My Ántonia

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This article is about the novel by Willa Cather. For the 1995 film adaptation, see My Antonia (film).
My Ántonia
My antonia.jpg
First edition with rare dustjacket
Author Willa Cather
Country United States
Language English
Genre Historical fiction
Publisher Houghton Mifflin (Boston)
Publication date
Pages 175
OCLC 30894639
813/.52 20
LC Class PS3505.A87 M8
Preceded by The Song of the Lark

My Ántonia (/ˈæntəniə/ AN-tə-nee-ə)[1] is a novel published in 1918 by American writer Willa Cather, considered one of her best works. It is the final book of her "prairie trilogy" of novels, preceded by O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark.

This novel is considered as Cather's first masterpiece. Cather was praised for bringing the American West to life and making it personally interesting.


Overview of characters in novel as social network

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.[2]

Reception and literary significance[edit]

One-and-a-half story wood house with peeling paint; in foreground, door leading to storm cave
Pavelka house in rural Webster County, Nebraska, setting of "Cuzak's Boys"[3]

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.[4][5]:vii

While interpretations vary,[how?] My Ántonia is clearly an elegy[citation needed] to those families who built new lives west of the Mississippi River and highlights the role of women pioneers in particular.

Cather also makes a number of comments concerning her views on women's rights and there are many disguised sexual metaphors in the text.[5]:xv

My Ántonia is a selection of The Big Read, the community-wide reading program of The National Endowment for the Arts.[6]

Publication history[edit]

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.

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.[7]:15 Cather agreed with her publisher at Houghton Mifflin to cut that introduction when a revised edition of the novel was published in 1926.[7]:14

Allusions to the novel[edit]

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.[8]

Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware brews a continually-hopped imperial pilsner named My Ántonia.[9]



My Antonia (film), a 1995 made-for-television movie, was adapted from the novel.


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.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cather, Willa (11 December 2008). Sharistanian, Janet, 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 given the sound of long e. The name is pronounced An'-ton-ee-ah. 
  2. ^ Woodress, James (1987). Willa Cather: A Literary Life. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. p. 289. 
  3. ^ Billesbach, Ann E. "National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form: Pavelka Farmstead". Nebraska State Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  4. ^ Heller, Terry (2007). "Cather's My Ántonia Promotes Regional Literature"". In Gorman, Robert F. Great Events from History: The 20th Century: 1901–1940 – Volume 3 1915–1923. Pasadena, California: Salem Press. pp. 1403–1406. ISBN 978-1-58765-327-8. 
  5. ^ a b Murphy, John J. (1994). Introduction to Cather, Willa My Ántonia. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-018764-2. 
  6. ^ "Description of My Ántonia". The Big Read. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b O'Brien, Sharon, ed. (1998). New Essays on My Antonia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-45275-9. 
  8. ^ Shammas, Anton. Arabesques. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988. p. 138.
  9. ^ "My Antonia". Dogfish Head Brewery. Milton, Delaware. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Past Seasons, Season 40". Urbana, Illinois: The Celebration Company at Station Theatre. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 



  • 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

External links[edit]