In My Antonia, what did Lena, Tiny, and Antonia consider the basis of success, and how well did they achieve it?

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For Antonia, life is a constant battle of being caught between the happiness and optimism that comes naturally to her and the unfortunate circumstances that seem to follow her through life. For her, the basis of success is to be the mother figure in a loving, stable family. Things don't...

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For Antonia, life is a constant battle of being caught between the happiness and optimism that comes naturally to her and the unfortunate circumstances that seem to follow her through life. For her, the basis of success is to be the mother figure in a loving, stable family. Things don't appear to be going well when she is abandoned—while pregnant and destitute—by her fiancé. Thanks to that inner optimism, however, she perseveres through this hardship, and later marries and has more children, thereby making her basis for success a reality.

For Lena Lingard, on the other hand, getting married and settling down are the last things on her mind. For her, the basis of success is independence and excitement. She makes this a reality by opening up her own dress store in Lincoln. While the enigmatic Lena could have married any number of eager suitors, she remains true to her own desire for independence.

Tiny Soderball, who arrives as a hired girl together with the others, desires adventure above all else. With her passion for new experiences and desire for the finer things in life, one would think that becoming extremely wealthy as a result of the Gold Rush would satisfy her definition of success. Unfortunately, however, it transpires that she never truly feels as though her innermost goals have been achieved.

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Lena explains early on that she doesn't want to get married; she wants to be able to help her mother with her siblings and to take care of herself. She says she doesn't want to marry Nick or anyone. What she's seen of married life doesn't interest her. In the end, she's able to achieve independence through dressmaking and opening up her own shop.

In book IV, Jim explains that Tiny had gone to the west to seek her fortune the year before. While she's running a lodging house in Seattle, she hears stories of gold in Alaska, and her desire for adventure is sparked when she holds it in her hands. She opens a hotel up north and then is deeded a claim and goes out to live on it. Ten years later, she returns to San Francisco a wealthy woman.

Antonia's quest to be a mother and have a loving family first seems to be derailed when she's left pregnant and alone. In the years to come, though, she marries a man, has more children, and is content as a wife.

All three women ultimately achieve the goals they set in life. By continuing to work toward what they wanted and putting in the effort to achieve those things, they got them. Though each had a different view of success, none was less successful than the others in their own eyes.

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The three girls are connected through their shared experiences as "hired girls" in Black Hawk; all three seek to be independent, but their personalities and life experiences cause them to achieve this in different ways. Lena, for example, values personal independence and so opens a dress shop in Lincoln. Her flirtation with Jim in Lincoln is an example of how she can separate personal pleasure from life goals; she enjoys men, but sees marriage as a trap. Tiny craves adventure; this leads her to the Klondike, where she makes a fortune catering to miners. Even though Tiny is a shrewd business woman, her ability to make money is secondary to her independent status. Ántonia, on the other hand, is driven by a strong mother instinct. Even though she, of the three, is most dependent on men, when her fiancé leaves her pregnant and destitute, she finds the inner strength to continue and eventually marry and raise a large family.

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Of the three girls, Lena's aspirations are most clearly spelled out.  She wants to live in the city and become a dressmaker, and she wants independence.  Married life is not for her, she does not want to "have to ask lief of anybody" (Book II, Chapter IV).  Lena achieves her goals, and retains her humanity in the process.  She becomes an established dressmaker and later goes into business with Tiny, through it all retaining her independence.

Tiny's goals are not as clearly delineated early in the book.  She does like nice clothes and has a weakness for "playthings" (Book II, Chapter XIV).  Her hunger for materials things is realized in a fabulous way, she has a head for business and her participation in the Gold Rush leaves her very wealthy.  Unfortunately, she does not find true fulfillment in her achievements.  She is "satisfied...but not elated...like someone in whom the faculty of becoming interested is worn out" (Book IV, Chapter I).

Antonia loves the land, thrives on hard work, and is proud of her strength.  She is passionate, and can "never...believe harm in anyone (she) loves".  Her life is difficult, but she emerges triumphant and fulfilled.  With her poor but loving husband and many, many children, she is, at the end of the book, "a rich mine of life, like the founders of early races" (Book V, Chapter I).

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