My Antonia *Book 1, chapter* 3 Willa Cather focuses on writing fiction novels and she became famous through the success of her novels. We can suppose that this novel is autobiographical because in 1883 the Cather family moved to join Willa’s grandparents William and Caroline in Webster County, Nebraska like the main protagonist. However, My Antonia presents a distinctly American vision of modernism. Often, modernist works evoke a sense of disillusionment with modern society, a feeling of fragmentation and despair at the increasing trends towards industrialization and urbanization.
At other times, they present an idealized view of pre-industrialized, still innocent society (a literary trend called primitivism). My Antonia follows the second path and offers a vision of the idyllic world of the American West. Although by the time of the novel’s publication, the frontier and depicts it as a perfect alternative to the modern, corrupt world that we now live in. Cather glorifies frontier values of independence, hard work, and asceticism, and she implicitly contrasts it to the competition ans isolation of modern society.
Because Cather praises the country in favour of the city, the novel can also be considered a pastoral novel. The book My Antonia is divided into five books. This
Finally, from line ninety four down to the end, it deals with the meeting and the relationships between Antonia and Jim. On Sunday morning, Otto who is the Burden’s hired hand, Grandmother, and Jim drive across fields of red grass to visit the new Bohemian family that has recently settled in the area. They are the first Bohemian family to move to his area, and they purchased their farm from another Bohemian man named Peter Krajiek. The farm and house are not particularly good, and the Shimerdas paid too much for it. In addition, the father knows nothing about farming.
He was a weaver and a fiddler in his native land, is dignified and neatly dressed, and has white, skilled hands. The mother has shrewd eyes, and when she sees Grandmother, she points to her dugout house and says it’s no good. She thanks Grandmother for bringing over bread and pies. The oldest son Ambrosch, aged nineteen, looks sturdy and has shrewd eyes. There is also a pretty little girl named Yulka, but Jim thinks that Antonia is the prettiest, with big eyes and brown hair and skin. Marek, another son, is mentally handicapped and has webbed fingers.
Suddenly Antonia comes up to Jim, and they run through the fields hand in hand, with Yulka following them. It is very windy, and after Jim tells Antonia his name and the world “sky”, they lie down next to each other in the middle of a field and stare up at the blue sky. Antonia tries to give Jim one of her rings, but Jim doesn’t think it’s appropriate and refuses. Antonia’s father calls them back and stares deep into Jim’s face. When they return to the run-down house, he takes out a Bohemian-English dictionary and gives it to Jim’s grandmother. Extremely earnestly, he begs her to teach Antonia English.
Since the Shimerdas do not speak English, they are dependent on anybody who speaks their language, and they are thus taken advantage of by Krajiek. People who immigrate to the United States need a network of reliable people who can help them accommodate to their new environment, and since the Shimerdas lack this, they are unable to learn the basics of farming and keeping house on the frontier. Jim’s grandparents do not really realize this yet, and attribute the Shimerdas’ destituteness to either cultural differences or Mrs. Shimerda’s overbearing personality.
They do not know exactly how much help the Shimerdas need, but they are prevented from finding out because of differences in language and culture. The theme of cultural separation between new immigrant families and “Americans” is a central one in the novel. Despite their differences in language and culture, however, Jim and Antonia immediately hit it off. Though the narrator doesn’t say that much about their first meeting, Antonia seems to be the leader and the initiator in their relationship. She grabs Jim’s hand, speaks excitedly while he listens, and tries to give him her ring.
Jim is clearly fascinated by her and is content to follow her around and observe her, and this dynamic will continue to be played out in the rest of the novel. The chapter concludes with Mr. Shimerda begging Grandmother to teach Antonia English. Mr. Shimerda recognized the value of education and is a cultural man, and he wants his daughter to have a fair chance in America. As the novel progresses, the role of education in Antonia’s life shifts a great deal, and it is important to notice what factors account for this shift.
To conclude I have chosen this extract because I think that the meeting between Jim and Antonia is the initial element of the story, indeed the book deals with the relationship between Jim and Antonia then it seems to me that this passage is very important for the interest of the story. Furthermore, I am touched by the style of Willa Cather’s writing; in this extract we find many descriptions notably concerning the nature and the first contact between both young people.