In "My Antonia", what is Antonia's motivation when she says this quote about her work on the farm?"School is all right for little boys.  I help make this land one good...

In "My Antonia", what is Antonia's motivation when she says this quote about her work on the farm?

"School is all right for little boys.  I help make this land one good farm".

Why does she take this stance?

Expert Answers
dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Antonia makes this statement to Jim when he relays the suggestion made by his grandmother that Antonia attend the term of school that is to begin in a week.  Antonia, who has been doing brutally harsh work on the farm for her brother now that her father has died, answers pompously, "School is all right for little boys.  I help make this land one good farm".  Jim is at first annoyed by her response, thinking that she has become rude and boastful like her mother, but then he realizes that her comment is followed by a "tense silence", and that Antonia is crying.  It would seem that Antonia's words have been said more to convince herself that what she is doing is of value than it is to impress Jim with her strength and ability. 

Antonia has been put in a position where it is necessary for her to slave on the farm to ensure her family's survival.  She accepts her situation and throws herself into her duties wholeheartedly, but it is not what she would have chosen to do had she been given a say in the matter.  Antonia's tone softens as she asks Jim, "Sometime you will tell me all those nice things you learn at the school, won't you, Jimmy?"  The brash words she has uttered before are a cover for the hurt and disappointment she feels at not being able to continue her education; they are a defense mechanism to help her better accept what she has to do in her life (Chapter XVII).

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My Antonia

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