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My Ántonia

My Ántonia

by Willa Cather

Foil

Character Role Analysis

Ántonia Shimerda and Lena Lingard

These two girls present opposite poles in Jim's romantic life. His feelings for Ántonia seem to be chaste and virginal – he never has sexual fantasies about her, and he never makes much of a physical move (that time by the fence aside). Lena, on the other hand, is all about sexuality. The first thing we hear about her is that she tempted a married man from his wife. The physical descriptions of these two couldn't be more different; Ántonia is earthy and natural, while Lena is sexy and even dangerous. It's also worth noting that, while these two girls were both raised in immigrant families and were both "hired girls," they have different life outcomes. Lena becomes an independent, successful businesswoman while Ántonia ends up back on the farm and raises a large family.


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