Literature / My 聲tonia

A novel by Willa Cather set in Nebraska, telling a story focused on first generations of new settlers.

Tropes found in My Ántonia:

  • Alliterative Name: Lena Lingard.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • Tiny Sodderball among other normal-sounding American names.
    • 聲tonia is not all that common in America, but it was very common Czech name for girls of that time.
  • Break the Cutie: 聲tonia is a lovely, active girl who has faced more than a fair share of troubles—severe winters in poverty, her father's suicide, working in the fields like a man, taking care of her younger siblings, escaping a rapist (though her gut feeling prevented her from being attacked), her fiancé's abandonment, becoming a single mother (which was stigmatizing)—but she remains unbroken. What a girl. What a woman.
  • Dude Magnet: Men have always been attracted to Lena Lingard.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mr. Shimerda feels too desperate and too homesick that he sees no other way. He Ate His Gun and caused a great distress to his family.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Jim Burden. His narration speaks mostly of the fascinating people around him than of his own life, though it is clear from some throwaway lines near the end of the book that he has had an interesting one.
  • Friend to All Children: 聲tonia is a natural-born mother and great with all children who in turn all love her back and adore her stories and her cooking.
  • Henpecked Husband: Ambrosch Shimerda ends up marrying a very fat woman with a farm of her own who bossed him around.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Jim Burden has those, and at forty he still looks young and his clear baby blues contribute a lot to this look.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Yulka, 聲tonia's younger sister, has a cat and plays with it often.
  • Language Barrier: When the Shimerdas came to Nebraska, they could use only several very basic (and not entirely correct) expressions. Mr Shimerda asks Jim to teach his 聲tonia English and promises him to give his nice gun once Jim grows up. Jim narrates about their language lessons and mentiones how Czech language sounded to him when they talked to each other and he didn't understand. Mr Shimerda has a hard time in Nebraska, but he cheers up a bit when he befriends two Ukranian guys.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings:
    • Lena Lingard has lots of siblings and as the eldest daughter, she has to take care of them. She's not too thrilled about it and says she doesn't want her own family as a result.
    • 聲tonia ends up having a family of eleven children.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: When Jake and Jim Burden come to retrieve a harness they lent to the Shimerdas, they have an argument and fight because Ambrosch doesn't want to give it back and actually tries to give them a shabby one. Mrs Shimerda does this gesture:
    "Mrs. Shimerda threw her hands over her head and clutched as if she were going to pull down lightning. 'Law, law!' she shrieked after us. 'Law for knock my Ambrosch down!'"
  • Precocious Crush: Jim has one on 聲tonia although she's much older and it continues into his adulthood as his marriage is implied to be very loveless. He even tells her kids. It's really creepy.
  • Purple Eyes: Dude Magnet Lena Lingard has deep violet eyes. She's one of the four immigrant hired girls who work in town and who are considered great beauties. Jim is of the opinion that the eldest daughters in the first generation of settlers like 聲tonia Shimerda or Lena were extraordinary and actually the most interesting people of the family, even though their families often favoured younger children (as they had better chance of becoming truly American). Later in the story, Jim and Lena are in an implied sexual relationship.
  • Murder-Suicide: Mr. Cutter kills his wife and then himself. He does it because he doesn't want her family to inherit their money.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: 聲tonia's father shoots himself because he was too homesick and couldn't bear the hard life. The Shimerdas are Catholic while other familes in the neighbourhood are mostly protestants. Jim's grandparents are sympathetic to the poor family and another Catholic explains to them that for the Shimerdas, the suicide is a terrible blow with extra layer of suffering.
  • Tomboyish Name: 聲tonia also goes by Tony.
  • Translation by Volume: Jim's grandmother always talked to new settlers very loudly and slowly.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!:
    • 聲tonia is a natural beauty and has beautiful brown eyes. Jim describes her eyes as "big and warm and full of light, like the sun shining on brown pools in the wood".
    • Lena has deep violet eyes—very unusual colour. She's considered a great beauty with an exotic, Scandinavian touch.