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mef6395
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Re: Chapter 2: Gender

The way I understand it, Jim did not go to school during the first year after he moved to Nebraska. He had chores at the farm but they were rather light (carrying in water and wood; running errands, delivering messages). Grandpa Burden was a prosperous farmer, he could afford to hire workers and had no need to recrute his grandson to do grinding work. I think that these factors combined such that he got to spend a lot of time with the womenfolk. Also, he did not have boys his own age with whom he could be friends; the person closest to his age was Antonia. I do think though, that he was best buddies with Otto and Jake and he hung out with them as often as he (and they) could.




caroline88 wrote:
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"?)


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Re: Early Chapters: More on Lena's Passing

Mary is more than just an outsider. She obviously has mental problems - she's tried to set a neighbor's barn on fire; she's been sent to an asylum but escaped and walked the 200 miles to get back home.

Lena, on the other hand, may be unconventional by the standards of her time but I don't see anything deviant or abnormal with her. Jim Burden narrates that Lena has a "soft voice and easy, gentle ways" - in comparison to the other farm girls who "usually got rough and mannish after they went to herding." This is surely one reason why many of the menfolk are attracted to her.






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?


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Re: Racism



IlanaSimons wrote:
I’d love to hear how any of you think this book deals with racism, because it’s a big topic in the book.

The white Americans often don’t grant the immigrants much dignity. In Book 1, ch 14, we get this line: Jake thought “Ambrosch…showed more human feeling than he would have supposed him capable of.”
That’s an important line. Racism is, in fact, often connected to our false belief that outsiders are incapable of the most complex human emotions.
Recent psychology studies have looked at this—how there are two types of emotions. There are basic emotions, which animals also feel, like anger and bliss; and there are complex emotions, which only humans feel, like nostalgia and empathy. Studies show that we tend to assume that people of our own race or culture are more capable of the higher-order, human emotions than outsiders are. That is, we tend to think that people of our own culture have more ability to love, feel regret, and lend empathy than the “less-human” outsiders.

Anyone want to comment on racism in here?





I don't judge Jake's remark with regards Ambrosch as being racist. I don't think Jake meant it as a racial slur. The comment was directed at Jake alone; it was not sweeping as to include Mr Shimerda or other members of the family or all Bohemians in general. It's worthwhile to take note that Ambrosch gave his neighbors the impression of possessing a mean streak; of being shrewd, sly, suspicious; perhaps even disdainful and arrogant. So when he showed much concern and feeling upon the death of his father, Jake was naturally impressed and only then did he realize that there was also a more tender side to Ambrosch.

In the case of Blind d'Arnault, on the other hand, we see a lot of racial stereotyping (Book II, Chap. VII). Jim describes him as having "the soft, amiable negros voice ... with the note of docile subservience in it. He had the negro head, too ..."

A couple of pages further on, Jim continues to narrate that Blind d'Arnault "was always a negro prodigy who played barbarously and wonderfully... To hear him, to watch him, was to see a negro enjoying himself as only a negro can."
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Re: Racism



mef6395 wrote:


In the case of Blind d'Arnault...we see a lot of racial stereotyping (Book II, Chap. VII). Jim describes him as having "the soft, amiable negros voice ... with the note of docile subservience in it. He had the negro head, too ..."

A couple of pages further on, Jim continues to narrate that Blind d'Arnault "was always a negro prodigy who played barbarously and wonderfully... To hear him, to watch him, was to see a negro enjoying himself as only a negro can."




I very much agree with this comment. Cather romanticizes "mere [raw] instinct" (114), in d'Arnault's talent.
In my mind, Cather doesn't just idealize this 'innate, untouched' beauty in the black piano player, but shows the same idealization with Antonia, a non-Western Woman of the Earth. Cather sometimes gets romantic about what's "natural" or "uncultured."
D'Arnault makes his entrance in Book 2, Chapter 7, right after Cather gives us her most romanticized view of Antonia: "There was a basic harmony [in] Antonia [who] knew what [she] liked, and [was] not always trying to imitate other people. [She] loved children and animals and music, and rough play and digging in the earth. Deep down...there was a kind of hearty joviality.... I never tried to define it" (110).



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mef6395
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Re: Racism

Do you mean to say that one has to be rich in order to be able to appreciate art and to feel empathy towards his fellowmen? I know people who drive expensive cars, live in comfortable homes, wear designer shoes, go abroad for their vacation and yet are absolute philistines. You invite them to a violin recital or visit a museum, they give you a smirk and tell you they are not interested. On the other hand, I have visited some really poor countries where art and craftsmanship flourish and where there is a wonderful ambiance of solidarity among the people and very strong community and family ties. When it comes to apathy and indifference, I am sure that they can be found among the destitute as well as among those who enjoy "the luxury of money and leisure."




