First edition with rare dustjacket
|Publisher||Houghton Mifflin (Boston)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.52 20|
|LC Class||PS3505.A87 M8 1994e|
My Ántonia (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable of "Ántonia") is a novel published in 1918 by American writer Willa Cather, considered one of her greatest works. It is the final book of her "prairie trilogy" of novels, preceded by O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark.
The book's narrator, Jim Burden, arrives in the fictional town of Black Hawk, Nebraska, on the same train as the Shimerdas. His parents have died so he is going to live with his grandparents. 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 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, especially when they concern 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.
Jim Burden: The narrator and protagonist of the novel, Jim grows up in Black Hawk, Nebraska and becomes a successful lawyer.
Josiah and Emmaline Burden: Jim's grandparents, who live on a farm in Nebraska.
Jake Marpole: Farm hand from Virginia at the Burden place.
Otto Fuchs: Farm hand from Austria at the Burden place.
Ántonia "Tony" Shimerda: The bold and free-hearted young Bohemian girl who moves with her family to Black Hawk, Nebraska.
Mr. and Mrs. Shimerda: Ántonia's immigrant parents from Bohemia.
Ambrosch, Marek and Yulka: Ántonia's brothers and sister.
Anton Cuzak: Ántonia's later husband.
Lena Lingard: Hired girl come from the countryside to work in Black Hawk.
Tiny Soderball: Hired girl who came from the countryside to work at the Gardener Hotel in Black Hawk.
Gaston Cleric: Jim's teacher in Lincoln at the University of Nebraska.
Minor characters include: Peter and Pavel, Ole Benson, The Cutters, Widow Steavens, Anton Jelinek.
Cather chose a first-person narrator because she felt that novels depicting deep emotion, such as My Ántonia, were most effectively narrated by a character in the story.
Impact and interpretations
My Ántonia was enthusiastically received in 1918 when it was first published. It was considered a masterpiece and placed Cather in the forefront of women novelists. Today, it is considered as her first masterpiece. Cather was praised for bringing the American West to life and making it personally interesting. It brought place forward almost as if it were one of the characters, while at the same time playing upon the universality of the emotions, which in turn promoted regional American literature as a valid part of mainstream literature.
Cather also makes a number of comments concerning her views on women's rights and there are many disguised sexual metaphors in the text.
My Ántonia remains in print in a number of editions ranging from free Internet editions to inexpensive, mass-market paperbacks to expensive "scholarly editions" aimed at more serious students of Cather's work.
Revised 1926 edition
The original 1918 version of My Antonia begins with an Introduction in which an author-narrator, supposed to be Cather herself, converses with her adult friend, Jim Burden, during a train journey. Jim is now a successful New York lawyer but trapped in an unhappy and childless marriage to a wealthy, activist woman. Cather agreed with her publisher at Houghton Mifflin to cut that introduction when a revised edition of the novel was published in 1926.
My Antonia (film), a 1995 made-for-television movie, was adapted from the novel.
Emmylou Harris' 2000 album Red Dirt Girl features the wistful song "My Antonia," as a duet with Dave Matthews. Harris wrote the song from Jim's perspective as he reflects on his long lost love.
The French songwriter and singer, Dominique A, wrote a song inspired by the novel, called "Antonia" (from the LP "Auguri" −2001-).
In Richard Powers' 2006 novel The Echo Maker the character Mark Schluter reads "My Ántonia" on the recommendation of his nurse, who notes that it is "[A] very sexy story....About a young Nebraska country boy who has the hots for an older woman" (page 240).
In Anton Shammas' 1986 novel Arabesques, the autobiographical character of Anton reads "My Ántonia" on the plane to a writers' workshop in Iowa. It is the first novel he ever read, and he expects Iowa to have the same grass "the color of wine stains" that Cather describes of Nebraska.
The Celebration Company at The Station Theatre in Urbana, Illinois, performed a stage adaptation of My Ántonia in December 2011. The adaptation was written by Celebration Company member Jarrett Dapier.
- Cather, Willa (11 December 2008). Janet Sharistanian, ed. My Ántonia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 9. ISBN 0-19-953814-X. "The Bohemian name Ántonia is strongly accented on the first syllable, like the English name Anthony, and the i is, of course, given the sound of long e. The name is pronounced An'-ton-ee-ah."
