Essay on The Role of Ethnicity in Literature

889 Words 4 Pages
Though it has become less of an issue in recent times, distrust of foreigners has always been an issue. This can be easily observed in Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. Within the first few pages, a statement is made about ‘alienating foreigners’. Jake, a friend and fellow traveler, tells the main character, Jim, that while Ántonia Shimerda has “pretty brown eyes…”, he points out that you are “…likely to get diseases from foreigners.” Jim’s first impression of the Bohemians is that they are illiterate, uneducated, disease-carrying people. Even after Jim learns to accept the Bohemians’ culture, the society around him continues to look down upon the immigrants, proving throughout the book that a culture with outsiders will always scorn those …show more content…
However, the social prejudices follow her even there; townsfolk expect the girls that lived in town to be “‘refined’, and the country girls, who worked out, not.” Now, instead of being alienated as a Bohemian, she was being alienated as a country girl, as illustrated by Jim on page 129, where he notes, “I thought the attitude of the town people toward these girls very stupid. If I told my schoolmates that Lena Lingard’s grandfather was… much respected in Norway, they looked at me blankly. What did it matter? All foreigners are ignorant people who couldn’t speak English… The country girls were considered a menace to the social order.” This particular quote summed up Tony’s experience in America; no matter how gracious, accommodating or content of a worker she was, there would always be something that people found in her to dislike.
Nevertheless, Tony makes do, successfully managing a distrustful brother and fatherless family. Eventually, she loses her job with Mrs. Harling because she doesn’t spend enough time working, and spends too much time at the town dances. She tries to find other work, but all of her attempts end in failure, and she eventually returns home to work on the farm with Ambrosch. Meanwhile, with Ántonia far from the town, no one is there to stop rumors from being spread about her. Less-than-accepting townspeople tell others that she is “too much of a man”, and “does too much work that was made for a man”. Even