Sample Essay Outlines
The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each topic is a sample outline to get you started.
When Mr. Shimerda dies, Antonia is left, through no choice of her own, without a father. She and her family are left poor and grieving in a strange new land. However, the rest of Antonia’s life after his suicide becomes shaped by the choices that she makes. Explain how these choices cause change at various points of her life.
I. Thesis Statement: After her father’s death, all of the changes that occur in Antonia’s life come from her own choices.
II. Chooses to work like a man in the fields
A. Develops knowledge of farming
B. Foregoes her education with Jim
C. Appreciates life on the land
III. Chooses to work for Harlings
A. Becomes part of a warm and friendly family
B. Learns to cook and sew
C. Learns the mannerisms of town life
D. Makes wages for spending
IV. Chooses to work for the Cutters
A. Leaves happy family life of the Harlings
B. Makes more money and does less work
C. Becomes irresponsible with her free time
D. Becomes victim to Wick Cutter’s advances
V. Chooses to marry Larry Donovan
A. Doesn’t listen to others’ opinions of him
B. Leaves Black Hawk for Colorado
C. Larry deserts her after a month
D. Comes home and lives quietly on farm
E. Bears her child alone
VI. Chooses to marry Anton Cuzak
A. Meets and marries a fellow Bohemian
B. Has many children
C. Teaches them customs and language of the old country
D. Lives a content and happy life on the prairie
VII. Conclusion: Despite some poor decisions, Antonia ends up happy and content with her life.
Many immigrants arrived on the Nebraska prairie from all over Europe. Most of them were very poor and they had little hope for survival. It can be said that the true meaning of their pioneer spirit rose from their perseverance, their sheer will to survive the harshest conditions. They braved the ordeals of prairie life for many years until they found comfort and established themselves in a new land. Discuss the many hardships these immigrants faced and how overcoming those hardships defined their pioneer spirit.
I. Thesis Statement: Immigrants on the prairie encountered many hardships which they overcame through courage and hard work.
II. Fighting the language barrier
A. Cannot ask for help when they need it
B. Shimerdas at the mercy of Krajiek
C. Were forced to make friends with neighbors
III. Surviving the harshness of the prairie
A. Mr. Shimerda has no knowledge of farming
B. Poor living conditions
C. Severe winters and snowstorms
IV. Dealing with psychological problems
A. Mr. Shimerda’s depression and suicide
B. Mrs. Shimerda’s bitterness
C. Ambrosch’s unfriendly demeanor
D. Tragic story the wolves haunts Russian Peter
V. Prejudice from Americans
A. Customs and food hard to tolerate
B. Townspeople look down on them
VI. Conclusion: Despite all of their hardships, the immigrants that survived the harsh life of the prairie became true heroes and they will always be remembered.
Most of the characters in My Antonia are women. Willa Cather has chosen to represent many of these characters as successful and independent women, much like herself. Describe how the main female characters in this novel achieve and maintain their independence.
I.Thesis Statement: Many of the females in My Antonia achieve a success and independence that had once been reserved for men.
A. Works farm like a man
B. Makes wages and spends money
C. Moves west
D. Becomes head of household on Cuzak farm
III. Frances Harling
A. Helps father in his business
B. Helps townspeople avoid Wick Cutter
C. Makes money and buys gifts
IV. Lena Lingard
A. Becomes dressmaker
B. Moves to Lincoln and opens shop
C. Won’t marry and be subservient to a man
D. Lives a single, carefree life
V. Tiny Soderball
A. Works as a single woman at a hotel
B. Starts a lodging house in Seattle
(The entire section is 1,230 words.)