Lena Lingard is the best example of a non-domestic central character which appears amidst the domesticity of My Ántonia. Often the sections which feature Lena instead of Ántonia are seen as confusing divergences from the plot line of a novel that purports to be about the woman named in the title. However, since Lena appears in the novel almost as often as Ántonia, and more often than any other character except Jim, she is a central character. Lena is a working woman who refuses to accept the constraints society places upon her. Even when society predicts that by becoming a dressmaker instead of marrying she will fail and become a "loose" woman, she disrupts their expectations and succeeds.
The first image of Lena in the novel is as newly arrived, pseudo-sophisticated country girl who has come to town to learn the trade of dressmaking. However, from the beginning of our knowledge of Lena she is anti-domestic. Lena recognizes that marriage is difficult-- she is never caught up in the "idea" of romance which leads Ántonia to a disastrous relationship and unwed motherhood. Ántonia takes the dances and socializing much more seriously and ends up in trouble, whereas Lena enjoys dancing and kissing but is merely having fun. When asked about her mother, Lena responds, "Oh, mother's never very well; she has too much to do. She'd get away from the farm, too, if she could" (Cather, 104). When Frances Harling teases Lena about a suitor who the town thinks Lena will marry, she responds, "I don't want to marry Nick, or any other man, . . . I've seen a good deal of married life, and I don't care for it" (105). It seems impossible for the town to believe that a beautiful gir...
... middle of paper ...
...c plot" limits and ignores the non-traditional female experience which is just as important to analyze. The Nan Princes, Lena Lingards and Tiny Solderalls of the fictional world deserve and demand critical attention not for what they don't do (the dishes) but for what they are-- working women.
Cather, Willa. My Antonia. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1995.
Gelfant, Blanche H. "The Forgotten Reaping Hook: Sex in My Antonia." Bloom's Modern Critical Views, 103-123.
Jewett, Sarah Orne. A Country Doctor. New York: The Penguin Group. 1986.
Romines, Ann. The Home Plot: Women, Writing & Domestic Ritual. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press. 1992.
Weiner, Lynn Y. From Working Girl to Working Mother: The Female Labor Force in the United States, 1820-1980. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. 1985.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- According to James E. Miller Jr.'s, "My Antonia; A Frontier Drama of Time," Willa Cather's novel, one of her most important and perhaps most popular works, is "defective in structure" (Bloom, 21). He quotes E. K. Brown, who defends that: " 'Everything in the book is there to convey a feeling, not to tell a story, not to establish a social philosophy, not even to animate a group of characters'" (21). The reader undoubtedly feels the impact of the story of Antonia and Jim as Cather intended, but critics blind themselves to the essence of My Antonia, by looking for a "consistent central action of unbroken character portrayal" (21). The structure bases itself on the narrative of Jim Burde... [tags: My Antonia Essays]
1584 words (4.5 pages)
- My Antonia – An American Tale At the beginning of this century, ships docked in American ports with their steerages filled with European immigrants. Willa Cather’s My Antonia, contains characters that immigrate to the country of America in search of hope and a new future in the Midwest prarie. This novel can be considered an American tale because it holds the American concept of the “melting pot,” the ideal of America as the “land of opportunity,” and the character’s struggles could only have occurred in America rather than their own country.... [tags: My Antonia Essays]
722 words (2.1 pages)
- When Willa Cather wrote her novel My Antonia in 1918, there probably was not any doubt that it was the story of a woman's accomplishment. However, today there have been many critics that claim this work to be the legacy of a girl's struggle, not triumph. This perception can easily be argued. This leaves readers with the choice of interpreting the book as enlightening or depressing. My Antonia took place in the late 19th century. Jim Burden narrated his recollections of Antonia's life and their childhood together, after a twenty-year absence.... [tags: My Antonia Essays]
1048 words (3 pages)
- Weak Structure and Powerful Drama in My Antonia Much of the earliest criticism of My Antonia focuses on the apparent failure of the narrative. Many critics take the title of the story and its introduction at face value. When the story says it is to be about Ántonia, it must be about her. Therefore, many critics see the stunningly crafted pieces of "variation from a theme" -- the stories of Peter & Pavel (the Russians and their wolves) and the sections of the novel dealing with the hired girls Lena Lingard and others-- as divergences which weaken the overall structure of the novel.... [tags: My Antonia Essays]
1813 words (5.2 pages)
- When recalling the female characters from My Antonia an anecdote about carrots, eggs, and coffee beans comes to mind. Each of the items on their own have good qualities however when the items are placed in boiling water they drastically changed. The carrots strong and hard become weak after being placed in the boiling water. The once fragile eggs become hard and rigid. Coffee beans however release their flavor and aroma. The coffee beans changed the least but by changing the water or their surroundings become something better.... [tags: Free Essays]
406 words (1.2 pages)
- 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.... [tags: American Literature]
841 words (2.4 pages)
- My Antonia 1. Jim Burden, a successful New York City lawyer, leaves an acquaintance a memoir of his Nebraska childhood in the form of a recollection of their mutual friend, Antonia Shimerda. Jim had first arrived in Nebraska at the age of ten, when he was made the trip west to live with his grandparents after finding himself as an orphan in Virginia. On this same train, Jim has his first glimpse of the Shimerdas, a Bohemian immigrant family traveling in the same direction. As fate would have it, the Shimerdas have taken up residence in a neighboring farm to the Burdens'.... [tags: Free Essay Writer]
1606 words (4.6 pages)
- 1. Discuss the significant of each of the following citations. Provide several examples that support each quote. A. "The country girls were considered a menace to the social order. Their beauty shone out too boldly against a conventional background. But anxious mothers need have felt no harm. They mistook the mettle of their sons. The respect for respectability was stronger than any desire in Black Hawk Youth." The above quotation is telling about how the elderly people of Black Hawk did not trust the younger girls.... [tags: essays research papers]
779 words (2.2 pages)
- The Character of Antonia Shimerda in My Antonia Antonia Shimerda spends her whole life fighting, yet she is not known to be belligerent. She is constantly being battered, but still has no visible scars. Antonia is a girl who suffers all through her life, and somehow manages to keep an optimistic outlook. She is one of those rare people who gain character, rather than resentment, by enduring hardship. Throughout the book, MY ANTONIA, the strength and perseverance of this girl definitely portray her as "battered but not diminished." The symbol of freedom, courage and hardship, the country seems to invite all to come and settle, but not without a struggle.... [tags: My Antonia Essays]
759 words (2.2 pages)
- The Powerful Character of My Antonia "Ántonia is a natural born mother." (Page 253) This was how everybody thought of Ántonia; she was a girl who would always leave a remarkable memory in everybody's mind through her strong, incredible strength. When she first came to Black Hawk, she was still a fourteen year old girl who ran in the field bare-footed and romping from place to place with Jim Burden. Her cheerfulness lessened when her father committed suicide and she had to take care of her family by coming to town and working as a hired girl for the Harlings.... [tags: My Antonia Essays]
662 words (1.9 pages)
- Use of Environment, Landscape, and Cycles in My Antonia
- Coppola's Adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula
- Coppola's Interpretation of Dracula as a Love Story
- The Violent Energy of Ted Hughes
- Freedom of Speech and Expression - Little Freedom in a Complex World
- The Psychology of the Serpent in D.H. Lawrence's Snake