Willa Cather, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, considered My Ántonia to be one of her best works, and critic H.L. Mencken claimed it was one of the best American novels ever written. Published in 1918, the novel compassionately and intimately traces the story of a Bohemian family as they settle... read more
The book's narrator, Jim Burden, arrives in the town of Black Hawk, Nebraska, on the same train as the Shimerdas, when he goes to live with his grandparents after his parents have died. Jim develops strong feelings for Ántonia, something between a crush and a filial bond, and the reader views... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The book's narrator, Jim Burden, arrives in the town of Black Hawk, Nebraska, on the same train as the Shimerdas, when he goes to live with his grandparents after his parents have died. Jim develops strong feelings for Ántonia, something between a crush and a filial bond, and the reader views Ántonia's life, including its attendant struggles and triumphs, through that lens.
The novel is divided into five books, some of which incorporate short stories Cather had previously written, based on her own life growing up on the Nebraska prairies. The volumes correspond roughly to the stages of Ántonia's life up through her marriage and motherhood, although the third volume, "Lena Lingard," focuses more on Jim's time in college and his affair with Lena, another childhood friend of his, who is also Ántonia's friend.
The five books, in order, are:
The Shimerdas - the longest book within the novel. It covers Jim's early years spent on his grandparents' farm, out on the prairie.
The Hired Girls - the second longest section of the novel. It covers Jim's time in town, when he spends time with Ántonia and the other country girls who work in town. Language, particularly descriptions, begin to become more sexualized, particularly concerning Ántonia and Lena.
Lena Lingard - this chronicles Jim's time at the university, and the period in which he becomes reacquainted with Lena Lingard.
The Pioneer Woman's Story - Jim visits the Harlings and hears about Ántonia's fateful romance with Larry Donovan. This is the shortest book.
Cuzak's Boys - Jim goes to visit Ántonia and meets her new family, her children and husband.
“When I closed my eyes I could hear them all laughing — the Danish laundry girls and the three Bohemian Marys. Lena had brought them all back to me. It came over me, as it had never done before, the relationship between girls like those and the poetry of Virgil. If there were no girls like them in the world, there would be no poetry. I understood that clearly, for the first time. This revelation seemed to me inestimably precious.”
“During that burning day when we were crossing Iowa, our talk kept returning to a central figure, a Bohemian girl whom we had both known long ago. More than any other person we remembered, this girl seemed to mean to us the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of our childhood.”
““Why aren’t you always nice like this, Tony?”“How nice?”“Why, just like this; like yourself. Why do you all the time try to be like Ambrosch?”She put her arms under her head and lay back, looking up at the sky. “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.””
“She lent herself to immemorial human attitudes which we recognize by instinct as universal and true. I had not been mistaken. She was a battered woman now, not a lovely girl; but she still had that something which fires the imagination, could still stop one’s breath for a moment by a look or gesture that somehow revealed the meaning in common things.”
“"At any rate, that is happiness,; to be dissolved into something complete and great."”Jim Burden
“... the world of ideas; when one first enters that world everything else fades for a time, and all that went before is as if it had not been.”
“There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made”Jim Burden
“I had a feeling that the world was left behind, that we had got over the edge of it, and were outside man's jurisdiction”Jim Burden
“... I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the color of wine stains, or of certain sea weeds when they are first washed up.”Jim Burden
“... I felt motion in the landscape; in the fresh, easy blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide, and underneath it herds of wild buffalo were galloping, galloping ...”Jim Burden
“The light air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left, and if one went a little farther there would be only sun and sky, and one would float off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed over our heads making slow shadows on the grass.”Jim Burden
“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.”
“They kept him in their hole and fed him for the same reason that the prairies dogs and the brown owls house the rattle snakes - because they did not know how to get rid of him.”Jim Burden
“There was only - spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm high wind - rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted.”Jim Burden
“It seemed as if we could hear the corn growing in the night; under the stars one caught a faint crackling in the dewy, heavy odoured cornfields where the feathered stalks stood so juicy and green.”Jim Burden
“for me more than anything else,I felt motion in the landscape;in the fresh,easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself,as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide,and underneath it herds of wild buffalo were galloping,galloping....”Jim Burden
We’re hiding the errata, movie connections, books that influenced this book, books influenced by this book, books that cite this book and books cited by this book sections. If you would like to add content to them, you must first make them visible.