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IlanaSimons
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Re: Chapter 10: Mrs. Shimerda's Dignity

I kept thinking about this one all last night. I totally understand what chadadanielleKR is saying. Mrs. Shimerda does come off as prickly, doesn't she? She's not someone I'd want to spend the day with. But...at least Cather allows this poor woman to have a particular personality. At least Cather graces Mrs. Shimerda with motives and depth.

At other times, I think Cather can tend to glorify the poor (Antonia, I'm going to post about this later). Mrs. Shimerda is sometimes nasty, but at least she's real. She's got an aggressive personality that Jim doesn't quite understand.




caroline88 wrote:
I just thought of Mrs. Shimerda as a strong and courageous woman. Doing things her own way. Who are we to say that ours are better? She does not have much but she does the best she can, with what she has. Even being generous with the best that she has (the mushrooms).





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Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

What do you make of Jim in Chapter 7, when he kills the rattler?

In his great introduction to the B&N Classics Edition, Gordon Tapper says that when Jim kills the snake with Antonia, he essentially kills a sexual symbol - and so kills off their chances at a sexual relationship. This is a symbolic slaying, Tapper writes: The two kids are playing in Eden, but "in Cather's version, Jim kills off the serpent before it has the chance to tempt Antonia, which perhaps means that our protagonists will be more fortunate than their ancient forebears - or is it less? - and not be expelled from their prairie garden, their innocent pastoral romance."

What do you make of that snake?



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Laurel
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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

I think the snake is just a snake. It was one of the dangers that come into his life, and he dealt with it. Of course it made him feel very proud.



IlanaSimons wrote:
What do you make of Jim in Chapter 7, when he kills the rattler?

In his great introduction to the B&N Classics Edition, Gordon Tapper says that when Jim kills the snake with Antonia, he essentially kills a sexual symbol - and so kills off their chances at a sexual relationship. This is a symbolic slaying, Tapper writes: The two kids are playing in Eden, but "in Cather's version, Jim kills off the serpent before it has the chance to tempt Antonia, which perhaps means that our protagonists will be more fortunate than their ancient forebears - or is it less? - and not be expelled from their prairie garden, their innocent pastoral romance."

What do you make of that snake?


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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LizzieAnn
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Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

I agree Laurel. If the snake symbolizes anything, it serves as a reminder of just how wild and dangerous was the world that Antonia & Jim were living in. That under the surface of a beautiful landscape, there are dangerous things and one must always keep their eyes open. I definitely did not connect it with anything of a sexual nature.



Laurel wrote:
I think the snake is just a snake. It was one of the dangers that come into his life, and he dealt with it. Of course it made him feel very proud.

Liz ♥ ♥


Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~ Francis Bacon
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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

Beautifully put, Liz.



LizzieAnn wrote:
I agree Laurel. If the snake symbolizes anything, it serves as a reminder of just how wild and dangerous was the world that Antonia & Jim were living in. That under the surface of a beautiful landscape, there are dangerous things and one must always keep their eyes open. I definitely did not connect it with anything of a sexual nature.



Laurel wrote:
I think the snake is just a snake. It was one of the dangers that come into his life, and he dealt with it. Of course it made him feel very proud.




"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***



LizzieAnn wrote:
I agree Laurel. If the snake symbolizes anything, it serves as a reminder of just how wild and dangerous was the world that Antonia & Jim were living in. That under the surface of a beautiful landscape, there are dangerous things and one must always keep their eyes open. I definitely did not connect it with anything of a sexual nature.





That is well said: The snake shows a mixture of danger and beauty. Cather often takes time to show the danger inside mother nature.
The rattler that Jim kills has 24 rattles, and right after he kills it, he makes a point of explaining to Antonia that it means he's lived for 24 years.
That recognition of life, beside death, happens again when Jim goes back to Antonia after a long time away, in the end of the book. When he goes back, she is 24 years old, and they meet at the crossroads where her dad is buried. That's joy and life at the crossroads that remember a death.

also: Jim makes his last reunion to Antonia on the same day that her kids’ beloved dog dies.
And--in chapters 12-14 of book 1, the progression runs through cycles of life and death: Ch 12 brings Christmas (honoring Christ's birthday), and Mr. Shimerda lounges with Jim's family, never having been happier in his life; in ch 13, Jim celebrates his own birthday; and in Ch 14, Mr. Shimerda kills himself. Cather focuses on the life cycle throughout the book. Death brings life, brings death.



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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

I know what you're saying. Cather really is just trying to give us the country--with its very real snakes, not dry, intellectualized symbols.

