Suggested Essay Topics
Book I: The Shimerdas
Introduction and Chapters 1-10
1. Why do all these immigrants risk their lives to leave their homelands and attempt to start over on a harsh prairie with little or no money?
2. Compare and contrast the lives of Jim Burden and Antonia. Explain what drew them together and enabled them to become close friends.
1. Explain the significance of the seasons that come full circle from autumn to autumn in Book I.
2. Compare and contrast the relationship between Antonia and Jim in Section 1 (Chapters 1-10) and Section 2 (Chapters 11-19).
Book II: The Hired Girls
1. Discuss the contrasts that are being developed between the characters in this section.
2. Discuss the importance of independent women in this section, and why Willa Cather has chosen to develop these characters here.
1. Discuss the differences Jim sees between the country girls and the town girls.
2. Explain the importance of the dance pavilion to both Jim and Antonia.
Book III: Lena Lingard
1. Explain why Willa Cather has chosen to devote one of the books of her novel to Lena Lingard.
2. Discuss the importance of the narrator leaving Black Hawk for college life.
Book IV: The Pioneer Woman’s Story
1. Compare and contrast Tiny Soderballs’ and Lena Lingard’s success with money.
2. Discuss the reasons why Willa Cather chose to have Antonia return to the Shimerda farm as an unwed mother.
Book V: Cuzak’s Boys
1. Explain Antonia’s choice of names for each of her children and how each of these names ties in to characters from her past.
2. Discuss the differences between the Cuzak household and the Shimerda household from many years before.