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My Ántonia (Broadview Literary Texts) 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 610 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1551114910
ISBN-10: 1551114917
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Cather’s great novel is accompanied here by Joseph Urgo’s intellectually insightful and audacious introduction and by the best available collection of historical materials relevant to the work. This splendid edition will appeal both to those who are beginning and to those who are continuing their explorations of this masterpiece.” ― Merrill Skaggs, Drew University

“This edition is distinguished by its broad editorial attention to history: to the pioneering era that Cather’s novel describes and to the pre-World War I U.S. in which it was written. Most interestingly, the primary documents convincingly connect My Ántonia not only to Cather’s developing aesthetic theory but also to broad American cultural concerns of immigration, conservation, and national self-definition. This edition allows readers to see the novel as a complexly articulated response to the great issues and energies of America as it entered the modern age.” ― John Swift, Occidental College, Los Angeles

From the Back Cover

Willa Cather’s My Ántonia is considered one of the most significant American novels of the twentieth century. Set during the great migration west to settle the plains of the North American continent, the narrative follows Ántonia Shimerda, a pioneer who comes to Nebraska as a child and grows with the country, inspiring a childhood friend, Jim Burden, to write her life story. The novel is important both for its literary aesthetic and as a portrayal of important aspects of American social ideals and history, particularly the centrality of migration to American culture.

The Broadview edition includes a rich selection of primary source materials: the revised introduction for the 1926 edition; Cather’s “Mesa Verde Wonderland is Easy to Reach…,” “Nebraska: The End of the First Cycle,” “Peter”, and her comments on the novel; contemporary reviews and photographs.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Broadview Press; 1 edition (March 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1551114917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1551114910
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (610 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When Willa Cather was writing "My Antonia," she visited her friend, the journalist and war correspondent Elizabeth Sergeant, grabbed an old apothecary jar filled with flowers, set it in the center of an antique table, and explained: "I want my new heroine to be like this--like a rare object in the middle of a table, which one may examine from all sides. . . . I want her to stand out--like this--like this--because she is the story."

This anecdote (recounted in James Woodress's biography of Cather) sums up almost exactly the technique that makes her novel both unique and unusual. Instead of writing the story from her heroine's point of view, or from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, Cather instead creates a bystander, the likeable and somewhat innocent Jim Burden, who has written down a series of memories where his and Antonia's lives intersect; "My Antonia" is a biography through the mask of autobiography. While this is Jim's story as much as it is Antonia's (she is barely mentioned at all in Book III), we are ultimately studying a much-loved thing of beauty from "all sides"--from the distance separating it and the observer.

Although "My Antonia" relates a number of exciting, sentimental, horrifying, and even scandalous incidents (none of which will be divulged here), Cather very deliberately chose to write a character novel rather than an action story. Many of the book's pivotal "events" happen offstage; we learn what has happened only when Jim hears about Antonia or runs into her at a gathering or stops by her home. Such a detached approach is a departure from that used by many of the American naturalists (e.g., Dreiser, Lewis) writing during this period, yet her book is surely a model of realism.
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Format: Paperback
When I went to write the review of Cather's work, I was surprised to find that most of the reviews were written by high school students who were required to read the book. The strengths of "My Antonia", in my opinion, would not be obvious to most teenagers. Taken at face value, as a fictional story of the struggles of Bohemian immigrants to the mid-west, the story has merits which probably underlie its popularity among secondary teachers.
However, that is not what makes this book special. Simply put, both the characters and setting of this novel are beautiful. Cather clearly loved the land she was writing about, and her passion for the farm country of her youth flowed through her writings. Her narrator, Jim, reveals the life of the immigrant Antonia, his childhood friend. Though most of the book is about their childhood together, it is written from Jim's view as an adult. This is tremendously important, as Jim's observations are clearly bear a mark of maturity that would be out-of-place if the book were written from the point-of-view of a child. Perhaps this is what many teenagers miss. Few of them have experienced the profound bittersweet feelings adults have when looking back upon their youth. These emotions were entwined through the novel from beginning to end, forming a scaffold upon which the story was told. To miss them is to miss everything that makes this novel great, rather than just historical fiction.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In 1882, when author Willa Cather was nine years-old, her family left their home in Back Creek Valley, Virginia, and moved to Nebraska, near the settler country in Red Cloud where they farmed a homestead. Ms. Cather, often thought of as a chronicler of the pioneer American West, frequently drew on her memories of prairie culture and her own personal experiences. She wrote about the themes closest to her heart. Of primary importance was the drama of the immigrant struggling to survive in a new world, epitomized here in "My Antonia." In this extraordinary novel, Miss Cather weaves together the story of Antonia Shimerda, an immigrant girl from Bohemia who represents the optimism, determination and pure grit that newcomers to America needed to make a successful life, and that of American-born Jim Burden, our narrator.

Burden, a successful and cultured East-coast lawyer, is returning to his childhood home in Blackhawk, Nebraska for a visit. On the long train ride, he reminisces with an unnamed friend about the place where they had both grown up and about the people they knew - especially their dear friend Antonia, "who seemed to mean to us the country, the conditions, the whole adventure of our childhood."

When young Jim Burden was orphaned at age ten, he left his native Virginia to live with his grandparents on their farm, just outside of Blackhawk. At almost the same time that Jim arrived, the Shimerda family settled on their land. Mrs. Shimerda had argued effectively for a move to America so that the children, especially Ambrosch, the eldest son, would have the chance to make a better life for themselves, with more possibilities of moving up in the social hierarchy and of acquiring wealth. The Bohemian newcomers were the Burden's closest neighbors.
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Format: Paperback
I first read this book when I was in junior high school. I admit that, at the time, I did not appreciate the strengths of the book and the quality of its writing. I am quite glad that I decided to give it another chance, as I now understand why it is considered to be a classic in literature. It is simply a beautifully written book, covering many of the themes that one stumbles across in life and coalescing them into a work of extraordinary breadth.

The book is the story of two young people, Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda. They meet for the first time when Jim is ten years old and Antonia is fourteen. Recently orphaned, Jim has moved to the Great Prairie to live with his grandparents in Nebraska. Antonia, on the other hand, has been wrenched from her homeland in Bohemia, emigrating with her parents to the United States and finding herself in Nebraska. Jim and Antonia's chance encounter on a train sets the stage for the forging of a friendship and unconditional love that time will not diminish.

The book relates the harshness of immigrant life through the eyes of Jim, who narrates the events contained in the book. There is a relentless stoicism about the book, which is written in spare, clear prose. With intense imagery and descriptive exactitude, late nineteenth century Nebraska comes to life. It also relates the paths that each of the characters choose to follow, as well as the vicissitudes of life that mold and shape them in ways that no one would have imagined.

The focus of the book, which is also a coming of age tale, seems to be on the female characters and their strengths. Consequently, the book has a faintly feminist undercurrent to it, as all the women in it seem to be survivors, despite the hardships that they encounter.
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