In Willa Cather's My Antonia a special bond is formed, shattered, mended, and eventually secured between the main characters, Antonia Shimerda and Jim Burden. Jim and Antonia seem to be destined to affect each other's lives dramatically, from the beginning of the novel.
Starting at a young age, the main characters lives are intertwined. They form a special bond, which have both positive and negative affects on their relationship. At the time when Jim and Antonia are growing up, a rigid social structure exists in Nebraska. This social difference contributed to the creation and alteration of their friendship; in part, it is responsible for their behavior toward one another.
The reader may discover a social distinction in the way the Shimerdas and the Burdens live. The Shimerdas are a family of immigrants who come to Nebraska with nothing but the hope of building a better life. They have no knowledge of this new world that they are about to enter, except the image of their neighbor's lives. In Black Hawk the Shimerdas are not even on the social scale. The Burdens, on the other hand, are clearly part of a higher social order. They have impressive possesions and are even considered very wealthy by their new Bohemian neighbors.
However, despite the social order, Jim and Antonia, immediately become friends. Their friendship is sparked when Jim teaches Antonia how to read and speak English. This is one of the first times the reader sees a division in their educational and social status. It affects them positively by bringing them closer together.
As the novel progresses, the two young people remain fair...
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Cather, Willa. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, 5th edition, Vol 2. New York:W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1998, Pgs 937-1070.
Dyck, Reginald. "The Feminist Critique of Willa Cather's Fiction: A Review Essay." Women's Studies 22 (1993): 263-279.
Ferguson, Mary Anne. "My Antonia in Women's Studies: Pioneer Women and Men-- The Myth and the Reality." Rosowski's Approaches to Teaching 95-100.
Helmick, Evelyn. "The Mysteries of Antonia." Bloom's Willa Cather's . . . , 109-119.
Rosowski, Susan J., ed. Approaches to Teaching Cather's My Antonia. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. 1989.
Trilling, Lionel. "Willa Cather." Bloom's Modern Critical Views 7-15.
Woodress, James. Willa Cather: Her Life and Art. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 1970.
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