by Willa Cather
My Ántonia Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
His girls never looked so pretty at the dances as they did standing by the ironing-board, or over the tubs, washing the fine pieces, their white arms and throats bare, their cheeks bright as the brightest wild roses, their gold hair moist with the steam or the heat and curling in little damp spirals about their ears. They had not learned much English, and were not so ambitious as Tony or Lena; but they were kind, simple girls and they were always happy. When one danced with them, one smelled their clean, freshly ironed clothes that had been put away with rosemary leaves from Mr. Jensen's garden. (2.12.21)
It's interesting that the traits which make the hired girls somehow "beneath" the wealthy girls are the same traits that make them more sexually attractive to the boys of the town. It's almost a "forbidden fruit" situation. Notice that these girls are described as possessing the same sort of vitality and energy that so draws Jim to Ántonia.
The dance at the Firemen's Hall was the one thing I looked forward to all the week. There I met the same people I used to see at the Vannis` tent. Sometimes there were Bohemians from Wilber, or German boys who came down on the afternoon freight from Bismarck. Tony and Lena and Tiny were always there, and the three Bohemian Marys, and the Danish laundry girls. (2.12.24)
The dances held at the Fireman's Hall were aimed more at the country people, whereas the dances in town were aimed at the merchant families. That's why it's socially acceptable for Jim to attend the latter, but not the former.
Ántonia looked eagerly about the house and admired everything. `Maybe I be the kind of girl you like better; now I come to town,` she suggested hopefully. (2.3.3)
Ántonia recognizes that her value is dependent on her social status. The social barriers in this time and place are out in the open, not buried or hidden.