My Antonia


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     “A plump, fair skinned girl was standing in the doorway. She looked demure and pretty, and made a graceful picture in her blue cashmere dress and little blue hat, with a plaid shawl neatly about her shoulders and a clumsy pocket book in her hand.” This is the first glimpse of the transformation from girl to successful woman of Lena Lingard in My Antonia, by Willa Cather. In the beginning of the book, Lena is portrayed as a struggling dressmaker, who because of her personality, goals, and motivation, becomes a successful individual.
     Lena’s independence and obstinacy makes her a strong personality in My Antonia. Despite how easily she attracted men, Lena never wanted to marry. This is because she was afraid of losing the independence that she had all her life. Her independence was also shown when she arrived at Jim’s apartment in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lena wasn’t tied down, so she was able to go where she wanted, whenever she wanted. Obstinacy showed in Lena’s refusal to marry. In a conversation between Jim and Lena, Jim stated, “Every handsome girl like [Lena] marries.” All through Jim’s argument, Lena stayed true to her anti-marriage view.
     Lena’s goals were simple: not to marry, yet, make something of herself. Within the book entitled, ‘Lena Lingard,’ Lena has a discussion with Jim about her unwillingness to wed. She would “prefer to be foolish when [she] feels like it, and be accountable to nobody.” In ‘The Hired Girls’ Lena stated her desire to go into business. A later paragraph expressed her wish to become a teacher. However, Lena found this goal impossible because she was not “born smart.”
Motivation was something that Lena never lacked. “I’m going to get my mother out of that old sod house where she’s lived so many years. The men will never do it.” Lena took her mother’s fate into her own hands when it was not socially acceptable for her to do so.

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Lena was definitely motivated and determined to remain single. “Men are alright as friends, but as soon as you marry them they turn into cranky old father.”
In the 1918 foreword to My Antonia, Doris Grumbach stated that “Lena Lingard [succeeded] in later life as a dressmaker.” This shows that Lena really did follow her goals to become successful and independent. It also implies that her motivation and personality were compelling enough to help her achieve her ambitions.


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