But I am little worried that I didn't give Gordon Tapper good enough contextual support for what he was saying. He was saying something neat, I think. I need to reference later chapters to allow him his full argument. So I'm going to continue a post about snakes and sex and other good things in the "later chapters" thread.




Laurel wrote:
I think the snake is just a snake. It was one of the dangers that come into his life, and he dealt with it. Of course it made him feel very proud.



IlanaSimons wrote:
What do you make of Jim in Chapter 7, when he kills the rattler?

In his great introduction to the B&N Classics Edition, Gordon Tapper says that when Jim kills the snake with Antonia, he essentially kills a sexual symbol - and so kills off their chances at a sexual relationship. This is a symbolic slaying, Tapper writes: The two kids are playing in Eden, but "in Cather's version, Jim kills off the serpent before it has the chance to tempt Antonia, which perhaps means that our protagonists will be more fortunate than their ancient forebears - or is it less? - and not be expelled from their prairie garden, their innocent pastoral romance."

What do you make of that snake?








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Re: Early Chapters: 4 Questions for Conversation


IlanaSimons wrote
3. Is This a Critique of the City?
This novel moves between the farming land of the “Divide” and the city of Black Hawk. How do various characters respond differently to the two environments? Is Cather writing a critique of city life?




I viewed the city as a matter-of-fact alternative for survival, not an evil or a critique. The girls made more money that could help their families back home. Lena in particular had a goal and tapped into her talents. Antonia and the girls worked hard, but going to the dances helped them feel they were not throwing away their youth. Jim had access to a steady education. Also, the city put nature's threat in abeyance.
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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

Neat stuff! Thanks!



IlanaSimons wrote:


The snake shows a mixture of danger and beauty. Cather often takes time to show the danger inside mother nature.
The rattler that Jim kills has 24 rattles, and right after he kills it, he makes a point of explaining to Antonia that it means he's lived for 24 years.
That recognition of life, beside death, happens again when Jim goes back to Antonia after a long time away, in the end of the book. When he goes back, she is 24 years old, and they meet at the crossroads where her dad is buried. That's joy and life at the crossroads that remember a death.

also: Jim makes his last reunion to Antonia on the same day that her kids’ beloved dog dies.
And--in chapters 12-14 of book 1, the progression runs through cycles of life and death: Ch 12 brings Christmas (honoring Christ's birthday), and Mr. Shimerda lounges with Jim's family, never having been happier in his life; in ch 13, Jim celebrates his own birthday; and in Ch 14, Mr. Shimerda kills himself. Cather focuses on the life cycle throughout the book. Death brings life, brings death.


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

Ah, good! That will help.



IlanaSimons wrote:
I know what you're saying. Cather really is just trying to give us the country--with its very real snakes, not dry, intellectualized symbols.

But I am little worried that I didn't give Gordon Tapper good enough contextual support for what he was saying. He was saying something neat, I think. I need to reference later chapters to allow him his full argument. So I'm going to continue a post about snakes and sex and other good things in the "later chapters" thread.




Laurel wrote:
I think the snake is just a snake. It was one of the dangers that come into his life, and he dealt with it. Of course it made him feel very proud.



IlanaSimons wrote:
What do you make of Jim in Chapter 7, when he kills the rattler?

In his great introduction to the B&N Classics Edition, Gordon Tapper says that when Jim kills the snake with Antonia, he essentially kills a sexual symbol - and so kills off their chances at a sexual relationship. This is a symbolic slaying, Tapper writes: The two kids are playing in Eden, but "in Cather's version, Jim kills off the serpent before it has the chance to tempt Antonia, which perhaps means that our protagonists will be more fortunate than their ancient forebears - or is it less? - and not be expelled from their prairie garden, their innocent pastoral romance."

What do you make of that snake?








"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Early Chapters: 4 Immigration and Identity


IlanaSimons wrote:
4. Immigration and Identity
If “foreigners” like the Shimerdas and the Cuzaks are, for Cather, developing a new American identity, what do you think this novel says about the multiracial nature of the U.S. today? Do you think the notion of American identity changes with each new wave of immigration, or do you feel that the U.S.’s national identity is becoming more fixed, allowing for less change or development than seemed the norm at the time My Ántonia was written?



The "new American identity" question is interesting to me because in MY ANTONIA people are separated culturally: the Germans, the Bohemians, the Norwegians, the Americans, etc. Their "American" identity seems to be carved within the boundaries of their own culture. For instance, their aren't any marriages between cultures.

