Study Help Essay Questions


1. Why does Willa Cather introduce Jim Burden and let him tell the story of Ántonia?

2. Explain how Cather adds depth and color to her novel by bringing in Old World roots (such as Pavel's wedding party story and Old Hata).

3. What incidents show that Ántonia is a maternal character?

4. Compare and contrast Ántonia with her parents. What character traits does she get from each?

5. What is the significance to the novel of the wedding party story that Pavel tells Mr. Shimerda?

6. Discuss the role of one of these characters (or groups of characters) in the novel: Lena Lingard, Otto Fuchs and Jake Marpole, Pavel and Peter, Wick Cutter, Mrs. Harling, or Anton Cuzak.

7. Trace the role of the seasons throughout the story and explain how nature has a symbolic purpose as well as an organizing purpose in the novel.

8. What techniques does Cather use to achieve unity in her novel?

9. Jim changes considerably through the course of the novel. What is he like at the beginning and how has he changed by the end? Explain the influences that have changed him.

10. Ántonia has also changed considerably. What is she like at the beginning of the novel and how has she changed by the end? Explain the influences that have changed her.

11. Give several examples of how Cather intermingles the past with the present to create a nostalgic effect or sense of loss.

12. If Ántonia had told this story, how would it have been different in several key respects?

13. The setting — life on the prairie in the late 1800s — affects Jim and Ántonia for the rest of their lives. How has this setting influenced their destinies?

14. There is a strong suggestion that social class plays a role in the settling of the prairie. How does Cather demonstrate this in her novel?

Back to Top