What is it that makes Ántonia a genuinely heroic figure?
In what ways does she improvise happiness and emerge successfully from the same circumstances that killed her father?
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Antonia Shimerda's heroism resides in her ability, throughout the novel, to "keep on keeping on" as they say, despite a life journey through much happiness, including, but not limited to her lack of education, pregnancy out of wedlock, her father's suicide, a lifelong state of poverty. When Jim returns to see her at her family's farm, he is reluctant to go because of this poverty; he fears that his happy memories of the happy-go-lucky Antonia, the one who chose dancing over steady work when they were young, will be sullied by what he assumes will be a poor and pitiful existence. He finds out, however, that he couldn't be more wrong. Antonia has married a kind, loving, hardworking man, a Bohemian like herself, and they have raised up a large family of kind, hard-working, polite children. Antonia's farm is beautiful, just like her family. Her heroism, then, lies a great deal in her spirit, one that never left her, and her intelligence, which led her to internalize the lessons of her life in a way that facilitated her ability successfully manage a home and raise children. Indeed, while Antonia never received the formal education her father so desperately wanted for her, she received a life's worth of education that resulted in wisdom, and a successful conclusion to her "hero's journey"--not monetary success, but success in the area of life that might be argued to be most important, that of one's family.
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