Gender Roles In Willa Cather's My Antonia

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Willa Cather’s My Ántonia is often regarded as a foundational work of western literature, yet it goes far beyond its reputation as a prototypical prairie novel. When it was originally published in 1918, My Ántonia addressed issues that were often left unattended in literature (but were quite relevant to the time nonetheless) such as immigration, gender roles, and women’s rights. By devoting discourse to such issues, some aspects of Cather’s novel remain relevant to this day both socially and politically. Yet, despite its pioneering attitude towards societal shortcomings in particular equalities, My Ántonia falls short in certain facets of its relevance to present times. Cather’s treatment of the novel’s sole African-American character as a…show more content…
Unconventional women are commonplace throughout the 1918 novel. Frances Harling is an accomplished businesswoman who shows great success in her proficiency within her father’s business. Lena Lingard is another businesswoman who leaves the fictional town of Black Hawk, unaccompanied and unencumbered by a husband, to start a business in Lincoln. Finally, the title character, Ántonia, shows her resolve in working the fields of the prairie as proficiently as any man in the region. “I can work as much as [Ambrosch]. School is all right for little boys. I help make this land one good farm” (71). Ántonia breaks the traditional gender roles by spending time tending to her family’s land and working in the fields. She is built to be a character that stays relevant from the early twentieth century onwards, and her mental and physical resolve show clearly in the entire novel. Cather includes such successful women as examples, for anyone who may be reading the book, of successful women bending the gender roles of 1918. By incorporating these women in her novel, Cather shows an attitude that was in no way commonplace until present
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