Monday, April 23rd, 2018...4:56 pmElizabeth

Experimenting with Point of View

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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.


  •   Professor Seiler
    April 24th, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Elizabeth, what an interesting approach to this prompt! I appreciate your melding of critical reflection on [the limits of] Jim’s p.o.v. not only in terms of gender but of age. It’s incredible how much more perceptive grandmother and how much more sympathetic Mrs. Shimerda seem now…

  • I do think that the addition of a woman’s narration (especially one who is an immigrant) would add some depth to the story as a whole. Throughout the novel we only see the story through Jim’s eyes, and obviously his perspective on the world would be a masculine one, or at least shaped through his experiences as a man. You also mention how a narration ABOUT an immigrant is not the same as a narration FROM an immigrant, which I wholeheartedly agree with. To me, it would be better to tell a story about immigration from the immigrants themselves, or at least have a dual-narrative to increase the authenticity and accuracy of the story.

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