My Antonia

Willa Cather

BACKGROUND

Willa Cather's novels are famous for showing the American landscape and its intense social, psychological and spiritual impact upon its inhabitants. My Antonia is the story of a young man's growth upon the prairies of Nebraska. Jim meets Antonia, a girl whom he loves in the deepest way (like a sister, a lover, a mother and a Goddess) for the rest of his life. While describing his relationship with Antonia and others, Jim also depicts the immigrant farm families on the Great Plains. In this, as in many of her other works, Cather is able to show the great American spirit through nature and the mindset of the pioneers.

MAIN CHARACTERS

Jim: The hero of the book. An orphan and a romantic, he narrates story.

Antonia: A beautiful girl from Bohemia, the Platonic (non-sexual) love of Jim's life.

Grandmother & Grandfather: Jim's grandparents, who've adopted him.

Jake: Farmhand from Jim's hometown, friend to Jim.

Otto: Austrian farmhand, friend to Jim.

Krajiek: A cheat.

Peter & Pavel: Two Russian guys.

Wick Cutter: An evil loan shark.

The Harlings: Neighbors.

Lena: Good-looking Norwegian girl.

Gaston: Jim's college professor.

PLOT

My Antonia is told in five parts, or books, each covering a period in Jim's life. Each period shows Jim at a different phase of thinking.

In Book One, Jim adjusts to his new life on the prairie after losing his parents. His grandparents are good, gentle Christian folk and encourage Jim to treat people with dignity. Jim makes an intense friendship with Antonia, whose family has just moved to the prairie from Bohemia (the Czech Republic today). Even though her English is shaky, the two youngsters form a bond that goes deep. Life is hard for Antonia's family their first year on the prairie. After her father kills himself, Antonia and Jim begin to drift apart.

In Book Two, Jim has moved to town, so his life begins to center around socializing, instead of farming. Soon, Antonia moves to town, too, finding work in the home of Jim's neighbors. The two continue their friendship as they pass through high school. They are no longer little kids and each one now has to deal with the restlessness of being a teenager.

In Book Three, Jim loses touch with Antonia because he has gone away to college. He throws himself into his studies and feels his mind expanding. But when he starts dating a girl he knew from his hometown, the books look less attractive. Finally, he ditches this girl and heads east to go to Harvard.

In Book Four, Jim heads home during a break from law school to learn that Antonia has gotten herself pregnant and is living alone on a farm. At first he is angry with her, but when the two meet again, he sees in her eyes the same flicker and remembers the tenderness he has always felt for her.

In Book Five, Jim and Antonia meet after twenty years. Antonia has a huge family and looks worn out from a life of work. But after a few minutes the same spark draws the two together again. Jim realizes that she has always been more than just a woman to him, but a kind of Goddess. He also realizes after so much time that his early years on the prairie have made him what he is today.

CHAPTER BY CHAPTER

BOOK ONE

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

BOOK TWO

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

BOOK THREE

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

BOOK FOUR

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

BOOK FIVE

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART