Monday, April 23rd, 2018...8:58 pmAnnalee

My Antonia: Point of View

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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.”


  • I think that it is really funny that we ended up thinking about the same passage when this assignment came up. I also was very curious about how this passage would change from being from the point of view of Ántonia instead of Jim. I think that one of the major changes that I noticed and I don’t know if you noticed it too, was that I feel that from Ántonia’s point of view adds a more dramatic effect when she is asked about why she is not always nice. I think that this aspect changes the idea that she was just avoiding eye contact with him because she didn’t agree that she was trying to be like Ambrosch or that she was being different in different situations. I think that this passage and maybe even the whole book would be very different if it was from the perspective of Ántonia instead of Jim.

  •   Professor Seiler
    April 24th, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Annalee, great point about the many things that distance Jim as first-person narrator from “his” Ántonia: nostalgia, language, gender, class… Your rewriting as Ántonia has such wonderful simplicity at the level of the sentence. I’ll be curious to hear, when you’ve finished the book, if that’s how you think Ántonia would tell her story in retrospect.

  • I think you make a really interesting point here- both Jim and Antonia are young in the novel / growing up. I am with you, it would be nice to hear Antonia’s point of view looking back on her childhood. You are definitely right, since she did not speak perfect English or understand parts fully she held a lot of unknown thoughts to herself – simply because she might not have known how to express / verbalize these thoughts. At the same time, I think not knowing the details of Antonia adds not only a lot to our understanding of her personality / identification but also to a major theme in the book and that is “otherness.” From my experience, people from other cultures think very differently from those brought up in America- so I do not know if Antonia would necessarily think in the way the dialogue was laid out here. I feel like she might not care as much about the quirky details. However, I definitely think a point of view from Antonia would be worth thinking about- especially to look at the different families and their cultural norms.

  • I think your post is a great insight into how what characters AREN’T saying is sometimes just as important as what they ARE saying. I completely agree with you that Antonia understands more than she says, and that language limits her expressions of understanding to Jim. I also think that she might, as you include in her perspective, be censoring her true thoughts from Jim because she believes he will not / cannot understand how she feels completely. I would say that Antonia is not wrong: her and Jim’s experiences through life, especially in terms of the class structure that they live within, affect them differently and thus, they look at life differently.

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