April 24th, 2018 by nguyetra

Experimenting with Point of View: My Antonia’s Mrs. Shimerdas

One morning, during this interval of fine weather, Antonia and her mother rode over on one of their shaggy old horses to pay us a visit. It was the first time Mrs. Shimerda had been to our house, and she ran about examining our carpets and curtains and furniture, all the while commenting upon them to her daughter in an envious, complaining tone.

I came over to their house on a nice day. The clouds were floating slowly on a deep blue sky and the sun was burning over our heads, leaving drops of sweat running over our faces. My mood was destroyed as soon as I climbed onto our shaggy horses, trading fresh air for temporary convenience and the terrible smell of old animals. Their house was so different from our dirty, cramped cave: it was packed with light, warmness, and furniture. I couldn’t help but think about our house. My poor Ambrosch! If only we could live here…

When Jim’s grandmother was cooking dinner, I walked around the kitchen and saw her grand collection of kitchenware. “You got many, Shimerdas no got,” I complained to the old woman. She was coming back and forth hurriedly between pots and pans, her position so unnatural that I thought she didn’t belong here. Such awkwardness! I could do way better than her. If only I had these pieces of equipment! I told her about Bohemia and how I used to cook with elegance and efficiency. She raised one of her eyebrow, but decided to give me her silver pot as a gift. I wondered how much the pot cost.

After joining them for dinner, I gave a hand with washing the dishes. I thought in my head, without realizing I was speaking quite loudly: “You got many things for cook. If I got all things like you, I make much better.” The boy Jim looked at me straight in the eyes after hearing that, but his reactions meant nothing to me. He would forget it all after several hang-outs with Ántonia. Christmas was near. I couldn’t tell how long it would take our family to start making money again. That’s the only reason why I came to America.

 

April 23rd, 2018 by Annalee

My Antonia: Point of View

One thing that I’ve been thinking a lot while reading My Antonia is that Jim is a kid while these events are taking place, but the novel itself is written as Jim looking back on his childhood. With this idea in mind, I found it almost impossible to not pick a scene from Antonia’s perspective. Though very predictable, I thought it would be interesting to imagine how Antonia would look back on Jim and her childhood. Jim seems to just comment on the lives of the Shimerdas’, but Antonia is living that reality. Jim doesn’t seem to understand Antonia, but I would argue that Antonia understands Jim. Because Antonia struggles with English, I would assume that she picks up on more details and rather than pointing them out directly, she holds onto them in her own thoughts because she doesn’t know how to properly express them. Jim seems to be learning adult things like the operation of class differences, whereas Antonia recognizes them first hand.

Jim’s POV:

“In a minute we come,” I called back to her. “I like your grandmother, and all things here,” she sighed. “I wish my papa live to see this summer. I wish no winter ever come again.”

“It will be summer a long while yet,” I reassured her. “Why aren’t you always nice like this, Tony?”

“How nice?”

“Why, just like this; like yourself. Why do you all the time try to be like Ambrosch?”

She put her arms under her head and lay back, looking up at the sky. “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”

 

Antonia’s POV:

“In a minute we come,” I said to Jim’s grandmother. “I like her, and all things here,” I sighed. I thought of papa. How he did not like all things here. How he did not like winter here. “I wish my papa live to see summer. Maybe he would like summer in this kawn-tree. I wish no winter ever come again.”

“It will be summer a long while yet,” Jim said. He sounded like he was trying to convince me that everything would be okay now that it was summer, that winter was over and so was the sadness. “Why aren’t you always nice like this, Tony?”

“How nice?” I asked, unsure of what he meant by ‘nice’. I never thought I wasn’t nice. I never thought I did something to be unpleasant.

“Why, just like this; like yourself. Why do you try to be like Ambrosch?”