It seems the settlers took what America had to offer and mixed it with their own past experiences and habits and ways. So in that sense, I would say that the American identity constantly shifts and changes as new cultures join, challeging fixed notions and eventually blending in.
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Re: Chapter 10: Mrs. Shimerda's Dignity



These were horrible conditions they were living under, little better than animals, near starving without proper sanitation or ventilation, enough to break the hardiest soul. It broke gentle Mr. Shimerda. :smileysad:


IlanaSimons wrote:
I kept thinking about this one all last night. I totally understand what chadadanielleKR is saying. Mrs. Shimerda does come off as prickly, doesn't she? She's not someone I'd want to spend the day with. But...at least Cather allows this poor woman to have a particular personality. At least Cather graces Mrs. Shimerda with motives and depth.

At other times, I think Cather can tend to glorify the poor (Antonia, I'm going to post about this later). Mrs. Shimerda is sometimes nasty, but at least she's real. She's got an aggressive personality that Jim doesn't quite understand.




caroline88 wrote:
I just thought of Mrs. Shimerda as a strong and courageous woman. Doing things her own way. Who are we to say that ours are better? She does not have much but she does the best she can, with what she has. Even being generous with the best that she has (the mushrooms).

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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

I'm interested in the snake symbolism, but I have to admit I took it same as others: Jim kills big snake; now he is a man.

When we examine Cather's snake symbolism are we exploring her subconscious? And if it is her subconscious speaking, I'm curious to know how seriously should we consider the meaning of something she (or any other writer, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, for instance, is a big one for sexual symbolism) did not realize she had written?

IlanaSimons wrote:
I know what you're saying. Cather really is just trying to give us the country--with its very real snakes, not dry, intellectualized symbols.

But I am little worried that I didn't give Gordon Tapper good enough contextual support for what he was saying. He was saying something neat, I think. I need to reference later chapters to allow him his full argument. So I'm going to continue a post about snakes and sex and other good things in the "later chapters" thread.




Laurel wrote:
I think the snake is just a snake. It was one of the dangers that come into his life, and he dealt with it. Of course it made him feel very proud.



IlanaSimons wrote:
What do you make of Jim in Chapter 7, when he kills the rattler?

In his great introduction to the B&N Classics Edition, Gordon Tapper says that when Jim kills the snake with Antonia, he essentially kills a sexual symbol - and so kills off their chances at a sexual relationship. This is a symbolic slaying, Tapper writes: The two kids are playing in Eden, but "in Cather's version, Jim kills off the serpent before it has the chance to tempt Antonia, which perhaps means that our protagonists will be more fortunate than their ancient forebears - or is it less? - and not be expelled from their prairie garden, their innocent pastoral romance."

What do you make of that snake?







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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***



Laurel wrote:
I think the snake is just a snake. It was one of the dangers that come into his life, and he dealt with it. Of course it made him feel very proud.



IlanaSimons wrote:
What do you make of Jim in Chapter 7, when he kills the rattler?

In his great introduction to the B&N Classics Edition, Gordon Tapper says that when Jim kills the snake with Antonia, he essentially kills a sexual symbol - and so kills off their chances at a sexual relationship. This is a symbolic slaying, Tapper writes: The two kids are playing in Eden, but "in Cather's version, Jim kills off the serpent before it has the chance to tempt Antonia, which perhaps means that our protagonists will be more fortunate than their ancient forebears - or is it less? - and not be expelled from their prairie garden, their innocent pastoral romance."

What do you make of that snake?







I too, think it is just a snake. It could if anything symmbolize what Jim felt for Antonia, he wanted to protect her as much as he could.
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Re: Chapter 7: The crossroads/24 years ***spoiler about later chapters between Jim and Antonia***


IlanaSimons wrote:
That recognition of life, beside death, happens again when Jim goes back to Antonia after a long time away, in the end of the book. When he goes back, she is 24 years old, and they meet at the crossroads where her dad is buried.




Also, this brief meeting is a point for me where they acknowledge their lives have gone in different directions: Antonia as a mother, and Jim as a lawyer. It breaks the connection of their early years together, their youth.
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Re: Early Chapters: 4 Immigration and Identity **plot spoliter**

[ Edited ]
*plot spoiler about Antonia's love life below*

Nice comment: The cultures remain pretty distinct. Cather's really interested in those moments in which someone from an immigrant culture "passes" as an assimilated
American.
Tony has a child with Larry Donovan, an American, but of course that relationship doesn't work out. She finally goes right back to her roots, marrying Anton Jelinek’s cousin from the Old Country, Anton Cuzak. So: Tony does try to marry an "American," but it's unnatural for her.

