ELIT 48C Class 15
Jerry Falwell said “If
we do not act now,
homosexuals will own
America! If you and I
do not speak up now,
literally crush all
decent men, women,
and children who get
in its way”
• My Antonia
• Book II 9-15 Book III
• Discussion Questions
Themes: Coming of Age
• My Ántonia is a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, that
traces Jim Burden's 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 boy's
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
• 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.
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
Otto tells Mrs. Burden, "Bohemians has a natural distrust of
And Norwegian Lena feels fated by the Lapp blood of her paternal
grandmother. "I guess that’s what's the matter with me; they say
Lapp blood will out."
• Discuss the
1. Discuss the differences Jim sees between the
country girls and the town girls.
2. Explain the importance of the dance pavilion to
both Jim and Antonia.
3. Explain why Willa Cather has chosen to devote one
of the books of her novel to Lena Lingard.
4. Discuss the importance of the narrator leaving
Black Hawk for college life.
1. Q: Why would Lena decide to never marry?
Will she keep that promise and never have
children or will she succumb to the “norms”
2. Q: Is the financial stability Lena achieved an
impetus for her disregard towards the
institution of marriage and family?
3. Q: Why does Lena chose Lincoln to set up her
shop? Why does her character evolve even
more has she become a round character?
QHQs: Jim, Lena, and
1. To Jim, what is Lena Lingard? How does Lena contrast with
Antonia in Jim’s eyes?
2. Q: Did Jim and Lena sleep together?
3. Q: Why do Lena and Antonia feel comfortable expressing their
feelings with Jim?
4. Q: Does Jim ever truly love Antonia? Could his apparent
idealization of her help to explain why they never marry?
5. Q: Would either Lena or Antonia make a good wife for Jim, or
would he be better off with someone else? Or perhaps alone?
6. Does Jim’s appreciation of women’s independence make him
queer or is he simply ahead of his time in regards to his views on
1. Q: How does the dancing pavilion in Book II of My
Antonia highlight ideas stated in F.T. Marinetti’s
Manifesto of Futurism?
2. Q: Does Cather use the hired girls as a symbol for a
woman being able to be independent and admired,
to be seen as a positive change in society?
3. Q: What does the plough against the setting sun
4. Q: What is the significance of the Cutter family? What
do they bring that the rest of the town lacks?
5. How does Cather incorporate the idea of orphaning
and/or abandonment in her novel?
Read My Antonia (1918) and Book IV
Chapters 1-3 and Book V Chapters 1-3
Post #15: 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
3. Discuss the differences between the Cuzak
household and the Shimerda household from
many years before.
4. Write your own QHQ