My Antonia: A Gender Study


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I've chosen to write about the gender statement in Cather's "My Antonia." I'd like to first start out by saying that I don't believe that she was trying to make a statement about the men in this work. I think each of the men in this story are very different and take an important role in the story. I'd like to go through and give a little information on a choice few characters.

I'd like to start with Jim; he was the main male character (obviously) in this story. Jim had many good qualities about him. He was kind, adventurous, romantic and of course, in love with Antonia. All through the course of the story you could tell that Jim was in love with Antonia, even though he never came out and said it. Anytime another male was mentioned as having anything to do with Antonia, especially romantically, there was a certain way that Jim responded to it, making you think that he thought of her as his own.

The kind of behavior that Jim shows is in my opinion showing his "jealousy" of any other men, hence the name of the book; My Antonia, because he took possession of her in a manner of speaking. I think Jim, even though younger than her, thought himself as Antonia's protector. He would never have let any harm come to her, whether physical, mental or emotional. He also seemed putting off by news that Lena Lingard gave him about Antonia getting married. He was happy for Antonia but at the same time you could tell that he wished he were the one Antonia was going to marry. At least that's what I felt when I read that part. It was also said that he had fantasies about Lena, but wished that he could have them about Antonia, that never happened though. One of the things that I really admire in Jim's character is the fact that even though he could be completely in love with Antonia, he wanted the best to happen to her even though it may not be ending up with him. At the end of the book when he goes back to Nebraska and visits Antonia and her family, I think he treated Antonia's husband very nicely and even offered to take the older boys for a trip the following year. He was a genuinely kind hearted man and wanted Antonia to be happy no matter what.

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I loved his character in the book.

Another male character in the story was Jim's grandfather, Josiah. He wasn't mentioned a whole lot in the story. The only prominent things I really picked up about him was that he was very religious and a silent man. He had strong beliefs and had morning and evening family prayers. That's something you don't hear about anymore, or at least not very often.

Mr. Shimerda is the father of Antonia and her and her 3 brothers and sisters. He is a very sad man. He misses his old country and the people there. He eventually becomes so depressed that he commits suicide, leaving Ambrosch to be the head of the household. This also puts more pressure on Antonia to help with the farm work. Antonia begins working like a man after her father dies.

Ambrosch is one that stood out to me. He is the oldest son of the Shimerdas. Ambrosch was the reason that the Shimerdas came to America. They dote on him and think he is very brilliant. Of course he may appear brilliant to his family, but I personally thought that he was very unfriendly and very unsociable with anyone but his family. He automatically becomes the head of the house after Mr. Shimerda commits suicide.

Otto Fuchs and Jake Marpole were both hands on the Burden's farm when they lived in the country. Otto was an Austrian immigrant and Jake traveled from Virginia with Jim after his parents died. Both of these men were good-natured, but Jake could have a mean temper when certain situations arose.

The Russians, Pavel and Peter were friends of the Shimerdas. They were forced to leave Russia after an incident that happened to a wedding party that they were driving on sledges. Both are very kind men and teach Jim and Antonia many things about their country and let them come visit whenever. Eventually Pavel gets sick and dies. Peter then is forced to sell his belongings and move back to Russia. He gets a job as a cook in a Russian labor camp.

Mr. Harling is whom Antonia lives with after she comes to town to work. He is very rarely home, but when he is everyone knows to keep quiet. It's when he's gone that his wife and children are always merry and make tons of noise. He rules the roost with a kind but tough hand. He eventually gives Antonia the ultimatum to either quit going to the tent dances or leave her job as their housekeeper. He doesn't approve of her lifestyle at that point.

Charley Harling is the only boy in the Harling family and eventually goes away to Naval Academy in Annapolis.

After leaving the Harlings, Antonia ends up working for the Cutters. Wick Cutter to be specific. He is leading moneylender in Black Hawk and is a very shady character. A mishap happens between he and Jim that otherwise could have happened to Antonia. He isn't a very pleasant man at all and is constantly bickering and fighting with his wife. Eventually kills her so that she won't live after him and inherit his money.

The last two males in the story I would like to tell you about in the story are Larry Donovan and Cuzak. Larry Donovan was engaged to Antonia and told her to pack her things and come out to Denver. She prepared and made linens and tablecloths to set up housekeeping with and traveled out to Denver where she was gravely disappointed. Larry didn't have a job and they eventually used all of Antonia's money and then he left and never returned. She was left alone, pregnant and without any money. She ended up coming back to Nebraska.

Cuzak was Antonia's current husband. They married and he treated her first daughter Martha as his own and had many more children after her. Jim meets Cuzak at the end of the book and it seems as though he really approves of him because he treats Antonia so well and Antonia seems so fond of him. I think after meeting Antonia again and meeting Cuzak he finally feels at ease with his and Antonia's relationship.

I guess this was more of a comparison than anything, but I hope you can see how each man differs and what each of thermo brought to the story to make it what it the wonderful story that it is.


  1. My Antonia by Willa Cather
  2. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/antonia/context.html
  3. Approaches to teaching Cather's My Antonia edited by Susan J. Rosowski
  4. Early Novels and Stories-Willa Cather
  5. My Antonia: The Road Home by John J. Murphy
  6. Fiction by American Women: Recent Views



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