With an Introduction by Marilyn Sides and a New Afterword by Terese Svoboda Signet. My Ántonia made also a home for me in the Nebraska plains of the late 1800s and then made me grieve for its loss. After my European literary sojourn, I left fiction completely for many years and spent my time reading history, mainly ancient Roman history, the Jewish culture during the Roman occupation of Jerusalem and the first three centuries of the Christian church. Willa Cather made me love both this title character and the novel. I felt the old pull of the earth, the solemn magic that comes of those fields at nightfall. As alluded to at the start of this review, this novel is all about the character sketches. Everything that is lost and never recovered and never forgotten.
She was laughter, and kindness, and the epitome of joie de vivre, while the harsh treatment of her neurotic, cruel mother and her jealous brother who made her work in the fields on neighboring farms like a man, never seemed to stop her from being who she was. A selection of allegros could symbolize their hope and dreams for a new life in America, where opportunities were bountiful and greater marriage proposals awaited their beautiful daughters. She really did a number on you! The Shimerdas are the proverbial fish out of water or more accurately, the Bohemians in Nebraska. The things they say are things people should say, and they belong to each other the way people should. Antonia's father commits suicide fairly early in the novel which has a deleterious effect on her family and among the community. The story is narrated by an orphaned boy who goes to live with his grandparents after his parents pass away.
A family from Bohemia, Czech Republic are one of these people, not speaking a word of English , the Shimerdas, living in a cave, starving, no proper clothes, dirt poor, city folks the closest to Jim's grandparent's home. Or those who foolishly came afterwards, much much later, balancing their starry-eyed dreams of fulfillment or often mere survival, on the crutch of that primeval instinct that humanity will vanquish the fact of man-made demarcations, only to languish in exile for a lifetime pining away for a lost home they could never regain? It's one of the stories that America is founded upon: Immigrants who've left their homeland on the promise of a better life in the new world. Marilyn Sides is the author of a collection of short stories, The Island of the Mapmaker's Wife and Other Tales, and of a novel, The Genius of Affection. Of the memories of a lost home that persist in the mindscape as the warm gusts of wind and the singing of the larks. This Nebraskan prairie civilization is like the dogtown that lives below it. She then taught high school, worked for the Pittsburgh Leader, and spent a good deal of time traveling.
Instead Cather cuts to the essence of the person with excellent word choice time and again, planting in the reader's mind fruitful, full-color images of exactly who she's talking about. For Jim Burden, Ántonia is home, indelibly associated as she is with his boyhood days spent chasing rabbits and prairie dogs. He was on his way by train to live with his grandparents, Josiah and Emmeline Burden, in the remote outskirts of Nebraska. And her places are ick, so that makes her even more wonderful as a writer. When I arrive at such a point, I stop and carefully read the words at my own pace and take my time to picture the landscape. This is another Read Harder task: Read an assigned book you hated or never finished.
For her childhood friend Jim Burden, Antonia comes to embody the elemental spirit of this frontier. I loved that she brought to the fore the stories of the people of the New World, especially the women. In a completely serendipitous convergence I came across this paragraph in Michael Dirda's in the Willa Cather essay: Willa Cather hated to see her fiction anthologized or used as a school text. Their hard work paid off, while the American families who looked down on them, were still poor and cottoned-up in their deluded sense of superiority and their respect for respectability. My own family came to America from Finland about the same time this book is set. She feared that instead of discovering her stories and novels on their own, children would grow up with unpleasant memories of being forced to read her work.
It is written as a memoir of the narrator, Jim Burden as he reflects on his early childhood when he was an orphan living with his grandparents on a farm near Black Hawk Nebraska around the 1880s. A novel that tells what it was really like, to live and struggle in the lonely prairie, during the nineteenth century, in the American Midwest, not romantic, but plenty of misery, and a little happiness. Yet, it is the atmosphere created, the way the stories are told simply yet clearly and with great feeling — these are the qualities that make me want to hug these books. My Antonia My Antonia is narrated in the first person, by a character named Jim Burden. He never gives away everything about himself. Cather makes you think of all that. Especially now when the word 'immigrant', hurled at us ad nauseam from the airwaves and the domains of heated social media discussions, invokes images of gaunt, exhausted but solemnly hopeful faces of Syrians knocking on the doors of Europe and America, having voyaged across perilous waters that have already claimed many of their loved ones as price of admission.
I thought the character of Ántonia was exceptionally well-written; I think she's one of those unforgettable literary characters, and that's definitely due to Cather's amazing writing and depiction of her. Alaska's gold, San Francisco's decadence and New York's opulence were waiting and Jimmy had to tell their stories in his memoir, because everything evolved around Antonia. Everyone who comes into contact with her is changed, and haunted, by the experience. I'm sure there's a very good reason that Cather makes Jim her narrator, and has him show the reader Antonia through his eyes did Cather suspect that it would be hard for a woman to sell a book where a woman tells us about her own life? I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. Nebraska was a hard country, and let down as many settlers as it accepted. But Ántonia's version of the American Dream envisages a life of simple self-sufficiency, despite the hardships it may entail. We had stopped at a little gas station and truck stop just beyond the Indiana state line.
And they made time to dance. This doubled feeling of homesickness is what so powerfully fastens Jim and Ántonia together and what urges them to turn to the Nebraskan landscape in search of protection, developing an intense attachment to the natural world which captures their changing moods and eases their sense of estrangement, always in tune with the changing of the seasons. Also new to the neighborhood is the Shimerda family, which includes young Ántonia. Maybe it is true that Jim is too much of a romantic. Alexander's Bridge, a short novel set in Boston, was published in the same year. All of the nitty gritties seem pointless.
My Antonia is a staple of high-school English classes, but seldom a favorite with students, especially teenage boys. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Yale Review, Poetry, Bomb, Paris Review, Harvard Review, Narrative, and many other magazines. Some people and places are forever etched in our memories. With an Introduction by Marilyn Sides and an Afterword by Terese Svoboda About the Author Willa Cather 1873—1948 was born in Winchester, Virginia. My Antonia is one of those rare, highly prized works of great literature that not only enriches its readers but immerses them in a tale superbly told. And Willa Cathers lush descriptions of the rolling Nebraska grasslands interweave with the blossoming of a woman in the early days of the twentieth century in a novel that is an epic chronicle of Americas past. Instead, the cultured Shimerda family finds itself huddled in a primitive sod house buffeted by the ceaselessly blowing winds on the Midwest prairie.