Chastity In Willa Cather's My Antonia

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What Willa Cather seems to admire most about her character Antonia

Shimerda are her courage and fortitude, her similarities to Cather herself, and her mixture

of masculinity and femininity. My Antonia is considered Cather's most biographical novel

, and thus it is difficult to divorce any analysis of its themes from her personal life.

intelligence. She was among the first women to graduate the University of Nebraska and

enrolled in it at only 16 years old and practiced medicine as William Cather, M.D.

beforehand, and later went on to be the first woman to recieve an honorary degree from

Princeton University (https://www.willacather.org/about/willa­cather/timeline) . Her

academic achievements are not, of course, limited to those and she "shocked the

audience"
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Based on the connection between Francis Sadilek's suicide and Mr. Shimerda's, as well

as the similarity between names, that was most likely an Annie Sadilek, though there

were other women in Cather's life as well, her college love likely represented by Lena

Lingham. The chastity present in Jim's interactions with Antonia and Lena suggests

strongly the story was autobiographical and the narrator was made male because an

openly lesbian novel would almost definitely not be published, but was that all that was

going on? While it would be remiss to retroactively gender her differently as she never

made any explicit statement to the effect, it's not unlikely Cather was in fact transsexual,

based on her male "fraternal twin" persona William. While the "disguise" could be argued

to be a tactic to gain advantage in a very male­dominated field and world overall,

biographers do agree Willa was hardly a person who concealed or suppressed her

identity. Antonia herself displays both feminine and masculine traits, stating she "like(s) to

be like a man" (pg. 68), doing what was considered men's work, emulating her
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