IlanaSimons wrote:
very cool ideas in here. I think you're also suggesting that when an immigrant population comes into a place, they really are forced to tend to their more animalistic drives: They need to eat; they need to defend themselves; they need to survive. Maybe that why Mrs. Shimerda comes off looking so animalistic, so crass. It's only with the luxury of money and leisure time that we can cultivate the second-tier emotions, like love of art and empathy.
So that might be one of many reasons why one culture thinks another is incapable of higher-order sensibilities.




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Re: Racism

You make a good point, and read in the wrong light, my comment does look way too simple.
I only meant that prejudice often comes from a misconception. Grandmother Burden sees people like the Shimerdas struggling to keep warm and thinks "they have no sense of style or class! They keep their food in blankets!!" But this is only because the Shimerdas need to sleep in their cave etc. to keep warm, and Grandmother Burden has more luxuries in place...so can move onto other things.




mef6395 wrote:
Do you mean to say that one has to be rich in order to be able to appreciate art and to feel empathy towards his fellowmen? I know people who drive expensive cars, live in comfortable homes, wear designer shoes, go abroad for their vacation and yet are absolute philistines. You invite them to a violin recital or visit a museum, they give you a smirk and tell you they are not interested. On the other hand, I have visited some really poor countries where art and craftsmanship flourish and where there is a wonderful ambiance of solidarity among the people and very strong community and family ties. When it comes to apathy and indifference, I am sure that they can be found among the destitute as well as among those who enjoy "the luxury of money and leisure."




IlanaSimons wrote:
very cool ideas in here. I think you're also suggesting that when an immigrant population comes into a place, they really are forced to tend to their more animalistic drives: They need to eat; they need to defend themselves; they need to survive. Maybe that why Mrs. Shimerda comes off looking so animalistic, so crass. It's only with the luxury of money and leisure time that we can cultivate the second-tier emotions, like love of art and empathy.
So that might be one of many reasons why one culture thinks another is incapable of higher-order sensibilities.










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Re: basic needs-memories

And also, this is why immigrants often take comfort in building a community, like the Norwegians did, shutting themselves in and others out. It was/is self-protection.

ziki wrote:


IlanaSimons wrote: This man, you're saying, kills himself because of the great gap between the self he knows and the non-self people see in him, in this new country.




hahah, it helps me when you tell me what I am saying... this is very true, I didn't see it. Like they are asked to give up a part of themselves. It is expected, the 'otherness' bothers the new community. It is such a 'given' approach that the immigrant needs to adjust, take the habits of the new country, melt in, actually become invisible if you think of the implications. They have to anihilate themselves to some extend in order to reconstruct themselves. But Antonia managed to stay herself and do the best without compromizing too much. She was a child when she came, Mr. Shimerda was an adult with more memories. The memories get in the way.

ziki

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

I am often baffled by those things/passages/scenes/descriptions that we are supposed to consider as symbolic in a story. I mean, how do we detect and distinguish them from those that are not supposed to mean anything? So ok, the snake and Grandma Burden's hickory cane are sexual symbols. What about Mr Shimerda's rabbit skin cap and collar then? They are described at least a couple of times in the story. Are they representative of anything, too?






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***

[ Edited ]
I don't think there’s too much difference between the "symbolic" and any detail that’s just really rich and resonates.
I wasn’t attuned to the rabbit skin caps until you mentioned them—but you’re so right that this object gathers sentiment around it as the story goes on, so it’s more than just an impersonal physical cap. When we see Mr. Shimerda “wearing his rabbit-skin cap and collar, and new mittens his wife had knitted,” Cather gives the cap some feeling. Then we get to Mr. Shimerda’s funeral, where Antonia has inherited the look: “Antonia put on…the rabbit-skin hat her father had made for her,” to walk in the funeral procession.
So yes--I do think that the cap gathers real feeling around it, so it’s more than just any person’s cap. I’d say it’s a symbol of sorts, and that it doesn’t have to stand for any one thing like “power” or “sex.” I don’t think any good symbol does need one meaning; it’s just a powerful evocative image.

