with Angela Harris
A Last Look at Ántonia
We started our last class on My Ántonia with a writing prompt that asked us to imagine that we are moving to a foreign country and we don’t speak the language. The only people we will know there are our immediate families. We don’t know where we will live or what we will do for money. We then had to describe or make a list of the things our families would need to do to survive. This experience is similar to the one our heroine had, and it was great to hear all of the sound and useful ideas the students came up with: learn the language, attempt to network with people that might help us find work, and be aware of any cultural differences or barriers. These are all things that Ántonia and her family faced and dealt with when they left their home in Bohemia for the Nebraska prairie.
Before going over the answers to the final quiz, which covered content, literary analysis, and vocabulary, we read a wonderful letter in the original words of Annie Sadilek (aka Anna Pavelka). The so-called "Letter to France Samlund" is a letter to a high school student at Benson High School in Omaha, Nebraska from Anna Pavelka. Anna, now eighty-six years old, tells the real story of her first year in Nebraska.
Anna Pavelka, whose maiden name was Anna Sadilek, is the woman on whom the character of Ántonia is based. Willa Cather and Anna Sadilek knew each other in the late 1880s, when Willa was attending school in Red Cloud and Anna was working for the Miner family who lived down the street from the Cathers. After a failed engagement with a railroad man, Anna married John Pavelka, who is the basis for Anton Cuzak in My Ántonia.
We took several minutes to compare the original letter with events at the beginning of the novel, particularly Book One, and defined and identified uses of verbal irony. Even though English wasn't Annie's first language and her spelling and punctuation were poor, she knew how to convey irony!
Next Up: Mockingbird (not Mockingjay)
Homework is to finish all expository essays and the final project. Please make sure you have a copy of our last selection, To Kill a Mockingbird, and read the short summary from bestnotes.com.
See you on April 15. Have a wonderful Easter.
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