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My Ántonia Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- How has Cather structured her novel using both chapters and books? Why and how are the major divisions important?
- How would My Ántonia be different if it was told from Ántonia's perspective?
- Do some research on Cather's own experiences in the American West. What connections do you see between her own past and the characters and events in My Ántonia?
- What do the five individual book titles add to your reading of the novel?
- In the introduction the narrator says that she and Jim and Ántonia were children together. Why doesn't the narrator appear in Jim's narrative?
- What is the point of the frame story – the first few pages where the unnamed narrator gets a manuscript from Jim? Why not just start with Jim telling the story?
- How effective is Cather, a woman, at narrating a story from the point of view of a man? Does Jim sound like a man writing, or does the narrative sound like a woman pretending to be a man?
- Is My Ántonia more important as a historical novel (giving us a slice-of-American-life portrait of a very specific time and place), a coming-of-age novel, or a love story? Which is the real heart of this novel?
- How do the minor characters in this story – like the Harlings or the Cutters – help to develop the major characters?
- The appendix of the Oxford World Classics edition of My Ántonia contains the revised and shortened fictional introduction that Cather wrote after the initial publication of the novel. Compare this introduction to the original one – how does this different version change the reader's approach to the story? Which do you think is better suited to the novel?
- Who is the protagonist of this novel – Ántonia or Jim? How do you know?
- How is time rendered in this novel? At what points is the novel a linear narrative, and at what points is it more episodic? What are the various advantages and drawbacks of each of these narrative styles? Which is better suited to the novel?