My Antonia

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Jim Burden

The protagonist of My Ántonia and the narrator of most of the novel. Orphaned at the age of ten, he comes to live with his grandparents on the Nebraska prairie. Jim is reflective, studious, and… (read full character analysis)

Ántonia Shimerda

A Bohemian immigrant and Jim's closest friend, Ántonia comes to the prairie when she is 13. She is lively and intelligent, but struggles to remain optimistic while enduring the many hardships of poverty. Still, Jim… (read full character analysis)

Lena Lingard

Ántonia's friend in Black Hawk and one of the "hired girls." She becomes Jim's girlfriend when they reunite in Lincoln while Jim is in college. While Jim loves Ántonia with a pure, childlike love, his… (read full character analysis)

Emmaline Burden -

Jim's paternal grandmother. She is 55 years old when Jim comes to live with her. A devout Christian, she acts as a maternal figure for Jim and also tries to look after the Shimerdas during… (read full character analysis)

Otto Fuchs

An Austrian man who works on the Burden's farm, Otto's previous jobs include cowboy, stage-driver, and miner. Jim describes Otto as just having "stepped out of the pages of Jesse James." He is lively and… (read full character analysis)
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Mr. Shimerda

Ántonia's father. A tapestry weaver from Bohemia, he is not suited to the harsh climate and hard physical labor of the farm. He becomes depressed, homesick, and frail, and is found dead in his barn… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
The Narrator -
An unnamed fictional character. One of Jim's childhood acquaintances, the narrator provides the introduction to the novel. Jim gives him the manuscript of My Ántonia.
Josiah Burden
Jim's paternal grandfather. A devout Protestant farmer, he becomes a deacon when the Burdens move to town. He has a snow-white beard and blue eyes. He is quiet and wise, and not demonstrative with his affection. Jim describes him as having a great sense of "personal dignity."
Jake Marpole
An illiterate farmhand on Jim's parent's farm in Virginia, Jake moves West with Jim to Nebraska. He has a faithful and trusting disposition. He leaves with Otto when the Burdens move to town.
Mrs. Shimerda
Ántonia's mother. Mrs. Shimerda is angry about her family's poverty and jealous of the Burdens' comparative wealth. Jim thinks she is rude and grasping.
Yulka Shimerda
Ántonia's younger sister.
Ambrosch Shimerda
Ántonia's older brother. He runs the farm after Mr. Shimerda dies, and "sells" Ántonia out to various jobs on the prairie and then in town. Jim dislikes Ambrosch.
Peter and Pavel
Russian settlers who befriend Ántonia and Jim, but who are haunted by a selfish and fatal action they committed in Russia years earlier. When Pavel dies, Peter leaves to work in a railway construction camp.
Mr. Harling
A shrewd businessman who lives next door to the Burdens in Black Hawk. He makes Ántonia leave her job as his housekeeper when she refuses to stop dancing.
Mrs. Harling
Mr. Harling's wife. A square-looking, energetic woman, she grows fond of Ántonia, but defers to her husband and allows Ántonia to leave.
Tiny Soderball
One of Ántonia's friends in Black Hawk. She works as a waitress at the hotel, but later leaves Nebraska and becomes rich prospecting in the Alaskan gold rush. When Jim meets her many years later in California, he finds her a bit cold.
Frances Harling
The Harlings' oldest daughter. She is a wise and intelligent businesswoman whom Jim deeply respects.
Charley Harling
The Harlings' son. Charley is three years older than Jim, and leaves Black Hawk to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Samson "Blind" d'Arnault
A blind African-American pianist who comes to play at the Boys' Home hotel.
Peter Krajiek
A miserly old immigrant, Krajiek is Mrs. Shimerda's distant cousin. He sells his land to the Shimerdas for much too high a price.
Wick Cutter
A cruel moneylender in Black Hawk. Ántonia works for him for a while, but quits after he tries to rape her. At the end of the novel, Cutter commits suicide after murdering his wife.
Larry Donovan
Ántonia's fiancé and a passenger conductor on the railway. He gets Ántonia pregnant, but when they run out of money, he refuses to marry her and abandons her.
Anton Cuzak
Ántonia's husband and a Bohemian immigrant. Jim describes him as a short "crumpled little man," but says Cuzak carries himself with "an air of jaunty liveliness" and is a good husband and father.
Gaston Cleric
A Latin professor at Jim's university in Lincoln, Nebraska. Cleric persuades Jim to transfer to Harvard, but dies from pneumonia soon afterward.
The Widow Steavens
The woman who rents the Burdens' farm when they move to Black Hawk. She tells Jim the story of Ántonia's failed engagement to Larry Donovan.
Anton Jelinek
A handsome Bohemian man who comes from Black Hawk to help bury Mr. Shimerda. Ántonia later marries his cousin.
Mr. Ordinsky
A Polish violin teacher who lives in the apartment across from Lena Lingard in Lincoln.
The Vannis
Traveling Italian dance teachers who set up a dancing pavilion in Black Hawk.
Sylvester Lovett
A banker's son who falls in love with Lena Lingard, but decides to marry someone of his own, higher class.
Mrs. Cutter
The wife of Wick Cutter and a "terrible shrew" of a woman.