My Antonia: originally published in 1918
Author: Willa Cather
Genres: Historical drama
Characters: Jim Burden, Antonia Shimerda, Lena Lingard, Josiah burden, Emmeline Burden, Mr. and Mrs. Shimerda, Jake Marpole, Otto Fuchs, Russian friends of Mr. Shimerda, Peter and Pavel
Ten year old Jim loses his parents and is sent by his relatives to live with his grandparents in rural Nebraska. He was accompanied by Jake Marpole , he was a farmhand who worked for his parents. They were traveling by train, Jim found out that an immigrant family from Bohemia – the Shimerdas were also on their way to Nebraska and were buying the land next to Jim’s grandparents.
Jim’s grandparents befriend the Shimerdas, Antonia their eldest daughter starts learning English from Jim. They become good friends.
Antonia’s father becomes homesick for his home back in Bohemia, he was able to find friendship with two Russians Pavel and Peter who spoke the same language. Unfortunately Pavel dies suddenly and Peter sells his belongings and leaves to find a job in railway construction. Mr. Shimerda goes into depression and commits suicide. He had to be buried in one corner of their land, the church wouldn’t allow him to be buried in their cemetery because he committed suicide.
After the snow melted, Antonia insisted on working in the fields with her brother, Ambrosch. She stopped going to school.
When Jim was 13 his grandparents moved to a town closer to his school. He lost touch with his friend Antonia. Luckily the neighbors of Jim’s grandparents were looking for a housekeeper, they hired Antonia, they were the Harlings. Jim was happy as he could renew his friendship with Antonia.
In town Antonia met some girls, she started to go out every night with them to dance. Mr. Harling fired her(Antonia), she then went to work for Wick Cutter, the money lender and his wife. Antonia suspected Mr. Cutter’s motives and left the job and found work in a hotel.
In the meantime Jim graduates from high school, goes to a college in Lincoln, soon transfers to Harvard in Boston. He became a successful lawyer and got married.
Jim after twenty years visits Antonia, she was married and had 11 children. She was happy to see Jim, they talked about old times.
The memories of his childhood with Antonia saddens him, he leaves satisfied knowing he and Antonia will always be bound together by the past.
This book was one that reminded me of my childhood, and how good it was. After reading ,”Angels and Demons” and “Wuthering Heights,” my 13th novel, “My Antonia,” was a pleasure to read, there was no violence, it is a simple story of the prairies, the hardship the families endured, yet they were happy and peaceful. It served like an antidote to my mind.