My Antonia Essay

My Antonia Essay

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“Disapprobation hurt me, I found—even that of people whom I did not admire.” ;(164). In the novel, My Antonia, by Willa Cather, society seems to govern the lives of many people. But for the others, who see past society’s stereotypical values, had enough strength to overcome this and allowed them to achieve their dreams. Throughout the book, everyone seems to be trying to pursue the American Dream. While they all have different ideas of just exactly what the American Dream is, they all know precisely what they want. For some, the American Dream sounds so enticing that they have traveled across the world to achieve their goal. One girl who chases the American Dream is Lena Lingard, a small farm girl from a poverty-stricken family. “Lena gave her heart away when she felt like it, but she kept her head for her business and had got on in the world.” ;(192). Lena had one thing on her mind: money. To her the American Dream was wealth. She wants freedom from worry about where her next meal would come from. Lena begins her journey to wealth by becoming one of the many hired girls in the town of Black Hawk. There she was apprentice to a dressmaker and before long began to show great potential. Soon she began making money with her hard work, dedication and talent, but she uses this money not to indulge in her own desires, but to benefit her family. She spent her excess funds buying clothes for them, and paying their bills. But this wasn’t enough to gain society’s approval. She is a hired girl. Because she went to many dances over the summer months, many young men began noticing her, as they never had before. Because of this Lena earns a reputation like those of the hired girls ;that of a brazen hussy. Everyone thought she would wind up marrying the wrong man and ruin her life, but Lena had different plans. She did not listen to anything society infringed upon her. She had a dream of money and carried it through when she opened her own dress shop. She did not let the stereotypical views upon the hired girls stand in her way of her dream. She was determined to reach her goal and with all of her hard work she did just that. Some families traveled a great many miles to try to win the American Dream. The Shimerdas came all the way from Bohemia and ventured everything they had to make it in America. Antonia, the oldest daughter also becomes a hired girl. Although she works in Black Hawk for a respectable family, she could not escape society’s harsh judgement. They cast their eyes above her because of her heritage and social position. It’s not only from her job that brings her prejudice, it’s also her skin color. From all her hard work, Antonia gains a striking tan. This tan brands Antonia as a lowly immigrant peasant. No refined lady would subject herself to the unrelenting beam of the sun. But Antonia had her dreams ;being a mother to her very own family. She almost had her dream but her soon to be husband left her at the altar with a baby to care for. This could have drenched Antonia’s spirit but it did not. Instead, “… ;she loved it from the first as dearly as if she’d had a ring on her finger, and was never ashamed of it.” ;(204). The town expects her to hide her baby from the world, to hide her shame, but ironically, she goes to the town photographer and has a picture taken and lavishly framed as if to shout to the world the pride in her actions. Soon, she finds another man that suits her as a husband and together they have nine children. Antonia's American Dream of having her own beautiful family had finally come true. Through the course of her life, she remains to all a symbol of strength, courage and happiness. She never mixes her dreams from her responsibilities. All the hard times she could have given up, it is then when she is the strongest and it is then when we see the real Antonia. Unlike Antonia and Lena, Jim Burden could not accept society’s views on him. He always molded himself to become what the town saw as amenable. As he says, “Disapprobation hurt me, I found-- even that of people whom I did not admire.” ;(174). Jim hides behind the shadow of his dream, never fearless enough to accomplish his own goals. As Antonia faces the world with a dauntless face, Jim shrinks back at its hand. And as she cherishes her own family, Jim settles for his. He may be accepted by society but he’ll never reach his own expectations. Some of us can be slaves to society, but still there are some others that will see beyond it to reach for what they want. People will do anything to fulfill their dreams. They will travel great distances or change their whole lifestyles to succeed. But not everyone prevails. In the end, it’s the people that guide themselves and are not controlled by others. The best days may be the first to flee, but dreams live on forever (174).

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