I lay back, avoiding eye contact, looking at the sky as if it held my answers, but I was really avoiding Jim. He didn’t seem to understand me, my family. He thinks everything is nice, that everything can be easy. He is wrong. He will never understand. I tried not to tell him he wouldn’t understand so instead I said, “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”

April 23rd, 2018 by Lillian

Mr. Burden on Mrs. Shimerda’s first visit

Taken by Mr. Burden’s quote, “The prayers of all good people are good”, I wanted to imagine his perspective on things. This is an imagining of how he might have reacted to, or discussed, Mrs. Shimerda and Ántonia’s visit to the Burden’s home on pages 85-87.

***

The skies were open and clear for about three weeks after New Year’s Day. It was a pleasant welcome from the long winter and brought the boys back out into the yard. It was during these three weeks when Mrs. Shimerda and her little girl came up to visit us for the first time.

Emmaline said Mrs. Shimerda was truly taken by our home. For her, it must have been out of the ordinary, definitely different. I’ve seen their home, and they have a long ways to go but nothing their hard working Ambrosch, or even Ántonia couldn’t achieve. I hope they do. Once things begin to change they will see. They will see why it must be different to start. The work, it is part of the price, Mrs. Shimerda doesn’t seem to understand, but she will learn. Ántonia too, she has the potential, but it will be up to her.

Mr. Shimerda, he is old now. Not necessarily in number. But, the trip seems to have aged him, and Ántonia has noticed. He won’t be the one to see their home grow and change, not if he doesn’t start to adjust. But a man can’t be forced to work, to change. Ambrosch is learning though. He is a strong boy, very hard working, and Ántonia seems to underestimate what he can do without help.

The Shimerdas must make the choice of hard work, then we can help them. It isn’t so much that we couldn’t now, we just shouldn’t spoil their ambition. Not if we can help it.

April 23rd, 2018 by Victoria

Experimenting with point of view in “My Antonia”

For my experiment with point of view, I looked at the passage of the story of Pavel and Peter and the discussion of it between Jim and Antonia. Jim recounts how he and Antonia reacted to the story, and how they dealt with it later on, but I thought it would be interesting to change the perspective from Jim to Antonia with these passages:

p. 53-54

“On the way home, when we were lying in the straw, under the jolting and rattling I told Jim as much of the story as I could. What I did not tell him then, I told later; we talked of nothing else for days afterward.”

p. 59

“The loss of his two friends had a depressing effect upon my father. When he was out hunting, he used to go into the empty log house and sit there, brooding. This cabin was his hermitage until the winter snows penned us in our cave. For myself and Jim, the story of the wedding party was never at an end. We did not tell Pavel’s secret to any one, but guarded it jealously- as if the wolves of the Ukraine had gathered that night long ago, and the wedding party been sacrificed, to give us a painful and peculiar pleasure.”

The first passage on pages 53 and 54, if it was coming from Antonia instead of Jim, would give much more of an insight as to her feelings concerning Jim and her confidence in him as a friend. I think up to this point in the story, it is not quite clear that Jim’s fascination and friendship with Antonia is reciprocated in the same way. If she were to narrate this experience that she and Jim had together, I think it would show that she truly wanted to connect with him. It would convey that she was connected to Jim as well: I think someone who was critical of this book might say that Jim’s friendship with Antonia could be partially because of curiosity about people who are different from him, which could be true as well concerning Antonia’s feelings of friendship for Jim, but in my opinion it would be harder for Antonia to trust Jim than it would be for Jim to trust Antonia, due to their family situations. Jim, although new to Nebraska, was born in America and is generally familiar with the area, and is not considered a “foreigner” or someone who is an “outsider” where he lives. Antonia, however, would be viewed under higher scrutiny by the other people living in the town, because of her being an “outsider”. Thus, for her to be so open about her friendship with Jim would be a risk, since people may question her intentions more than Jim’s.

The second passage being in Antonia’s perspective, with her talking about her father while also continuing to describe her and Jim’s shared feelings about the story of Pavel and Peter, would give more insight as to her relationship with her father. It would highlight how she noticed her father’s isolation, and it would show the sadness that she felt regarding seeing her father broken down. This passage would contrast the loneliness she felt concerning her father and the connection she found in Jim. By Antonia saying that she and Jim kept Pavel’s secret to themselves, and told no one else, would signify that Antonia was not simply spending time with Jim because it was expected of her or because he was the only one there, but that she genuinely connected with him as a person.

