Independence and Belonging in My Antonia
In My Antonia there are two types of women, those who want to have a man and those who don¹t. The key word is want, at no point does a woman need a man in the entire course of the novel. From the Hired Girls to Tiny Soderball and Lena Lingard women are capable of self sufficiency and happiness. The majority of the truly contented people are either alone or living without the opposite sex. Antonia and Cuzak are the only example of a ³normal² happy couple, all others have some problems that prevent a normal relationship.
In the Hired Girls Antonia and Lena are depicted as strong, independent women who work to support themselves and their families and enjoying themselves as they see fit. ³...Country girls who had come to town to earn a living, and in nearly every case, to help the father struggle out of debt, or to make it possible for the younger children of the family to go to school.²(My Antonia, Willa Cather. p.172) In this case it is the father who needs the daughter as opposed to the more traditional ³faces in the schoolroom, gay and rosy, or listless and dull, cut off below the shoulders² (My Antonia, Willa Cather, p173) The hired girls are seen as strong in both a physical and mental sense when compared to their wallflower counterparts who simply live the life expected of them by society. The hired girls are the draft horses, the people who accomplish things, of female society in Black Hawk, while the daughters of the merchants are the show horses, wanted only as long as they¹re pretty.
The ultimate examples of non-dependance on males in the book are Lena Lingard and Tiny Soderball. Lena Lingard is a successful dressmaker who has no desire for the standard womanly duties of childbearing and housekeeping. Œ³Well, it¹s mainly because I don¹t want a husband. Men are all right for friends, bu as soon as you marry them...