Why does Antonia's attitude change when she becomes a farmhand like Ambrosch in "My Antonia"?Why does Jim dislike this new side of Antonia?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because of the extremely harsh conditions she must endure in working for her brother Ambrosch, Antonia's attitude must change in order for her to survive.  Ambrosch uses his sister like a slave, putting upon her "chores a girl ought not to do", and Jim's Grandmother rightly predicts that "heavy field work'll spoil (her)...she'll lose all her nice ways and get rough ones".  Jim notes early on that she has indeed lost her feminine ways, and he is irritated at her coarse manners and the way she brags about her strength.  Jim fears that Antonia will become boastful like her mother (Bk.I, Ch.XVII).  Antonia tells Jim that if she could have a life like his, she would be able to retain her old attitudes, but because her life is so hard, she cannot help but change (Bk.I, Ch.XVIII).

I believe that part of the reason Antonia takes on a demeanor of carelessness is to mask the unhappiness she feels at having to live the life she does.  When Jim suggests that she continue her education, she responds, "I ain't got time to learn...school is all right for little boys", yet Jim notices that Antonia is crying as she makes this brash proclamation.  Antonia accepts the role life has ordained for her, and throws herself into it whole-heartedly, but it is not what she truly wants. Letting down her guard momentarily, Antonia asks Jim, "sometime you will tell me all those nice things you learn at the school, won't you Jimmy?" (Bk.I, Ch.XVII).

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My Antonia

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