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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. Antonia, along with her family, is among the many that takes on this formidable task. A girl with a great heart, she comes to Nebraska virtually helpless, She arrives in an unfamiliar country with the knowledge to speak only a few words in the native language, and her family with no knowledge at all. Living in a small hut made of dirt and wood, the Shimerda family is forced to make due with what it has; which is not much. This presents a tremendous strain on them. In contrast to Antonia's remarkable perseverance, misery plagues and inevitable overcomes her father. He eventually gives in to his despair, leaving his family to fend for themselves. There is a great sense of unease and apprehension that comes along with the suicide, that can be almost unbearable to a little girl. As any child, the loss of a parent is probably the most substantial event in his/her life and equally difficult to get over. Although Antonia never forgets her father, she uses her strength to move on.
No matter how she tries, Antonia cannot escape the prejudices that surround the town. Working as a hired girl, a job that demands the skill of a housekeeper and a nanny, Antonia becomes an outcast in the city. Consequently, she is forced to associate with only other working girls like herself. Yet it is not just her job that earns her the prejudice, it is the color of her skin. Working in the fields of the country, Antonia had gained a remarkable tan. The latter, although accepted in the country, brands her a peasant in the town. No refined lady would ever subject herself to the brutal country sun.
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Having pushed all thoughts of Wick Cutter from her mind, Antonia meets Larry Donovan and falls in love with him. Her suitor for many years, Larry finally proposes to her. Things go great between the two and Antonia soon moves out to be with her fiancé. It is assumed that everything is fine. However this is not the case. Antonia eventually comes home carrying two burdens. In fact, one of them is literally weighing her down. Larry does not receive the job he was intimating, and proceeds to leave Antonia alone with his baby. The prejudice before mentioned comes back with tremendous vindictiveness as news of Antonia's situation spreads around town. The townspeople wait to see what Antonia's next step will be. They soon learn that her supposed shame is actually pride, and she is soon back to her spirited self once again. The town expects her to hid her baby from the world, but ironically, she goes to the town photographer and has a picture taken and framed extravagantly. Only the best is going to be sufficient for this child, whose beauty remarkably resembles that of Antonia.
In spite of many hardships Antonia has to undergo during the course of her life, she remains to all a symbol of strength, courage, and happiness. She never gives up her dreams or her responsibilities. She takes what life hands her, and does so with a smile. At the times when she has the right to give up, it is then when she is the strongest, and it is then when we see the true Antonia.