the story
Willa Cather Ántonia Shimerda Jim Burden Mr. & Mrs. Shimerda
Nostalgia Found in the Introduction
Writing Style: Willa Cather personifies her own life through the lives of characters such as Jim and Ántonia. She uses her childhood town of Red Cloud as the base for the fictional Black Hawk in Nebraska. She states, “I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great” (Cather 26). In her life, Cather went through a time where she searched for her identity, and in this passage one can see characters also searching for their own identities pondering death, happiness, and knowledge.Character Development: Willa Cather searches for her identity as a young adult and, similarly, Ántonia tries tofind herself and fit in by following her brother Ambrosch to the fields after tragedy strikes or dancing withsupposedly unsophisticated girls. She still manages to see the best in life, however. Jim also goes to dances withÁntonia and the non-classy girls, even though the town frowns upon it. But soon, he begins to drift from Ántoniaand she begins to become more of a memory than a real person. Theme of Coming of Age: This theme of coming of age is embodied by the growth of the characters. Since Antonia is older than Jim her level of maturity comes sooner than Jim’s, separating the two. Cather says, “Much as I like Antonia, I hated the superior tone that she took with me. She was four years older than I, to be sure, and had seen more of the world; but I was a boy and she was a girl, and Setting: The Burden family moves to a house in the outskirts of town as opposed to their I resented her protecting manner” (Cather 41) Jim doesn’t appreciate Antonia’s condescending manner towards him, and attempts to change this. “That snake hung on our corral fence for several days; old countryside farm. The Shimerda family remains on their farm, but Ántonia joins a some of the neighbors came to see it and agreed that it was the biggest rattler ever killed in those parts. This was enough for Antonia… I had killed a big snake – I was now a big fellow” (Cather pg 44). neighboring family for work. Soon Jim departs for college, leaving his hometown and old The theme shows up as Jim attempts to change Antonia’s feelings toward him and gain her respect by adopting more masculine qualities. This also introduces Jim’s romantic feelings towards Antonia, friends behind. exemplifying his maturity. Antonia feels obliged, as an immigrant farm girl, to take upon field work. She takes a more masculine stance until she grows enough to work in the nearby town. Confronted with enticing opportunities, she shifts towards more feminine qualities as she decides upon trying to leave the past, along with the memories of her family and Jim’s.
Setting: Black Hawk Writing Style: Cather pulls on own experiences
Willa Cather’s growth Antonia’s search for identity Jim’s new perspective and role Jim’s Grandparents
Growth Searching for identity
Character Development: Ántonia becomes engaged but then soon becomes depressed after being left at the altar. Jim goes to a university- far away from Black hawk. He stays away for twenty years and becomes a successful lawyer in New York One of these hired girls, Lena, becomes more successful as a dressmaker. Theme of Separate Ways: The differences in experiences between foreign Ambrosch is a stern hard-worker who is reserved. He only helps his immigrants and natives is made quite clear by Cather. Even with wealth in family and is uncaring of “outsiders”. He often borrowed things like their old country, the Shimerdas are poor here, but respectably still make a horse collar or saddle from the Burdens and then losing the items do. “Mr. Shimerda made grandmother sit down on the only chair and or returning them almost destroyed. pointed his wife to a stool beside her. Standing before them with his hand on Ántonia’s shoulder, he talked in a low tone, and his daughter translated. He wanted us to know that they were not beggars in the old country; he made good wages, and his family were respected there” (Cather 57).The differences in experiences between foreign immigrants and natives are also made quite clear by Setting: Jim begins his life at Harvard and quickly becomes a successful lawyer moving from theCather. Even with wealth in their old country, the Shimerdas are poor here, but respectably still campus pictured to New York where he spends many years contemplating his old life occasionallymake do. “Mr. Shimerda made grandmother sit down on the only chair and pointed his wife to a seeing Lena but never visiting Antonia even though thoughts of her fill his mind. Plaque 11 Separatestool beside her. Standing before them with his hand on Ántonia’s shoulder, he talked in a low Ways Character Development Willa Cather searches for her identity as a young adult. Ántonia triestone, and his daughter translated. He wanted us to know that they were not beggars in the old to find herself and fit in by following her brother Ambrosch to the fields after tragedy strikes orcountry; he made good wages, and his family were respected there” (Cather 57). In this portion of dancing with supposedly unsophisticated girls. She still manages to see the best in life. She thenthe novel, the differences between native and foreign are made clear since, even due to wealth in becomes engaged but then soon becomes depressed after being left at the altar. Jim also goes totheir old country they still attempt to make do in America, specifically Nebraska farmland. This is dances with Ántonia and the non-classy girls, even though the town frowns upon it. But soon, hedifferent from natives in that they don’t have to burden themselves with the difficulties of long- begins to drift from Ántonia and she soon becomes more of a memory than a real person. He thendistance moving. goes to a university- far away from Black hawk. He stays away for twenty years and becomes a successful lawyer in New York. One of these hired girls, Lena, becomes more successful as a dressmaker.
Foreign versus Natural Jim’s University in the winter citizen and divisions it creates
Jim, Antonia and Lena drift apart
Character Development: Jim still shares a close connectionwith his childhood friend from Bohemia, Ántonia. However,even with material success, Jim still seems lacking.Ántonia, even without much material success, brims with awarm life and this offers a method for Jim to fill his emptyself; he plans to stay more in touch with Ántonia.Leo is a symbol of legacy, as he is much like Jim and Antoniain character and plays the violin like Mr. Shimerda. Hisappearance at the end of the novel symbolizes thecontinuance of what the two main characters hadexperienced during their childhood life. As an adventurouschild, he reminds Jim much of how he used to be. Setting: After schooling, Jim returns to Black Hawk to reunite with his family and friends, including Ántonia. This painting-like scene shows Jim’s nostalgic feelings for the prairie where he grew up. Nostalgic Theme of Nostalgia: The idea of nostalgia plays an integral role in the novel, My Antonia, as it can be seen in the introduction of the book the book. Jim explains, “I was ten years old then; I had lost both my father and mother within a year, and my Virginia relatives were sending me out to my grandparents, who lived in Nebraska” (Cather pg 13). The theme continues to come up when the immigrant family reminisces about their old country. Mr. Shimerda’s violin is portrayed as a symbol representing this feeling of nostalgia as it reminds the family of their old home. “Optima dies, prima fugit” (Cather 173), a Latin phrase mentioned in the novel embodies the emotions triggered by the nostalgia, as evidenced when Jim describes how “the [sun] dropped and dropped until the red tip went beneath the earth” (Cather 162). Jim narrates, “As I went back alone over that familiar road, I could almost believe that a boy and girl rand along beside me, as our shadows used to do, laughing and whispering to each other in the grass” (Cather 203) After the many years of being apart, Jim remembers the old days with Antonia as he imagines their younger selves running along the road. “Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” (Cather 205) “For Antonia and me, this had been the road of Destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be.” (Cather 229) The last paragraph ties up the story, bringing Jim’s and Antonia’s journeys back together as it completes the circle… Jim’s memories and adventures with her will continue to show up during his life as they repeat the circle.
Jim finally returns with only material wealth Ántonia, though poor, has gained much from her life and is happy Return to the prairie Minor characters – Ambrosch & Leo
Nostalgia returns as Jim remembers his old adventures The road that took them through their lives returned them to the beginning in the end
Feel free to try the Farming Game in the center of the room at this time and experience the difficulties of running a farm as Ántonia or Ambrosch! Controls: Joystick: Move Ántonia/Ambrosch Shake: water plants Swipe: harvest plants Hold in both hands like a handle and push forward to plough Flick: plant seeds