Female Roles in "My Antonia"In what ways are traditional female roles reinforced in the novel? In what ways are they called into question?
In her characterization of Antonia, Cather rejects many traditional gender stereotypes. After her father's death, Antonia is forced to renounce most of her feminine activities and instead enter the male sphere of farm labor. If Antonia transcends social rules about gender, it is the Burden family who holds these rules most dear. Jim is disappointed and even angered by Antonia's transformation to more "masculine" behavior, and Mrs. Burden uses her influence to get Antonia out of the fields and into a domestic position at the Harlings'. It is, ultimately, the birth of her children that solidifies Antonia as a predominantly feminine figure.