Seth's Reviews > My Antonia

My Antonia by Willa Cather
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Jun 25, 12

Read in September, 2011

Marcus calls the protaganist "neutered". While Jim may not have been assertive, the men who were in the story were fatally flawed for that reason. Their assertiveness was self-destructive. The assertiveness seemed to come from their demons. For example, Mr. Cutter was assertive. His spite tortured his marriage and reached beyond his life. He insisted to control the destiny of not just himself but his miserable wife ending both with violence. In contrast, A man whose life and death just "happened" to him, suffered a different weakness. Antonia's father was desperately homesick. His despairing nature made the staged suicide believable.

Jim was a fitting romantic interest for Antonia for that reason. Jim the neutered male character was not assertive, making him safe like her father. However, Antonia needed pursuit and a man passively being shaped by life was not able to provide that. Thus, the story and characters provide us insight with the consequences of emasculating men.

Whatever shortcomings Cather's men suffer, are more than compensated for by Cather's women. The women here are worthy of polygamy. They're deliciously sensual women. When the narrator speaking in first person writes of "My Antonia" I finished saying the same. "My Antonia", she was really mine. A possession neither the protagonist or I actually accomplish. Because Antonia was really her own. Her tragic abandonment by Larry Donovan didn't make her unhappy. Nor her later marriage, poverty, nothing. She glowed her independent self-assurance. A glow nurturing her loved ones. Here's a feminine power. A power, unlike modern feminism, that comes from nurturing people rather than competing against them.

But let's not forget Lena. Lena's sensuality and independence was a contrast ultimately less enticing but nonetheless worthy of polygamous considerations. Her inner possession allows for a very different feminine possibility. There the powerful woman is happy working and never marrying. She's willing to entertain romance but never needing a man to make herself whole.

The wildness of Cather's country women shames the civilized weaker girls in town. While the class structure made it difficult for the most available bachelors to choose Lena and Antonia, the choice for the society girls was a sign of male weakness and contrasted the power of girls unwilling to conform. Even though the social commentary is enough to make the novel a nourishing read, its Cather's simplicity and honesty that raise the novel to its five star rating. Its deeply rewarding. Its a soothing story. It doesn't rip you apart like Stegner. It doesn't shame your inner-darkness like Dostoyevsky. It doesn't enlighten through destruction but rather shows us a feminine way. It speaks to us the way we want our women to speak to us: Delicate, simple, enriching truths.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by J. (new) - rated it 4 stars

J. My wife and I went to Red Cloud, NE for a Cather tour. The town and her childhood room were substantially intact. If you are ever traveling along the Nebraska/Kansas border, check it out!


Seth Justin wrote: "My wife and I went to Red Cloud, NE for a Cather tour. The town and her childhood room were substantially intact. If you are ever traveling along the Nebraska/Kansas border, check it out!"

Well if Nebraska/Kansas were ever a tourist attraction, it was only for want of more Cather nostalgia.


Mara Shaw Lovely review. Antonia wasn't divorced, however. She had her first baby out of wedlock after Larry Donovan spent all of her money and disappeared.


Seth Mara wrote: "Lovely review. Antonia wasn't divorced, however. She had her first baby out of wedlock after Larry Donovan spent all of her money and disappeared."
Thank you for that correction. I changed my review to reflect it.


Clinton Morrison Great review, i never thought of Jim as a neutered protagonist though. I also really enjoyed the look at the failure of the American Dream as seen through the events of certain characters while some characters looked past the American Dream and at their own.


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