 

April 23rd, 2018 by Elizabeth

Experimenting with Point of View

When I was thinking about which character could narrate this story, other than Jim Burden, I had trouble deciding between Jim’s grandmother Emmaline Burden and Ántonia’s mother Mrs. Shimerda. I think the point of view from both of these characters would allow for a different, yet interesting insight into the lives of their families.

If the grandmother were to narrate this story I believe it would display how old age and wisdom are valuable. There is a preconceived belief that elderly individuals do not see or hear things and miss a lot of information because they are old. However, having the grandmother, as the narrator would be sweet and show how much grandmothers do pay attention and care. Also grandparents are known to tell wonderful stories and pass down wisdom to their grandchildren. I would have the grandmother noticing changes in Ántonia’s behavior and physical appearance. I would place Jim’s character into the story and have the grandmother talk about the interactions between Jim and Ántonia. I would chose the grandmother over the grandfather because women carry out more dutiful house-held tasks and since Ántonia is a female (at first) she would be completing similar tasks.

For example on pages 132-33:

“The men were working so hard in the wheat fields that they did not notice the heat, –though I was kept busy carrying water for them, –[me] and Ántonia had so much to do in the kitchen that they could not have told whether one day was hotter than another. Each morning, while the dew was still on the grass, Ántonia went with me up the garden to get early vegetables for dinner. [I] made her wear a sunbonnet, but as soon as we reached the garden she threw it on the grass and let her hair fly in the breeze. I remember how, as we bent over the pea-vines, beads of perspiration used to gather on her upper lip like a little mustache.”

I think having the grandmother notice the changes in Ántonia’s masculinity, hence the subtle “mustache” implies the wisdom that elderly people have- they are able to notice the subtle things, unlike younger individuals who are too busy or fixed on their own tasks to notice the details. Also the grandmother spends a lot of time with Ántonia in the kitchen and garden, and watches the men from afar on the field, she is almost like the overseer. I also think the grandmothers subtle ability to notice changes coincides with the subtlety in the writing itself.

However if Mrs. Shimerda were to be the narrator I think the feel of the book would be completely different, but in a good way. Mrs. Shimerda could express her feelings of her husband’s suicide and then place all her attention on her surroundings, particularly her family and daughter Ántonia. It would also be interesting to hear a point of view from a woman whom is not from the US.

For example on page 97:

“Presently, as I looked with satisfaction about [the] comfortable sitting-room, it flashed upon me that if [my husband’s] soul were lingering about in this world at all, it would be here, in [this] house, which has been more to his liking than any other in the neighborhood. I remembered his contented face when he was with [me] on Christmas day.”

I think this point of view is compelling because Mrs. Shimerda does not speak/understand English that well so her narration of this story might imply her hidden intelligence. Also since Mrs. Shimerda is a woman who is not from the US and lost her husband she comes across as brave and strong, which I think her narration would emphasize well.

While both of these points of views are completely different, they both have the narration of a woman. I think changing the narration to a woman is believable or would work because women are known to notice more details. Also including the depth of age and unfamiliarity within the narration might allow for a deeper emphasis on these details that Jim Burden might not express as in depth.

April 23rd, 2018 by nguyetra

Final Project: Yoko Tawada’s “Where Europe Begins” or…

For my final project, I think I will write about Yoko Tawada’s “Where Europe Begins.” When I was reading these short stories, I resonated with the feeling of being a foreigner and hearing languages that make little senses to one’s ears. As an ambivert, I have always thought about how words sometimes seem to die on my tongue just as I was about to speak them, how they sometimes fail to convey what I feel to the fullest.

