Summary Of Willa Cather's My Ántonia

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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…
The most obvious instance is during book two when a blind African-American piano player named Samson d’Arnault comes to the town of Black Hawk. Cather portrays him in what may seem to be a positive light; however, the undertone of the depiction is purely racist. “He had the Negro head, too; almost no head at all; nothing behind the ears but folds of neck under close-clipped wool. He would have been repulsive if his face had not been so kindly and happy” (102). In her initial description of d’Arnault, Cather uses terms which can only be described as pure racism, yet she paints him in a positive light (for the most part). Unfortunately, describing his talents and saying he has a nice smile is not enough to outweigh the blatant racism with which Cather describes d’Arnault. Cather likely did not mean to write in such a racist fashion about the only black character in the novel, and her intent was most likely not one of malice. Yet, her portrayal of “Blind d’Arnault” is one that forces the novel back into the time of its first

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