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My Ántonia

My Ántonia

by Willa Cather

Society and Class Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Mr. Shimerda made grandmother sit down on the only chair and pointed his wife to a stool beside her. Standing before them with his hand on Ántonia's shoulder, he talked in a low tone, and his daughter translated. He wanted us to know that they were not beggars in the old country; he made good wages, and his family were respected there. (1.10.24)

Mr. Shimerda's character is distinct in that he maintains his pride with regard to social standing. This passage explains why it has been so difficult for him to move to America. We get the sense that social standing is considerably more important to him than it is to, say, Ántonia.

Quote #2

There never were such people as the Shimerdas for wanting to give away everything they had. Even the mother was always offering me things, though I knew she expected substantial presents in return. We stood there in friendly silence, while the feeble minstrel sheltered in Ántonia's hair went on with its scratchy chirp. The old man's smile, as he listened, was so full of sadness, of pity for things, that I never afterward forgot it. (1.6.14)

Jim is unconcerned with the social status of the Shimerdas for most of the early part of this novel. This may be because he is too young to start thinking about it, or because it's just not as relevant out in the farms as it is in town.

Quote #3

Next to getting warm and keeping warm, dinner and supper were the most interesting things we had to think about. Our lives centered around warmth and food and the return of the men at nightfall. (1.9.9)

Look at how different Jim's life is in the country as compared to in the town. The early parts of the novel are marked by the simplicity of the farm days, while the chapters which take place in town are made more interesting by the social complications between the farm people and the merchant families.

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