Lena Lingard "passes" with grace in the book. I like her first entrance. We never hear her name at all in the book until Jim opens the door one day and says, "Why, it's Lena! Of course I didn't know you, so dressed up!" She's in costume (looking assimilated) from her very first entrance. And throughout the book, she grows more assimilated, more boldly "American." Her passion for the theater is telling--She loves our ability to play a role and still have that role be rooted in actual passion.
She becomes a dress maker--in a sense putting everyone in town into costume, helping them all look more high class. Lena would be a good example of "passing" in Cather.




CallMeLeo wrote:

IlanaSimons wrote:
4. Immigration and Identity
If “foreigners” like the Shimerdas and the Cuzaks are, for Cather, developing a new American identity, what do you think this novel says about the multiracial nature of the U.S. today? Do you think the notion of American identity changes with each new wave of immigration, or do you feel that the U.S.’s national identity is becoming more fixed, allowing for less change or development than seemed the norm at the time My Ántonia was written?



The "new American identity" question is interesting to me because in MY ANTONIA people are separated culturally: the Germans, the Bohemians, the Norwegians, the Americans, etc. Their "American" identity seems to be carved within the boundaries of their own culture. For instance, their aren't any marriages between cultures.

It seems the settlers took what America had to offer and mixed it with their own past experiences and habits and ways. So in that sense, I would say that the American identity constantly shifts and changes as new cultures join, challeging fixed notions and eventually blending in.


Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 05-11-200711:30 AM




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Re: Early Chapters: 4 Questions for Conversation

[ Edited ]

CallMeLeo wrote:
Also, the city put nature's threat in abeyance.




fantastic line.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 05-07-200710:05 AM




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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***



CallMeLeo wrote:
I'm interested in the snake symbolism, but I have to admit I took it same as others: Jim kills big snake; now he is a man.

When we examine Cather's snake symbolism are we exploring her subconscious? And if it is her subconscious speaking, I'm curious to know how seriously should we consider the meaning of something she (or any other writer, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, for instance, is a big one for sexual symbolism) did not realize she had written?


I did post the fuller explanation of the snake symbolism in the "Later Chapters" thread. I see what everyone's saying: In so many senses, it's just a snake. But I also think it's a small nod to Eden.

You raise such an interesting point: Are we free to say that an idea exists in a novel if the author didn't intend it? I think we are, but I’d be interested to hear what others say.

I think of analyzing books as similar to what a psychologist does for a patient. A patient walks into the psychologist’s office ready to be “read” in whatever meaningful ways the doctor can read her. Maybe one patient tends to go to parties and talk people's heads off, always showing off what she knows. She doesn't intentionally have this style of relating to other people, but she has it. The psychologist’s job is to say, "You're the type of person who relates to people by showing off your talents”: She makes an accurate observation about how the patient makes meaning in the world. This isn’t an intentional style of the patient/author’s, but it exists. I think that as readers, we’ve got free reign to analyze, if the analysis does make sense. We're checking out authors' styles or methods of making meaning in the world.

That said, I still think Cather was giving a small (ok!-- not heavy handed!) but conscious recognition of Eden with her snake.



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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***


IlanaSimons wrote:


I still think Cather was giving a small (ok!-- not heavy handed!) but conscious recognition of Eden with her snake.





I think that is very much a possiblity. It would be not the Eden of Genesis but the later, Freudian or Jungian Eden, that equates the Fall with the yielding to sexual temptation.
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake ***spoiler about sexuality between Jim and Antonia***

[ Edited ]
But I am thinking a lot about Genesis. I'd like to hear more about what you make of the Genesis Fall.

I'm thinking that in Genesis, after the snake’s temptation, Adam and Eve see their sexual differences for the first time, and the differences shame them. "The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons." Before the snake, they were able to love without consciousness of sex. After, they're wed to polarized roles.

With Jim and Antonia, the snake comes...but they kill it, and they have a special love precisely because they never assume sexual roles for the rest of the book. One example of that is the Cutter rape scene (a scene I tried to talk about in the later chapters post).

Jim tells Antonia that their love had been free of the dictates of sex: “I’d have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sister – anything that a woman can be to a man” (192). Cather is trying hard to paint a pre-Fall love: A love without the typical restricting divide of “man” vs. “woman.”



Laurel wrote:

IlanaSimons wrote:


I still think Cather was giving a small (ok!-- not heavy handed!) but conscious recognition of Eden with her snake.





I think that is very much a possiblity. It would be not the Eden of Genesis but the later, Freudian or Jungian Eden, that equates the Fall with the yielding to sexual temptation.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 05-07-200701:46 PM




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