(I don’t think the author needs to intend for one meaning. Cather wanted to lend the rabbit cap emotion.)
I think Proust gave a good metaphor for this sort of thing. In the beginning of his massive Remembrance of Things Past the main character eats a madeleine that reminds him of his childhood, and the madeleine is so much more than just a cookie that it catapults him into a seven-volume memory of life. The madeleine here is a symbol to the main character, because it carries meaning and emotion that’s more than its physical shape.

What do you think about symbols? I like to think they don’t need to have fixed meanings, but just need to evoke emotion and memory past what they physically are.




mef6395 wrote:
I am often baffled by those things/passages/scenes/descriptions that we are supposed to consider as symbolic in a story. I mean, how do we detect and distinguish them from those that are not supposed to mean anything? So ok, the snake and Grandma Burden's hickory cane are sexual symbols. What about Mr Shimerda's rabbit skin cap and collar then? They are described at least a couple of times in the story. Are they representative of anything, too?



Message Edited by IlanaSimons on 05-22-200703:03 PM




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

What you are saying really makes sense to me now, Ilana, and it immedeiately made me think of Dostoevsky's "sticky little leaves that come out in the spring."



IlanaSimons wrote:
I don't think there’s too much difference between the "symbolic" any detail that’s just really rich and resonates.
I wasn’t attuned to the rabbit skin caps until you mentioned them—but you’re so right that this object gathers sentiment around it as the story goes on, so it’s more than just an impersonal physical cap. When we see Mr. Shimerda “wearing his rabbit-skin cap and collar, and new mittens his wife had knitted,” Cather gives the cap some feeling. Then we get to Mr. Shimerda’s funeral, where Antonia has inherited the look: “Antonia put on…the rabbit-skin hat her father had made for her,” to walk in the funeral procession.
So yes--I do think that the cap gathers real feeling around it, so it’s more than just any person’s cap. I’d say it’s a symbol of sorts, and that it doesn’t have to stand for any one thing like “power” or “sex.” I don’t think any good symbol does need one meaning; it’s just a powerful evocative image.

(I don’t think the author needs to intend for one meaning. Cather wanted to lend the rabbit cap emotion.)
I think Proust gave a good metaphor for this sort of thing. In the beginning of his massive Remembrance of Things Past the main character eats a madeleine that reminds him of his childhood, and the madeleine is so much more than just a cookie that it catapults him into a seven-volume memory of life. The madeleine here is a symbol to the main character, because it carries meaning and emotion that’s more than its physical shape.

What do you think about symbols? I like to think they don’t need to have fixed meanings, but just need to evoke emotion and memory past what they physically are.




mef6395 wrote:
I am often baffled by those things/passages/scenes/descriptions that we are supposed to consider as symbolic in a story. I mean, how do we detect and distinguish them from those that are not supposed to mean anything? So ok, the snake and Grandma Burden's hickory cane are sexual symbols. What about Mr Shimerda's rabbit skin cap and collar then? They are described at least a couple of times in the story. Are they representative of anything, too?






"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***



Laurel wrote:
What you are saying really makes sense to me now, Ilana, and it immedeiately made me think of Dostoevsky's "sticky little leaves that come out in the spring."




Tell me about those leaves....



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



IlanaSimons wrote:


Laurel wrote:
What you are saying really makes sense to me now, Ilana, and it immedeiately made me think of Dostoevsky's "sticky little leaves that come out in the spring."




Tell me about those leaves....





Ivan, the intellectual Karamazov brother, thinks with his mind that he has nothing to live for, that there is no divine order, but viscerally he clings to Schiller's "sticky little leaves of spring"--a symbol beyond the intellect of hope, new life, resurrection. I think it comes up more than once in "The Brothers Karamazov" and seems to me to be a motif of something transcendent that can't be pinned down. Something like Pascal's "The heart has its reason that reason knows not of." I'm sure what I've just said is perfectly clear! :smileysurprised:
"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***



Laurel wrote:



Ivan, the intellectual Karamazov brother, thinks with his mind that he has nothing to live for, that there is no divine order, but viscerally he clings to Schiller's "sticky little leaves of spring"--a symbol beyond the intellect of hope, new life, resurrection. I think it comes up more than once in "The Brothers Karamazov" and seems to me to be a motif of something transcendent that can't be pinned down. Something like Pascal's "The heart has its reason that reason knows not of." I'm sure what I've just said is perfectly clear! :smileysurprised:




What you said sounds clear to me. Well said.



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Re: Jim's choice of wife



ziki wrote:

br>
I remember pondering Jim's choice of wife....

ziki




I don't understand Jim's choice of wife, the antithesis of Antonia. He chose to lead a life away from the prairie and all he truly loved. I'd like to know what others think.
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