Women and Western American Literature

By Helen Winter Stauffer; Susan J. Rosowski | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Virginian and Antonia Shimerda:
Different Sides of the Western Coin

John J. Murphy

Owen Wister in The Virginian and Willa Cather in My Antonia portray contrasting versions of the American West through characters of epic, almost archetypal, dimensions. The representative purposes of both novelists are inherent in their adoption of the first-person point of view, enabling their heroes to be evaluated and associated with certain ideals and meanings by other participants in the action. Elizabeth Sergeant explains that when My Antonia was being planned, Cather compared her new heroine to an apothecary jar filled with orange-brown flowers in the middle of a table. She was to be a rare object examined from all sides and to stand out "because she is the story." 1 The male narrator functioning as examiner involves a difficulty, however; he is placed in the awkward position of being able to appreciate Antonia from a man's perspective without being romantically involved with her, thus eliminating romantic love from the core of the novel. In presenting his Western hero, Wister avoids this limitation at the expense of violating technique, by having a male narrator focus on certain qualities in the development of the hero and then switching to an omniscient authority to highlight others. In both novels, these technical peculiarities merely reflect similar efforts to embody Western experiences and attitudes in heroic lives. That one hero is of the cattle frontier and the other of the agricultural frontier is an occasional distinction; more importantly, one is a man and one a woman, and the situations and heroic qualities of each underscore distinct concepts of Western potentials, of what constitutes success in individual lives and in the history of the country. After summarizing the development of Wister's hero, I will suggest Cather's conscious dismissal of this type in order to develop her own, summarize that development, and then indicate the clearly divergent views of the West implied in the characterizations.

-162-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Women and Western American Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 331

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?