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Friday, September 25, 2009

Everybody's Antonia

Last Monday (September 21), we discussed Willa Cather's My Antonia, often considered Cather's masterpiece. Almost everyone enjoyed reading the book. We had two suggested questions to ponder before reading My Antonia: (1) What does this book show about the time and place of the story? and (2) Why was this book popular at the time it was published?

On the first question, ideas we discussed included that the book showed the contrast between farm life and town life and that the book revealed some of the troubles that immigrants had to overcome. This book may have presented the most realistic picture available of the difficulties of the immigrants, especially those who attempted to work the land. Immigrants in this story came to America after giving their life savings to someone who promised them land. Probably many fraudulent deals were made. The immigrants in My Antonia were farming in cold Nebraska, where, as one of our members mentioned, there are 2 seasons: winter and muddy.

On the second question, I didn't get any specific notes about answers. I think we got off on tangential questions instead of answering that one. We talked about whether Antonia was a heroic character and found a contradiction in her character. She was strong and worked hard and succeeded in her life in many ways, but she was also always "owned" by people; hence the title "My" Antonia. First she belonged to her father, then Jim, her brothers, Donovan, and her husband and maybe even her brood of children. Even Mrs. Stevens at the end seemed to claim Antonia as her own. We also talked about the romance in the book, debating whether it was really a romance; there were arguments on both sides.

Our My Antonia was interesting and insightful as are all our discussions. It never ceases to amaze me how much more I feel in touch with a book after we all put our heads together over it. My Antonia was not a complex book, but we ferreted out all the subtleties. I felt like we had thoroughly gathered all the meaning this book had to offer.

So, do you think this was the precursor to Little House on the Prairie?

1 comment:

Dee said...

Good blog post. I did enjoy this classic & am so glad Patty nominated it so we could once again view it through fresh eyes. How we read a book in our youth (I speak for myself, ha) & absorb it as an adult can be so different.