Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
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
Orphaned at ten, he is sent from Virginia to live with his grandparents on their farm in Nebraska.
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.
A man who works for Jim Burden’s grandparents in Nebraska.
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.
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,
The man from whom the Shimerdas buy their land for a price above its value.
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.
Antonia’s elder brother, who is retarded.
Antonia’s father, whose trade in his home country was weaving tapestries and who cannot adapt to being a farmer. He commits suicide.
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.
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.
A young Bohemian immigrant who moves to Black Hawk.
A young man who lives with Anton Jelinek in Black Hawk. He used to be a fur-worker in Vienna.
The postmaster of Black Hawk.
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 Black Hawk coroner who comes out to see to Mr. Shimerda’s body.
The minister of Black Hawk, from whom the Burdens buy a house.
The Burdens’ nearest neighbor when they live in Black Hawk. Antonia works for her in Book 2.
The sixteen year old son of the Harlings.
The Harlings’ daughter, who is Jim’s age.
The Harlings’ daughter, who is a year younger than Jim. Jim respects her ability in boys’ sports.
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.
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.
The dressmaker for whom Lena Lingard works.
A boy who wants to marry Lena Lingard, but is forbidden to do so by his father. He instead marries Annie Iverson.
Lena’s father who is not a successful farmer and has a large farm.
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.
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.
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.
Mrs. Gardener’s husband, who greets the guests at the hotel, but is not a good manager in his wife’s absence.
The man working on the thresher the day the wanderer comes and commits suicide on the thresher.
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.
A salesman for Marshall Fields, who stays at the Boys’ Club in Black Hawk and plays the piano for everyone.
Blind d’Arnault’s mother.
A white woman who lives at the plantation where Martha and her son live. She arranges piano lessons for Samson.
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.
An Italian woman who runs a traveling dancing company. She comes to Black Hawk and gives dancing lessons to the children.
The Danish laundry man.
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.
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.
A boy who tries to kiss Antonia and gets slapped. He is supposed to be married the next Monday.
One of the girls who goes to the dances with Antonia.
Married to Wick Cutter. Her face is "the very colour and shape of anger." Her husband murders her in the end.
"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.
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.
Anna, Nina, Leo, Anton, Yulka, Rudolph, Jan, Ambrosch, Lucie, and Martha Cusak