Kingwood College Library

Assignment Guide for

Willa Cather's My Antonia

Born - Back Creek Valley, Virginia on December 7, 1873.
Died - New York, New York on April 24, 1947.

Willa Cather is known for her literary portraits of frontier life.  She was raised in the Nebraska farming community of Red Cloud where her extended family included grandparents, and an aunt and uncle.  This area provided settings for most of her best-known works.  My Antonia, written in 1918 and recognized as one of her major works, describes an immigrant girl's life on the Nebraska plains and draws inspiration from her own youth.  Her characters reflect the strong personalities and enduring qualities of the people she encountered on the American frontier.   Cather's talent as a writer is well illustrated in her ability to translate these characteristics into universal terms.  She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923. 


        Main Characters - Jim Burden, narrator and Antonia's friend
                                     Antonia Shirmerda, a Bohemian peasant girl
        Plot -  Told as a narrative, this is the story of Jim Burden's recollections of Antonia, and her
                   life on the Nebraska prairie.  Jim and Antonia lived on adjoining farms and were friends growing
                   up.  Although her life is filled with hard work and difficulties, Antonia's strong spirit never breaks.
        Setting - Nebraska prairie during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Red Cloud, Nebraska, is the
                   town where Jim and Antonia later move.
        Theme - The setting and characters are most important in the novel.  It can be called a regional
                   chronicle, or pastoral.  The theme is the struggle of the early farming immigrants and their
                   perseverance and strong spirits.

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Background - Use the Kingwood College Library catalog to search for information on immigrants during this period of settling the American west.  Check for books about Willa Cather and My Antonia on reserve at the Circulation Desk.  They are available for use in the library.

Author - Use Willa Cather's name as a subject search to find books about her life and her literary career. The novel - Search for books about My Antonia by using the title as a subject search in the catalog.  Some reference books which will help you analyze the story are listed here. to top of page

Most scholarly research will be found by using databases to locate articles in scholarly literary journals.  The following links will take you to databases containing information about My Antonia and Willa Cather's literary career.

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Although most of your resources will be found in books and database, the Internet can be a useful source for research about Willa Cather and My Antonia.  Evaluate Internet sites for quality, scholarly level, author and validity before using them as resources for your paper.

MLA citation style guide  for your works cited page.  Helpful examples of citations from many types of resources.

The Learning Center, formerly Academic Support Center. Check the hours of the Learning Center for help with your paper or in-house tutoring.  Remember, your instructor is the final authority on the content and form of your paper.

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Page created by Rebecca Bradley, Kingwood College Library, 7/16/01. Updated 11/6/02.