Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Literary Timeline Six Novel Ideas My Favorite Novel Elements of the Novel Top Novel Lists About the Program
Navigate through 200 years of the American Novel using scrollable tools and pulldown menus.
Use these pulldown menus to read more about novels, authors & movements.
My Antonia
My Antonia
MY ÁNTONIA, by Willa Cather
MY ÁNTONIA (1918) is the last book of Willa Cather's thematically connected "prairie trilogy," following O PIONEERS! and THE SONG OF THE LARK. In all three works, Cather frames closely observed, fine-grained tales of immigrant farm life against the vast landscape of rural Nebraska. The stories are about both the geographical expansion and cultural maturation of the United States and the relative connection or distance of American lives from these grander matters. MY ÁNTONIA specifically explores the issue of memory as it details subtle shades of emotional attachment. The tale is narrated in distant retrospect by Jim Burden, who as a teenager moves to his grandparents' farm outside the town of Black Hawk, Nebraska, after the death of his parents. There he befriends Ántonia Shimerda, the eldest daughter of a farm family that has emigrated from Bohemia. Their strong connection is fueled by the tension of a romantic interest forever unconsummated. Ántonia becomes a "hired girl" -- one who comes into town to work and send money back to her family on the farm. As they age, their stories diverge in ways that further examine the different courses of life most accessible to Jim and Ántonia by virtue of gender. Jim departs for college and a professional career. Ántonia returns to the life of the farm and eventually mothers 11 children. With a nostalgic and ultimately elegaic tone, Cather creates an epic of contradictions: a vividly articulated portrait of stoicism, a decades-long romance without sex, a saga of America's Manifest Destiny that spirals ineluctably back home.

Previous | Next

The American Novel