- Woodress, James. Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1987, p. 289
- Billesbach, Ann E. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form: Pavelka Farmstead". Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
- Heller, Terry (2007) "Cather's My Ántonia Promotes Regional Literature" pp. 1403–1406 In Gorman, Robert F. (editor) (2007) Great Events from History: The 20th Century: 1901–1940 – Volume 3 1915–1923 Salem Press, Pasadena, California, pp 1403–1405. ISBN 978-1-58765-327-8
- Murphy, John J. (1994) "Introduction" to Cather, Wila (1994) My Ántonia Penguin Books, New York, page vii, ISBN 0-14-018764-2
- Murphy, p xv.
- O'Brien, Sharon. New Essays on My Antonia. Cambridge UP, 1998, p. 15
- O'Brien, p. 14
- Shammas, Anton. Arabesques. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988. p. 138.
- Bloom, Harold (editor) (1987) Willa Cather's My Ántonia Chelsea House, New York, ISBN 1-55546-035-6; eleven essays
- Bloom, Harold (editor) (1991) Ántonia Chelsea House, New York, ISBN 0-7910-0950-5; more essays
- Lindemann, Marilee (editor) (2005) The Cambridge Companion to Willa Cather Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, ISBN 0-521-82110-X
- Meyering, Sheryl L. (2002) Understanding O pioneers! and My Antonia: A student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, ISBN 0-313-31390-3
- Murphy, John J. (1989) My Ántonia: The road home Twayne Publishers, Boston, Massachusetts, ISBN 0-8057-7986-8
- O'Brien, Sharon (1987) Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, ISBN 0-19-504132-1
- O'Brien, Sharon (editor) (1999) New essays on Cather's My Antonia Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, ISBN 0-521-45275-9
- Rosowski, Susan J. (1989) Approaches to Teaching Cather's My Ántonia Modern Language Association of America, New York, ISBN 0-87352-520-5
- Smith, Christopher (2001) Readings on My Antonia Greenhaven Press, San Diego, California, ISBN 0-7377-0181-1
- Wenzl, Bernhard (2001) Mythologia Americana – Willa Cather’s Nebraska novels and the myth of the frontier Grin, Munich, ISBN 978-3-640-14909-4
- Ying, Hsiao-ling (1999) The Quest for Self-actualization: Female protagonists in Willa Cather's Prairie trilogy Bookman Books, Taipei, Taiwan, ISBN 957-586-795-5
- Fetterley, Judith (1986) "My Ántonia, Jim Burden, and the Dilemma of the Lesbian Writer" In Spector, Judith (editor) (1986) Gender Studies: New Directions in Feminist Criticism Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Bowling Green, Ohio, pages 43–59, ISBN 0-87972-351-3; and In Jay, Karla and Glasgow, Joanne (editors) (1990) Lesbian Texts and Contexts: Radical Revisions New York University Press, New York, pages 145–163, ISBN 0-8147-4175-4
- Fischer, Mike (1990) "Pastoralism and Its Discontents: Willa Cather and the Burden of Imperialism" Mosaic (Winnipeg) 23(11): pp. 31–44
- Fisher-Wirth, Ann (1993) "Out of the Mother: Loss in My Ántonia" Cather Studies 2: pp. 41–71
- Gelfant, Blanche H. (1971) "The Forgotten Reaping-Hook: Sex in My Ántonia" American Literature 43: pp. 60–82
- Giannone, Richard (1965) "Music in My Ántonia" Prairie Schooner 38(4); covered in Giannone, Richard (1968) Music in Willa Cather's Fiction University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, pages 116–122, OCLC 598716
- Holmes, Catherine D. (1999) "Jim Burden's Lost Worlds: Exile in My Ántonia" Twentieth-Century Literature 45(3): pp. 336–346
- Lambert, Deborah G. (1982) "The Defeat of a Hero: Autonomy and Sexuality in My Ántonia" American Literature 53(4): pp. 676–690
- Millington, Richard H. (1994) "Willa Cather and "The Storyteller": Hostility to the Novel in My Ántonia" American Literature 66(4): pp. 689–717
- Prchal, Tim (2004) "The Bohemian Paradox: My Antonia and Popular Images of Czech Immigrants" MELUS (Society for the Study of the Multi- Ethnic Literature of the United States) 29(2): pp. 3–25
- Tellefsen, Blythe (1999) "Blood in the Wheat: Willa Cather's My Antonia" Studies in American Fiction 27(2): pp. 229–244
- Urgo, Joseph (1997) "Willa Cather and the Myth of American Migration" College English 59(2): pp. 206–217
- Yukman, Claudia (1988) "Frontier Relationships in Willa Cather's My Ántonia" Pacific Coast Philology 23(1/2): pp. 94–105