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

Okay, let me give it a try. I've always imagined that while Adam was naming the animals he noticed that they came in matched but different pairs but there was no matched but different creature for him:

(Gen 2:20) And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

(Gen 2:21) And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

(Gen 2:22) And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

(Gen 2:23) And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

(Gen 2:24) Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

(Gen 2:25) And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Adam seemed to know what Eve was for, but before the Fall they had no shame.

Then after they disobeyed God by eaten the fruit from the one tree God had forbidden them to eat from (not an apple, by the way, but an unnamed fruit) they felt shame.

(Gen 3:7) And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

(Gen 3:8) And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

And here I have to stop, because I'm not sure why the nakedness becomes an issue. Back to the thinking chair!

Here's what one commentary says, but it does not completely answer the question:

"It was here that the consciousness of nakedness first suggested the need of covering, not because the fruit had poisoned the fountain of human life, and through some inherent quality had immediately corrupted the reproductive powers of the body (as Hoffmann and Baumgarten suppose), nor because any physical change ensued in consequence of the fall; but because, with the destruction of the normal connection between soul and body through sin, the body ceased to be the pure abode of a spirit in fellowship with God, and in the purely natural state of the body the consciousness was produced not merely of the distinction of the sexes, but still more of the worthlessness of the flesh; so that the man and woman stood ashamed in each other's presence, and endeavoured to hide the disgrace of their spiritual nakedness, by covering those parts of the body through which the impurities of nature are removed. That the natural feeling of shame, the origin of which is recorded here, had its root, not in sensuality or any physical corruption, but in the consciousness of guilt or shame before God, and consequently that it was the conscience which was really at work, is evident from the fact that the man and his wife hid themselves from Jehovah God among the trees of the garden, as soon as they heard the sound of His footsteps."

--Johann (C.F.) Keil (1807-1888) & Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890),
Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament



IlanaSimons wrote:
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




"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 2: Gender

Jim generally seems more female to me.

Example, end of Chapter 2. Not that I remember many men lying down in gardens, but how he describes his observations, with such an eye for detail. And then he finishes:

"At any rate, this is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."

Brilliant!
So it must be female :smileywink:

Caroline
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There's big work to do, and that's why you are here
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IlanaSimons
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Re: Chapter 2: Gender

Ha! Nice comment.

I agree: Lots of times we find Jim in a traditionally feminine position.
I think Cather achieves some of that by spending so much time in Jim’s childhood, so that he's clumped with "children and women" instead of with the men. For instance, in one scene, he's so little that he's got to wait home with the women, for the workmen to get home. His description of life positions him as womanly: "Next to getting warm and keeping warm, dinner and supper were the most interesting things we had to think about. Our lives centered around warmth and food and the return of the men at nightfall" (44).
He’s so touchingly vulnerable through the beginning.



caroline88 wrote:
Jim generally seems more female to me.

Example, end of Chapter 2. Not that I remember many men lying down in gardens, but how he describes his observations, with such an eye for detail. And then he finishes:

"At any rate, this is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep."

Brilliant!
So it must be female :smileywink:

Caroline





Ilana
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Re: Chapter 2: Gender

It seems strange, for a boy to spend more time with women than with men. From what I remember from Little House on the Prairie, these children were walking a long stretch to and from school, without an adult accompanying.
For one who can kill a rattlesnake, it just seems a bit odd. (I have not read all of the book yet, maybe he has a "poor constitution"?)
Belief in your mission, greet life with a cheer
There's big work to do, and that's why you are here
~ Caroline
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Re: Early Chapters: More on Lena's Passing

Lena's an interesting character because she "passes": She's from an immigrant family but makes it big, financially. She seems both Natural (something Cather values highly) and sensual, ironic, or playful.

I think Book 2, Chapter 4, is interesting. Here we learn that Lena doesn't go to Church much and hangs out in men, which could potentially damage her reputation. She’s deviant--but somehow makes her behavior acceptable. We then learn that the town's "crazy woman," Crazy Mary, fixates on Lena. One day Mary runs after Lena outside the Church and threatens to cut her with a corn-knife, to "trim some of that shape off of you. Then you won't sail around so fine."

Why does Crazy Mary fixate on Lena? I think she's jealous. Crazy Mary is a deviant, or outsider, like Lena, but Mary can't "pass"--can't make her deviance acceptable.

Any thoughts on Lena's style and why it’s successful?



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

[ Edited ]

chadadanielleKR wrote: In this case, poverty is no excuse but rather a enlightener of someone how is basically very unpleasant. Did really Willa Cather had to create such an awful character?




I think that tough conditions often brought out both bitterness and envy. America became a myth in Europe, a symbol of an abundant life but disappointment was not far away many times. Some immigrants were very ambitious, they wanted to impress, climb. Make a good new 'rich life' in thee promissed land of honey. However, it was not an easy and quick process as they perhaps imagined. They had to face both tough conditions and their own limitations. They were second class citizens and it 'burned' in them. And perhaps they had to give up something in their old life that was more refined or elegant compared to what they've got later. One could easily become disillusioned under such circumstances. There are many Shimerdas around, even nowadays.

