My Antonia
William Cather showed a great amount of information about the "old wild
west" and the expansion of the United States. In My Antonia, Jim Burden
told a story of his childhood, the people in his life, and the struggles he and
his surroundings faced during this time. At age ten, Jim Burden was sent by his
relatives to be raised by his grandparents in the Nebraska prairie after his
parents died. When he arrived at his new home, he was introduced to a Bohemian
family that just immigrated to America; the Shimerdas. Jim and Antonia, the

Shimerda's daughter, quickly become friends. They traveled a great distance to
meet each other. As immigrants, the Shimerdas were not very wealthy and getting
on their feet was difficult. They were cheated into buying their home for more
than it should have cost. The family got by on what they had, but ended up
needing help from outside families. Mrs. Shimerda ended up getting many useful
tools for their home from Mrs. Burden. The first major hardship the Shimerdas
faced was the death of Mr. Shimerda. He shot himself in the mouth and committed
suicide. This hurt the family tremendously. Antonia was given the
responsibilities that her father had and growing up for her changed in a matter
of seconds. She could not join her fellow classmates in school because she had
to tend to the work around the house. She became the head of the house. After
time, the Shimerdas had a new log home built for them by the neighbors. The
family continued to get their necessary items from outside sources and started
to build a new life. Later, the Burdens moved to a town called Black Hawk. They
now lived further away from the Shimerdas. Mrs. Burden gets Antonia a temporary
job helping their neighbors around the house. Antonia learned English much
faster and Jim met many new people. This is where we meet Lena. Lena was a

Norwegian girl who later becomes a dressmaker, but distracted men with her
flirtatious act and planned never to marry. As Jim met new people and attended
the dances put together in the city, he noticed the segregation and the
generalizations made about specific people. He didn't like it one bit. The hired
girls were the girls that worked for their large families after they immigrated
to America from foreign countries. The boys didn't have the courage to marry
these girls. These girls were taken advantage of as well by their employers and
the men in the town. Women were not treated as equals. With age, Jim and Antonia
became closer and Jim begins to like Antonia more. But the feelings were not
mutual. Then, Jim and Antonia started to go their separate ways. Jim started
working extremely hard in his studies at school and ended up going to Harvard to
finish his pre-law studies. Much time has passed, and when Jim returned to Black

Hawk, he learned that Antonia had become pregnant and returned home from Denver
where the father lives. When she returned to the father, she cared for him when
he was ill and then he deserted her leaving her broke and with nothing. Many
things have changed through time as they have matured into adults. Jim wanted to
see Antonia and tried really hard to find her and find out what has happened
since he saw her last. When they finally reunited, they recognized a bond they
had that nothing could break. They had their childhood that always brought them
together. They went off on their separate ways, but in the end found each other
and they never lost sight of what they had been through together. They will
always remain best friends. I really enjoyed this book. It really gave me a
taste of what life back then was like. I highly recommend reading My Antonia.

This book displays many aspects that makes living in this period of time
difficult. In order to communicate with other families or travel from one place
to another was very difficult and time consuming. The people would have to
travel great distances in all types of harsh weather. Jim and his family often
traveled by horse in blizzards to reach their destinations. Also, at the
beginning of the expansion, there were no roads. This made travel even more
difficult. Also, immigration to America was occurring rapidly and many diverse
people started to form the new country. There was a lot of segregation and
poverty. The immigrants were not wealthy and struggled