What are the three ways characters commit suicide in My Ántonia? Why do you think Cather includes these examples?

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Ántonia's father, Mr. Shimerda, commits suicide by going into the family's barn and putting the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth. He uses his big toe to pull the trigger. His despair and homesickness overtake his responsibility to his family.

A second suicide in the novel is described by...

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Ántonia's father, Mr. Shimerda, commits suicide by going into the family's barn and putting the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth. He uses his big toe to pull the trigger. His despair and homesickness overtake his responsibility to his family.

A second suicide in the novel is described by Ántonia. She tells the story of a tramp that she encounters; he opens up to her and talks about drowning himself, noting that the ponds are too shallow to do so. Instead, he throws himself into a threshing machine.

Wick Cutter is another character who commits suicide in the novel, and he does it by fatally wounding himself after he has shot his wife to death. Cutter is attempting to subvert a law that would have allowed his wife's family to inherit his estate. His suicide is his ultimate spiteful act after living a life of exploiting others for his own gratification and a final attempt at control, something that was of prime importance to him in life.

By including the three suicides in My Ántonia, Cather may be observing that self-destructive tendencies can overtake people for different reasons. By contrast, Ántonia is a survivor; she is able to absorb and eventually process the reasons these men have opted to end their lives.

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Mr. Shimerda is the first suicide in My Ántonia. He is an immigrant who never stops missing home. He feels isolated and doesn't have the same respect or connections that he had back home. For him, the move to America was a mistake that he feels he can't rectify. He slowly loses hope until he finally takes a shotgun and kills himself with it.

Wycliffe Cutter is the second and last suicide in the novel. He stabs himself in the neck and dies from his wound. Mr. Cutter's death is one of selfishness and impulse. He decides to murder his wife and then stab himself in the hopes that her family won't get his money once he's gone. If she had outlived him, her will would have made his invalid. He lives long enough to get attention, show that he lived longer than her, and then dies.

The two suicides in the novel provide two different views of the men who've killed themselves. Mr. Cutter was a bad and abusive person. Mr. Shimerda, on the other hand, was simply a man who had lost all hope. He is respected and remembered when he dieseven though people are worried about his immortal soul. Mr. Cutter, on the other hand, is remembered as someone who killed himself from spite.

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In 1918, Willa Cather wrote the novel My Ántonia, illustrating the story of Jim Burden and Ántonia Shimerda as they enter Nebraska as pioneers in their childhoods. Jim is an orphan while Ántonia’s family are immigrants from Bohemia.

The first winter is very harsh on the Shimerda family as their home is not properly set up to handle the elements. In Nebraska, Mr. Shimerda comes to understand the plight of the immigrant experience in America. In Bohemia, he has a great job as a musician, but that skill is not important to the pioneers. As such, he begins to lose touch with the value of his life and eventually commits suicide via shotgun.

The next suicide comes in the Cutter household. Ántonia eventually takes a position as a housekeeper with the Cutter family, where she learns how to run a household. She is great with children, which foreshadows her future as a mother. One night, Mr. Cutter makes an uncomfortable comment to the housekeeper when she was supposed to be home alone. She has Jim stay at the house and confront Mr. Cutter when he returns later in the night. This violence also foreshadows the violence that Mr. Cutter commits against his wife. After he shoots her in order to foil a supposed plot to take his wealth, he stabs himself in the neck in order to play victim. This neck wound ends up being fatal and results in a suicide.

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Part of the power of Cather’s novel is her acknowledgement that the immigrant experience could be a harsh one. Mr Shimerda’s suicide is an example. Antonia’s father is profoundly unhappy in Nebraska—he cannot speak the language, his position as head of household is usurped by his wife, his skill as a musician, a source of much prestige in Bohemia, is unvalued. Ultimately, he takes his own life, shooting himself with a shotgun.

The other death is Wick Cutter’s murder/ suicide. Cutter shoots his wife through the heart while she is sleeping, then mortally wounds himself in he neck. His plan is to foil any plan his wife might have to gain control of his money; he purposely wounds himself in a way that will allow him to explain to those who find him that since he has survived his wife, any will she might have made was null and void.

Both shootings are essentially caused by greed. Mr Shimerda finds that he has sacrificed his self respect to his wife’s greed and determination to accumulate land and good marriages for her children. Cutter’s actions are motivated by his determination to keep control of his own money. Far from romanticizing the immigrant experience, Cather shows in these two episodes how grasping after money can lead to tragedy.

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