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 05-11-200703:06 PM

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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake



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?




Tapper's interpretation feels a bit far fetched, methinks.
Snake is a snake is a snake. I do not try to interpret it so desperately and I think it is summed up at the end:
I had killed a big snake--I was now a big fellow.

But he also admits that the circumstances helped to build up such an image:

Subsequent experiences with rattlesnakes taught me that my first
encounter was fortunate in circumstance. My big rattler was old,
and had led too easy a life; there was not much fight in him.
He had probably lived there for years, with a fat prairie-dog
for breakfast whenever he felt like it, a sheltered home,
even an owl-feather bed, perhaps, and he had forgot that
the world doesn't owe rattlers a living. A snake of his size,
in fighting trim, would be more than any boy could handle.
So in reality it was a mock adventure; the game was fixed for me
by chance, as it probably was for many a dragon-slayer. I had been
adequately armed by Russian Peter; the snake was old and lazy;
and I had Antonia beside me, to appreciate and admire.


However, he said initially that he was disgusted by the snake's vitality so it is not very consistent. One way or the other the killing of the snake granted him some respect from Antonia, a hero status. Implied is the standard edition fairy tale message: "The seemingly 'stupid' guy" kills the dragon, becomes a hero and gets the princess. Although here he still might doubt himself, he rides the wave of her admiration.
If anything is implied about the sexuality I think it is that he didn't know how to handle it. Did Cather?


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Re: Chapter 3: Is this Eden?



IlanaSimons wrote: What marks paradise here?




Their world (or as it is now remembered) was beautiful, natural, full of wonders and not too complicated. They were children and innocent, abundant snakes presented no temptations.

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Re: Chapter 2: Gender



IlanaSimons wrote:
Gender is a huge issue in this book.




Sure. WiC was probably lesbian, even if she never declared that openly. On some early pictures she looks pretty butch and she never came close to marrying any man.



"As Marilee Lindemann shows in this study of the novelist's life and work, Cather's sexual coming-of-age occurred at a time when a cultural transition was recasting love between women as sexual deviance rather than romantic friendship. At the same time, the very identity of "America" was characterized by great instability as the United States emerged as a modern industrial nation and imperial power."

from
Willa Cather
Queering America by Marilee Lindemann

"...Marilee Lindemann offers the fullest account currently available of gender and sexuality in the work of the early-twentieth-century novelist Willa Cather....

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Re: Early Chapters: 4 Questions for Conversation



johanna49 wrote:Willa is Jim Burden and Annie Sadilek is Antonia. So it would seem that Willa wanted
to tell this story from her point of view.




Perhaps it was a safe way to speak about lesbian love.

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men as bystanders



IlanaSimons wrote:... the woman is the worker, and the man is the fawning bystander.





Lesbian women do away with men, don't they?

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Jim Kills the Snake



CallMeLeo wrote: 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?



That could be a subject for a literary research/criticism but I think the story is best left alone, not overanalyzed.WiC isn't exactly our patient on the sofa. We can just read and enjoy the story and we will not come out poorer. I do not give a damn about Cather's snake fixation or sexual orientation the way she can bring the grass alive.

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Re: Early Chapters: More on Lena's Passing



IlanaSimons wrote:
Lena's an interesting character because she "passes": She's from an immigrant family but makes it big, financially. She seems both Natural (something Cather values highly) and sensual, ironic, or playful.

I think Book 2, Chapter 4, is interesting. Here we learn that Lena doesn't go to Church much and hangs out in men, which could potentially damage her reputation. She’s deviant--but somehow makes her behavior acceptable. We then learn that the town's "crazy woman," Crazy Mary, fixates on Lena. One day Mary runs after Lena outside the Church and threatens to cut her with a corn-knife, to "trim some of that shape off of you. Then you won't sail around so fine."

Why does Crazy Mary fixate on Lena? I think she's jealous. Crazy Mary is a deviant, or outsider, like Lena, but Mary can't "pass"--can't make her deviance acceptable.

Any thoughts on Lena's style and why it’s successful?




Reading your whole post here wouldn't you say WiC tries to come to terms with her own sexuality and love for women (and not necessarily sexualized love, too). It can also mirror her admiration for strong women, she carves out a place for them in society, women that can exist on their own accord, marriage doesn't have to make them and men do not need to define them because they can define themselves, they have their own merits. Something started to change for women during the period of WiC's life. She paints many prtraits of women, a whole scale....some also wear male clothes.

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Re: Chapter 7: Jim Kills the Snake

[ Edited ]
about the snake/tapper controversy:


ziki wrote:
If anything is implied about...sexuality [in the snake killing] I think it is that [Jim] didn't know how to handle it. Did Cather?



That's all. That's the point. Jim and Antonia don't do the sexual-love thing. They do a love that's pre-sex or post-sex or no-sex. That's how Cather loved, too, never fully expressing her love for the women in her life.

Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 05-12-200712:51 AM




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earth power



IlanaSimons wrote:That's all. That's the point.




oh, all right :smileyhappy:

I remember pondering Jim's choice of wife....and even if he "left Antonia behind" he could never become free of her because she stands for a strong, unspoiled life, the primal earth woman and her power. The nature inspite of its harshness is still their strength, a ground.Thy work with it and the land feeds both their stomach and their soul. Jim and Antonia rest on the ground, looking up into the sky, being carried/supported by the very same ground, feeling connected.

Mind you, who lies down on the sidewalk in NY city?

(And so different from i.e. T.Hardy where the nature is hostile, worse than the city...(I just happened to hear a prgm on BBC Radio 4 about it).

Here the city is growing-pulling-developping and nothing for Antonia, who is an antidote to alienation and misery.

ziki
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Pinkola Estes

Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote the popular book Women Who Run With Wolfs. Wolf symbolizes instincs, something 'wild' that can't be tamed. Primal nature.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780345409874&itm=1


http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=Pinkola+Estes&z=y&cds2Pid=9481
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Antonia

[ Edited ]
something that caught my eye:

"This groundbreaking book proposes that the rise of alphabetic literacy--the process of reading and writing--fundamentally reconfigured the human brain, and brought about profound changes in history, religion, and gender relations. Making remarkable connections across brain function, myth, and anthropology, Leonard Shlain shows why agricultural preliterate cultures were principally informed by holistic, right-brain modes that venerated the Goddess and feminine values and images. Writing, particularly alphabets, drove cultures toward linear left-brain thinking. This shift upset the balance between men and women, initiating the decline of the feminine, and also ushered in the reign of patriarchy and misogyny. Examining the cultures of the Israelites, Greeks, Christians, and Muslims, he reinterprets many myths and parables in light of his theory. Shlain traces the effect of literacy on the Dark Ages, Mary, Gutenberg, the Reformation, and the witch hunts."

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780140196016&itm=5

Message Edited by ziki on 05-12-200704:39 PM

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Re: Antonia

[ Edited ]
Very cool find, Ziki.
So it seems important that in the beginning, Mr. Shimerda wants Antonia to become literate, and Mrs. Shimerda is more reluctant.
Jim gets the job of teaching Antonia written language--the Ways of the West.
"We went with Mr. Shimerda back to the dugout. [He] took a book out of his pocket, opened it, and showed me a page with two alphabets, one English and the other Bohemian. He placed this book in my grandmother's hands, looked at her entreatingly, and said, with an earnestness which I shall never forget, `Te-e-ach, te-e-ach my Antonia!'"
so then...
"Almost every day [Antonia] came running across the prairie to have her reading lesson with me. Mrs. Shimerda grumbled, but realized it was important that one member of the family should learn English."



ziki wrote:
something that caught my eye:

"This groundbreaking book proposes that the rise of alphabetic literacy--the process of reading and writing--fundamentally reconfigured the human brain, and brought about profound changes in history, religion, and gender relations. Making remarkable connections across brain function, myth, and anthropology, Leonard Shlain shows why agricultural preliterate cultures were principally informed by holistic, right-brain modes that venerated the Goddess and feminine values and images. Writing, particularly alphabets, drove cultures toward linear left-brain thinking. This shift upset the balance between men and women, initiating the decline of the feminine, and also ushered in the reign of patriarchy and misogyny. Examining the cultures of the Israelites, Greeks, Christians, and Muslims, he reinterprets many myths and parables in light of his theory. Shlain traces the effect of literacy on the Dark Ages, Mary, Gutenberg, the Reformation, and the witch hunts."

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780140196016&itm=5

Message Edited by ziki on 05-12-200704:39 PM



Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 05-12-200710:47 PM




Ilana
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Re: Antonia

if we play with that idea then Antonia managed to combine both (to some degree) even if Jim in the story stands for the university education. But as mentioned before perhaps these were two sides of Cather:
The ground, basics, her origins, the pass and then what she did in the world (i.e.wrote), the now, the new.

WiC. quote:
The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman. (O Pioneers!)

ziki
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IlanaSimons
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Re: Antonia

Nice comment. And this comment also makes sense because when Jim does go off to Harvard to study law (the rules set down in written language), Antonia marries and has ten more kids, and doesn't speak English at home. So when Jim goes back to see her, she's lost a lot of what he taught her.
"I've forgot my English so," Antonia says. "I don't often talk it any more. I tell the children I used to speak real well.' She said they always spoke Bohemian at home. The little ones could not speak English at all--didn't learn it until they went to school."



ziki wrote:
if we play with that idea then Antonia managed to combine both (to some degree) even if Jim in the story stands for the university education. But as mentioned before perhaps these were two sides of Cather:
The ground, basics, her origins, the pass and then what she did in the world (i.e.wrote), the now, the new.

WiC. quote:
The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman. (O Pioneers!)

ziki





Ilana
Check out my book, here and visit my website, here.


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