My Antonia

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Mr. Shimerda Character Analysis

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 during his family's first winter in Nebraska. It's unclear if his death was a suicide or a murder.

Mr. Shimerda Quotes in My Antonia

The My Antonia quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Shimerda or refer to Mr. Shimerda. 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 1, Chapter 10 Quotes
I never forgot the strange taste; though it was many years before I knew that those little brown shavings, which the Shimerdas had brought so far and treasured so jealously, were dried mushrooms. They had been gathered, probably, in some deep Bohemian forest...
Related Characters: Jim Burden (speaker), Ántonia Shimerda, Mr. Shimerda, Mrs. Shimerda, Yulka Shimerda, Ambrosch Shimerda
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim has described the Shimerda's poverty, which was so terrible that during one winter they are forced to share a single overcoat and subsist on prairie-dogs. When Jim and his grandmother bring the Shimerdas food, Mrs. Shimerda gives them some brown shavings in return; the shavings taste strange, and later Jim realizes they must have been dried mushrooms brought from Bohemia. This passage emphasizes the way in which an item as simple as dried mushrooms can take on huge and complex significance within the drama of immigrant and pioneer life.

By offering the mushrooms to Jim and his grandmother, Mrs. Shimerda refuses to accept the role of a charity recipient. This refusal is made more moving by the fact that the mushrooms are clearly significant to the Shimerdas, considering they brought them all the way to America from Bohemia. At the same time, this significance does not necessarily translate to Jim's grandmother, who finds the mushrooms suspicious and thus simply throws them away. This contrast highlights the way in which the past takes on vastly different meanings to different people. Objects and memories that some people "treasure so jealously" are completely meaningless to others. 

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Book 1, Chapter 16 Quotes
The road from the north curved a little to the south; so that the grave, with its tall red grass that was never mowed, was like a little island; and at twilight, under a new moon or the clear evening star, the dusty roads used to look like soft grey rivers flowing past it. I never came upon the place without emotion, and in all that country it was the spot most dear to me."
Related Characters: Jim Burden (speaker), Mr. Shimerda
Related Symbols: The Prairie, Mr. Shimerda's Grave, Light
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Shimerda's funeral has taken place, and his body has been buried on a corner of the Shimerda's land. Jim remarks that years later, roads were built at that point, and the grave becomes the only site at which the grass isn't mowed. Jim describes his strong emotional attachment to the spot, claiming that it became the place he most loved in the entire prairie. This statement is at first a little surprising, as we would likely expect the grave to be a sad reminder of Mr. Shimerda's suffering and misfortune. However, Jim's description of the grave's natural beauty shows that the tragedy of Mr. Shimerda's death has created a new source of joy, by preserving a small section of land in its untamed state. 

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Mr. Shimerda Character Timeline in My Antonia

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Shimerda appears in My Antonia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 3
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...bread and provisions to the immigrant family they met on the train—their new neighbors, the Shimerdas. Jim's grandmother tells him that another of their neighbors, Peter Krajiek, a distant relative of... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
When they arrive at the Shimerdas' home, they find a sod "cave" dug out among rough red hills. They meet the... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...her the words for "blue sky" and "eyes." When they arrive back at the dugout, Mr. Shimerda , in broken English, begs Jim to teach Ántonia the language. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
In those first weeks, the Shimerdas isolate themselves and avoid town because Krajiek tells them they will be cheated out of... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
...avoided because they were rough-mannered and spoke an unintelligible language. A few months after the Shimerdas' arrival, Ántonia takes Jim to visit the Russians. Only Peter is home. Jim is surprised... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
Just then, Jim and Ántonia see Mr. Shimerda walking toward them. He has shot three rabbits, but he seems sad, and Ántonia tells... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Mr. Shimerda , Ántonia, and Jim stay at Pavel's bedside. Aware that he is dying, Pavel confesses... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
...grown on his farm. Ántonia and Jim vow never to disclose Peter and Pavel's secret. Mr. Shimerda is depressed without Peter. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
Winter arrives, beautiful but bitterly cold. After the first snowfall, Jim rides to the Shimerdas' house on a sleigh Otto has built for him. He takes Ántonia and Yulka on... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
Jim does not see Ántonia for weeks. One night, the Burdens learn that the Shimerdas are taking turns wearing their one overcoat and are eating prairie-dogs to survive the winter.... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Mr. Shimerda is embarrassed by his family's poverty, and says that in Bohemia they had a lot... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
To Jim's grandmother, it's obvious that the Shimerdas are suffering because they haven't properly prepared for the winter by storing food or making... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 12
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Mr. Shimerda comes to visit the Burdens to thank them for the presents. As they sit in... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Before he leaves, Mr. Shimerda kneels before the tree and crosses himself. Jim knows his grandfather is uncomfortable with other... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 13
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...is surly, and is disgusted that he is considered the most important person in the Shimerdas' family. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 14
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Innocence and Maturity Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...with Ambrosch asleep on a bench behind the stove. Otto explains that the night before, Mr. Shimerda had dressed in clean clothes, hung up his coat, and shot himself in his barn.... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
With his chores done, Jim sits down to read. He wonders if Mr. Shimerda 's spirit is in the room with him, since Mr. Shimerda liked the Burdens' house... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
...adults return that night, they tell Jim that a lighted lantern has been kept over Mr. Shimerda 's body until the priest arrives to bless the dead. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 15
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
..."bright" eyes and cheeks and warm personality. Anton says he had wanted to visit the Shimerdas months ago, but he had been hired to husk corn and then had been going... (full context)
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Otto, once a cabinet-maker in Austria, makes a coffin for Mr. Shimerda while the men debate Mr. Shimerda's burial. They're not sure they can get the body... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 16
Friendship Theme Icon
The Prairie Theme Icon
Mr. Shimerda 's funeral occurs five days after his death, just as a new snow storm approaches.... (full context)
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
Mr. Shimerda is buried at the corner of the Shimerda's land. Jim says that years afterward, roads... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 17
The Prairie Theme Icon
The Past Theme Icon
The Shimerdas now have a new log house, which the Burdens and other neighbors helped them build.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 18
The Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Jim starts school and sees less of Ántonia. One Sunday, Jake takes him to the Shimerdas to retrieve a horse-collar Ambrosch has borrowed. But when Ambrosch hands over the collar, it... (full context)