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Free Study Guide-My Antonia by Willa Cather-Free Online Book Notes
Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes

KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The setting is in Black Hawk, Nebraska and the surrounding countryside in the late years of the nineteenth century. A second setting for the novel is Lincoln, Nebraska where the protagonist goes to the university.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

MAJOR CHARACTERS

Jim Burden

Orphaned at ten, he is sent from Virginia to live with his grandparents on their farm in Nebraska.

Antonia Shimerda

An immigrant from Bohemia who comes to the prairie at the same time Jim does and who befriends Jim and serves him as a life-long connection to the land.

MINOR CHARACTERS

Jake Marpole

A man who works for Jim Burden’s grandparents in Nebraska.


Train conductor

A man on the train from Virginia to Nebraska, whom Jim thinks is worldly wise. "He wore the rings and pins and badges of different fraternal orders to which he belonged. Even his cuff-buttons were engraved with hieroglyphics, and he was more inscribed than an Egyptian obelisk." This man encourages Jim to meet Antonia.

Otto Fuchs

Mr. Burden’s hired man. He is from Austria.

Mrs. Emmaline Burden "Grandmother,"

Jim Burden’s paternal grandmother who takes him in when his parents die. She is fifty-five years old when Jim Burden comes to live with her at ten years of age.

Mr. Josiah Burden "Grandfather"

Jim’s paternal grandfather,

Peter Krajiek

The man from whom the Shimerdas buy their land for a price above its value.

Mrs. Shimerda

Antonia’s mother.

Ambroz (also spelled Ambrosch) Shimerda

Antonia’s eldest brother. He is nineteen years old when Jim Burden is ten at the novel’s opening.

Julka (also spelled Yulka) Shimerda

Antonia’s younger sister.

Marek Shimerda

Antonia’s elder brother, who is retarded.

Mr. Shimerda

Antonia’s father, whose trade in his home country was weaving tapestries and who cannot adapt to being a farmer. He commits suicide.

Pavel

One of the Russian settlers in Nebraska--the tall one. He dies of an injury incurred while working. He is the one who threw the bridegroom and the bride over the side of the sled to be eaten by wolves as a means to save his own life.

Peter

The second of the Russian settlers in Nebraska--the short one.

Wycliffe "Wick" Cutter

A "merciless Black Hawk money-lender," who ruins Pavel and Peter with high interest rates.

Anton Jelinek

A young Bohemian immigrant who moves to Black Hawk.

Jan Bouska

A young man who lives with Anton Jelinek in Black Hawk. He used to be a fur-worker in Vienna.

Mr. Bushy

The postmaster of Black Hawk.

Widow Steavens

A woman who lives in the neighboring vicinity to the Burdens, who rents the Burdens’ farm when they move to Black Hawk in Book 2.

The coroner

The Black Hawk coroner who comes out to see to Mr. Shimerda’s body.

Preacher White

The minister of Black Hawk, from whom the Burdens buy a house.

Mrs. Harling

The Burdens’ nearest neighbor when they live in Black Hawk. Antonia works for her in Book 2.

Charley Harling

The sixteen year old son of the Harlings.

Julia Harling

The Harlings’ daughter, who is Jim’s age.

Sally Harling

The Harlings’ daughter, who is a year younger than Jim. Jim respects her ability in boys’ sports.

Frances Harling

The grown-up daughter of the Harlings, who manages her father’s office in Black Hawk during his prolonged absences on business.

Mr. Christian Harling

The husband of Mrs. Harling who owns a successful business and is often out of town.

Lena Lingard

A daughter of Norwegian settlers who moves to town to work for a seamstress and insists that she will never go back to farm life. She is talked about in the country for being flirtatious with men. She moves to Lincoln to establish a successful tailor business, then moves to San Francisco to continue in her success.

Mrs. Thomas

The dressmaker for whom Lena Lingard works.

Nick Svendsen

A boy who wants to marry Lena Lingard, but is forbidden to do so by his father. He instead marries Annie Iverson.

Chris Lingard

Lena’s father who is not a successful farmer and has a large farm.

Ole Benson

A man who lived in the Norwegian settlement and falls for Lena Lingard. "He was fat and lazy and discouraged, and bad luck had become a habit with him." He becomes enamored with Lena Lingard and follows her around.

"Crazy Mary"

Married to Ole Benson. She has a nervous breakdown and tries to burn the neighbor’s barn. She is sent to an asylum in Lincoln. She only stays two weeks and then escapes and walks the two hundred miles back home where she is allowed to stay. She becomes jealous of her husband’s attentions to Lena and tries to kill Lena numerous times.

Tiny Soderball

A country girl who comes to town to work. She and Lena are friends. She works at The Boys’ Club, the local hotel. She moves to Seattle to open a boarding house for sailors, then goes north during the gold rush and helps found Dawson City. She prospects mines and becomes very wealthy and then moves to San Francisco where she and Lena Lingard are lifelong friends.

Mrs. Molly Gardener

The woman who owns The Boys’ Club Hotel in Black Hawk.

Johnny Gardener

Mrs. Gardener’s husband, who greets the guests at the hotel, but is not a good manager in his wife’s absence.

Ole Iverson

The man working on the thresher the day the wanderer comes and commits suicide on the thresher.

Chris Lingard

Lena’s younger brother who comes to town to make Christmas purchases.

Samson "Blind" d’Arnault

An African-American pianist who comes to Black Hawk and gives a concert at the Opera House.

Anson Kirkpatrick

A salesman for Marshall Fields, who stays at the Boys’ Club in Black Hawk and plays the piano for everyone.

Martha

Blind d’Arnault’s mother.

Nellie d’Arnault

A white woman who lives at the plantation where Martha and her son live. She arranges piano lessons for Samson.

Mary Dusak

One of the hired girls from the surrounding farming community working in Black Hawk. One of the three Bohemian Marys, who gets pregnant while working as a housekeeper for a bachelor rancher from Boston, and then comes to Black Hawk to work.

Mrs. Vanni

An Italian woman who runs a traveling dancing company. She comes to Black Hawk and gives dancing lessons to the children.

Mr. Jenson

The Danish laundry man.

Mary Svoboda

One of the three Bohemian Marys, who got pregnant outside of marriage, gave up the child for adoption, and then came to live in Black Hawk.

Sylvester Lovett

A cashier at his father’s bank who likes to go to the Saturday night dances and dance with Lena Lingard. He finally marries a widow who owns land to escape from his infatuation with Lena.

Harry Paine

A boy who tries to kiss Antonia and gets slapped. He is supposed to be married the next Monday.

Norwegian Anna

One of the girls who goes to the dances with Antonia.

Mrs. Cutter

Married to Wick Cutter. Her face is "the very colour and shape of anger." Her husband murders her in the end.

Larry Donovan

"a passenger conductor who is a kind of professional ladies’ man." Antonia often goes to dances with him. He lures her to Denver, Colorado with promises of marrying her, lives with her for three weeks with promises of marrying her, and then abandons her.

Gaston Cleric

One of the professors in the Latin department in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Jim Burden goes to university.

Old Colonel Raleigh

Lena Lingard’s landlord in Lincoln.

Mr. Ordinsky or "The Pole"

One of Lena Lingard’s neighbors in her apartment house in Lincoln, who is a violin teacher.

Anton Cusak

Antonia’s husband.

Anna, Nina, Leo, Anton, Yulka, Rudolph, Jan, Ambrosch, Lucie, and Martha Cusak

Antonia’s children.

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