Respect Over Passion in My Antonia
Throughout the book "My Antonia" by Willa Cather, there is a twisting and turning of Sexual and Gender issues. There also tends to be a tension surrounding the different classes between the Black Hawk towns people, and what are called, "the hired girls" or the people from the country. These distinctive qualities in this novel start being shown in the very beginning or the story where Jims' best-friend speaks about the life of Jim and the path with whom he chose to travel. We watch the love of Jim grow farther and farther distant due to the inevitable tensions of classes, sexuality, and gender.
In the beginning of the story when Antonia and Jim are still becoming acquainted the audience meets these two characters in a "prairie-dog town" on their way back from picking up a spade for Antonia's' brother Ambrosch at Russian Peter's House. Antonia had suggested that herself and Jim see if the prairie-dog town holes "ran straight down, or were horizontal, like mole holes."(pg.30) Within the time that Jim and Antonia were there the two young kids cam across a large snake, as Jim says, "He was not merely a big snake, I thought--he was a circus monstrosity. He was abominable muscularity, his loathsome, fluid motion, somehow made me sick."(pg.31) Jim kills the snake and we see a change in position for Antonia and Jim. Antonia goes to say, "I never know you was so brave, Jim, you is just like big mans; you wait for him lift his head and then you go for him. Ain't you feel scared a bit? Now we take that snake home and show everybody. Nobody ain't seen in this kawn-tree so big snake like you kill." This was the beginning of the gender break between the females and the males. The time when the male needs to prove his masculinity.
Another very strong distinction within the book is after Antonia loses her father she tends to lose all her "girly qualities" or all the things that her father had taught her about being a lady. Jim says after seeing Antonia for the first time in eight months, "She had come to us as a child, and now she was a tall, strong girl...She wore the boots her father had so thoughtfully taken off before her shot himself, and his old fur cap."(pg.79) This is what Jim said she looked like. He really accentuates that Antonia was wearing her fathers clothes, masculine of course. Jim says, "She kept her sleeves rolled up all day, and her arms a throat were burned as brown as a sailor's. Her neck came up strongly out of her shoulders, like the bole of a tree out of the turf. One sees that draught horse neck among the peasant women in all the old countries."(pg.79) The reader begins to see the changes in Antonia as well when she speaks. She starts to talk of things that only men in those days were known to do. For example she says to Jim, "Jim, you ask Jake how much he ploughed to-day. I don't want that Jake get more done in one day than me. I...