There are several historical lenses that I want to apply on “Where Europe Begins,” one being the history of folktales. When Yoko Tawada came to our class, I asked her why she would include folktales in her works. She answered that she was fascinated with stories that are rooted in both the German and the Japanese traditions, and this was extremely interesting to me. I believe that doing research on these tales’ original meanings versus Yoko Tawada’s interpretation will shed a new light on “Where Europe Begins.” I am also thinking of looking into the history of immigrants and foreigners as well as the stereotypes of Japanese women, as Yoko Tawada always writes “across borders” and shows how people are classified under quite discriminative categories for their “otherness.” This is where Yoko Tawada displays her empathy most affectionately, asking big questions about seemingly trivial things like a can of fish or a doll. The idea of “the soul” in her stories is central to Asian religious beliefs, and I believe that bringing such information into my analysis may help in forming a valid argument. Finally, while Yoko Tawada’s writing is strange, I don’t find this to be very surprising. Many Japanese literary works also feature such strangeness as a signifying trait, and I wonder whether including how eccentricity and madness affect Japanese novels will prove to be relevant.

Another book I want to write about is “The Spook Who Sat By The Door” by Sam Greenlee. This is a book about the first black man who made it into the CIA but was only trying to take their information and training methods for his Black Movement and separation causes. This book is promising because it resembles the history of the Black Panther Party. The book also demonstrates how black people were made into “ornaments” of the office spaces so that employers could show to the public how they valued “equal treatment” between races.

I am having a really hard time deciding between these two books. It would help me a lot to have some insights from you guys!

April 23rd, 2018 by Marissa

Experimenting With Point of View in “My Ántonia”

The passage that I thought would be interesting from another point of view is on pages 134 and 135, where Jim is talking to Ántonia after their family’s feud.

I changed the point of view from Jim’s point of view to Ántonia’s point of view.

All about us we could hear the felty beat of raindrops on the soft dust of the farmyard. Grandmother came to the door and said it was late, and we would get wet out there.

“In a minute we come,” I called back to her. “I like your grandmother and all things here,” I sighed. “I wish my papa live to see this summer. I wish no winter ever come again.”

“It will be summer a long while yet,” Jim reassured her. “Why are n’t you always nice like this, Tony?”

“How nice?”

“Why, just like this; like yourself. Why do you all the time try to be like Ambrosch?”

I put my arms under my head and lay back, looking up at the sky. “If I live here, like you, that is different. Things will be easy for you. But they will be hard for us.”

 

I think that if this story was told from the point of view of Ántonia then we would miss so many aspects of Jim’s life. The story would be less about Jim’s family, and more about the idea that Ántonia’s family was struggling with their new life on the farmland that they bought. I think that it would be a totally different story. I almost think that if this story was told from the point of view of Ántonia then the title might be My Jim Burden. I think that straying away from telling the story from Jim’s family’s point of view would drastically change the story because there would be less known about what happens within the family because the narration would be limited. I think that it would be interesting to hear this story completely written from another point of view, but at the same time, I really love the story from the point of view of Jim and I would hate to lose some aspects of him because it was told from another point of view. By having Jim as the narrator right now, we learn more about the inner workings of his family, where as with Ántonia as the narrator we would know more about the inner workings of her family instead.

April 19th, 2018 by Annalee

Final Project Idea

Honestly, I was trying to think of other literary works to choose for this essay and I was having a pretty hard time thinking about what I would pick. Consequently, I thought back to my time in high school and the books that I read and actually enjoyed being forced to read. One of the books that I would put in my top five favorite books is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Most of my classmates actually didn’t like the book, but I just couldn’t put it down. Although I’m not a fan of war, there was something about this book that really stuck with me. Maybe it was the fact that no one has determined whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. Or maybe it was the fact that I felt some sort of strange connection to the book as it centers around the Vietnam War and my father went to Vietnam to serve as a war photographer during the war. Maybe I’m searching to understand the brutality he witnessed over there that he refuses to talk about. I remember writing a short story inspired by the things I carried in my backpack, but I never got to fully analyze this work that I seem to keep coming back to. I think the current problem I’m facing is narrowing down exactly what I want to write about. There’s only one real macho character and O’Brien clearly makes the point that there are no heroes in this story. So do I focus on heroism? But it’s more than that! It’s a story of love and loss, fear and shame, and somehow O’Brien argues that it’s a story about peace rather than war, but I find that so hard to believe while I caught up in the war! And there’s a part of me that just wishes O’Brien would come right out and admit if it’s real of fake even though I don’t know what that would really do for me or if it would change my perception of the book. So then do I write about truth and how memories can change? Obviously, I have to narrow this down and actually figure out how I’m even going to connect it to something we learned in class, but at the moment I think I’m too caught up in my obsession with the book.

