In "My Antonia", why is everyone, including Jim, surprised by Lena's move to town and her impending success?What about her life growing up made this kind of future unlikely for her?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lena had the reputation of being wild when she was growing up.  She led a difficult life, and Jim remembers most frequently seeing her at an early age "out among (the) cattle, bareheaded and barefooted, scantily dressed in tattered clothing" as she tended her father's herd.  She was hot-blooded and audacious, and "at an age when she should still have been in pinafores", she was the center of a scandal involving a married man and his jealous wife.  With her history, Lena did not seem to be the kind of character who would possess the type of focus and judgment necessary to be successful in the business world (Book II, Chapter IV).

Jim himself directly addresses his puzzlement at Lena's eventual success as a businesswoman.  He had always see her as being "so easygoing, (with) none of the push and self-assertiveness that get people ahead in business".  Her customers, pleased with her sense of style, "overlooked (Lena's) habitual inaccuracies", however.  Jim discovers that Lena indeed "never...finished anything by the time she had promised, and she frequently spent more money on materials than her customer had authorized", and yet she still managed to do well in the business world, was sought after for her expertize in dressmaking, and was much beloved by her customers (Book III, Chapter IV).

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My Antonia

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