My Antonia

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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 attraction to Lena is sexual. A Norwegian immigrant, Lena aspires to earn money, success, and independence, and refuses to marry. She is sophisticated and fashionable, and she becomes a successful dressmaker in Lincoln. Lena later moves to San Francisco with Tiny Soderball.

Lena Lingard Quotes in My Antonia

The My Antonia quotes below are all either spoken by Lena Lingard or refer to Lena Lingard. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of My Antonia published in 2014.
Book 2, Chapter 9 Quotes
If I told my schoolmates that Lena Lingard's grandfather was a clergyman, and much respected in Norway, they looked at me blankly. What did it matter? All foreigners were ignorant people who couldn't speak English.
Related Characters: Jim Burden (speaker), Lena Lingard
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

At the dances, Jim has noticed that the young men tend to be attracted to the immigrant girls; he has theorized that this is because their struggle makes them more energetic and vigorous. However, the immigrant girls are also openly "pitied" and looked down upon. Jim observes that the fact that Lena Lingard's grandfather was a respected clergyman in Norway is meaningless; now that she is in America, she is simply seen as an uneducated, "ignorant" outsider. Jim's understanding of the complicated, contradictory dynamics between the "foreigners" and Black Hawk townspeople highlights the nonsensical and hypocritical nature of the townspeople's attitudes. Note that the dismissal of immigrants as "ignorant people who couldn't speak English" has survived as a central part of anti-immigrant discourse even in the present. 

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Book 4, Chapter 1 Quotes
I was bitterly disappointed in her [Ántonia]. I could not forgive her for becoming an object of pity, while Lena Lingard, for whom people had always foretold trouble, was now the leading dressmaker of Lincoln, much respected in Black Hawk.
Related Characters: Jim Burden (speaker), Ántonia Shimerda, Lena Lingard
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:

The summer after finishing college and before he begins studying at Harvard Law School, Jim returns to Black Hawk. Here, he learns that Ántonia is pregnant, and that her fiancee has deserted her; meanwhile, Lena Lingard is incredibly successful, "the leading dressmaker in Lincoln." The disparity between the two girls' fates highlights how dramatically the lives of people who grew up together can diverge. Indeed, Jim points to the unpredictability of the course of life when he mentions that "people had always foretold trouble" for Lena. This further proves the ignorance of people's judgments and expectations of recent immigrants. 

Jim's feelings about Ántonia's fate, meanwhile, seem overly harsh and unforgiving. He claims to be disappointed not for Ántonia, but "in her." Instead of resenting Ántonia's fiancee for abandoning her or the community for judging her, Jim states that he "could not forgive her for becoming an object of pity." It is possible to interpret this statement as emerging from Jim's longstanding admiration of Ántonia; perhaps because she is older than him, he cannot bear to see her in a weak and vulnerable position. On the other hand, the harshness with which he judges Ántonia is also related to her gender. Although the fact that Ántonia is pregnant out of wedlock is at least as much her fiancee's fault as her own, during the time women's sexuality was heavily controlled and women were harshly judged for promiscuity––as is demonstrated by the way people treat Ántonia.

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Lena Lingard Character Timeline in My Antonia

The timeline below shows where the character Lena Lingard appears in My Antonia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 4
Gender Theme Icon
...well-dressed girl arrives at the Harlings. Ántonia and Jim are surprised to recognize her as Lena Lingard, a Norwegian girl who used to work on one of the nearby farms and... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Jim sees Lena often downtown. She says she is thrilled to live in town, and tells him about... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
Friendship Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...parlor where he is playing. The door between the two rooms is opened, revealing Ántonia, Lena and Tiny dancing to the music. Though at first the girls are shocked to be... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 9
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Sylvester Lovett, the son of a banker, becomes infatuated with Lena. Jim hopes that if Sylvester marries Lena it will help rid the townspeople of their... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 12
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...the dance and tries to kiss her. She reprimands him. When he tells her that Lena lets him kiss her, she tells him not to make a fool of himself, since... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 14
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...time inside studying, preparing for university. He only takes a break from studying when Ántonia, Lena, and their friends invite him to the river to pick elder flowers. Jim arrives early... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...the other girls arrive, they discuss the differences between the country and the town, and Lena says she is going to make enough money to get her mother out of the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 2
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
That same night, Lena appears at Jim's door. She explains that she has opened a dressmaking shop in Lincoln... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
The Prairie Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Lena and Jim go to the theater often that spring, although Lena insists on paying for... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
At the theater, Jim feels "like a man" with Lena. When Jim and Lena see a performance of Dumas's Camille, Jim sympathizes with the young... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Lena's success in dressmaking grows, and Jim begins to visit her for dinner. He notices that... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 1
Friendship Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Ántonia shows Jim old photographs of her wedding day, including photos of Ambrosch and Lena. Then she shows Jim one of himself, with Jake and Otto, and one of Jim... (full context)