 

April 19th, 2018 by Elizabeth

Final Project Idea!

I think I would like to write about “Canned Foreign” and “Storytellers Without Souls” from Where Europe Begins by Yoko Tawada. I was originally between Elizabeth Bishop, Naomi Shihab Nye and Yoko Tawada. However, I chose Tawada because I am the most passionate about her work, especially after personally meeting, and receiving answers from her. I feel having had this opportunity to ask questions and hear her talk and perform two times in person will really help broaden my perspective and understanding of her work to write a solid piece. I also can relate to Tawada’s work by not being able to understand foreign languages sometimes, and how the sounds just pass through ones ear. I also decided on this text because I think Tawada’s work really encapsulates what we have been learning in class, or seen in repeating patters, that is, learning how to read. I am fascinated with the ways in which people understand unknown information and are able to learn a valid way of communication through their experiences. After all, without some form of communication whether through images, reading, speaking or listening there would be no way to learn and navigate ones way through the world.

The concept that one can be looking or seeing something but not reading or understanding, and listening but not hearing is a point I would like to discuss in my edition. Tawada relates this concept to animals to project the idea of “otherness” and not belonging. The soul, in response develops and alters when in different “cells” or geographical spaces. Tawada associates these spaces of cells with talking or storytelling, and explains how stories can travel or stay in one place/be stationary. Through my experience with learning Italian, and traveling in general it is hard to do anything but absorb and listen to the information and try to understand what is presented to you. However, most of time all one can do is just understand the essence of what they were exposed to. While the soul alters, it never becomes lost, it just changes or develops further – exposure to different cultures or foreign entities can have a positive affect on the soul.

In the critical edition I would like to talk about these concepts from Tawada’s text because I am interested in the objects and various animals she writes about. Her writing is so heavily focused on language, listening and seeing and I want to explore the value of communication when one does not fully understand another culture, person, object or animal. Tawada mentioned that animals have “human rights,” and I believe using this, as a lens to look at the text will be helpful when discussing the impact of geography and communication.

April 19th, 2018 by Marissa

Final Project Ideas

I was thinking about doing my final project on either The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald or My Ántonia that we are reading in class by Willa Cather. I have not yet decided which I think will go better, but I have some ideas about each.

If I do The Great Gatsby, I would connect the book to privilege. I think that this could be interesting because Jay Gats has wealth and privilege, but I’m not really sure how I could connect this. He definitely has privilege because he has these amazing parties and his house is monumental, along with his extensive wardrobe of soft shirts that he shows Nick while showing him the house. I think that this would be an interesting take on The Great Gatsby because most times when I think about this book I think about the love story, not the astounding amount of wealth that Jay Gats has. I think that in comparison to Gatsby I could contrast the wealth that Tom has with Daisy on the other side of the ocean from Gatsby. I think that this would be interesting because, although it is not a main point in the book, Tom likes to flaunt his wealth as well as Gatsby and they both are very privileged.

If I do My Ántonia, I would connect it to the economic historical creation of the western frontier in places such as Nebraska and how the railroad came to be what it was. I think that this could be an interesting topic because tracing Jim Burden’s connection to the creation of the railroad in places where this story takes place could be interesting. I think that connecting Jim’s job working as a lawyer in New York to help this process, along with talking about the journey and the differences between Virginia and Nebraska would create more of a historical divide.

Overall, I am very confused about what I want to do and would love suggestions. I think that I could do either of these options, but I am open to other suggestions as well.

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