Gender Stereotypes In My Antonia

Decent Essays
Society is predominantly patriarchal.It is expected that men are the successful breadwinners and women are the housewives. Looking at a piece of Literature with a gender lens requires the reader to focus on how a work reflects or distorts these gender norms in society. In My Antonia the gender lens can be applied to reveal the overarching theme of self reliance. More specifically the gender lens can be applied to reveal the self-reliance of pioneer women such as Lena and Antonia. Although many prairie women conform to the accepted norm of becoming a housewife and mother some choose to defy. Lena and Antonia are both self-reliant prairie women who defy gender norms throughout the novel and become very successful in their individual realms; …show more content…
The stereotypical life of a married prairie women was exactly what Lena did not want. Lena responds to Nick Svendsen ditching her for another girl by stating “ I don 't want to marry Nick, or any other man. I’ve seen a good deal of married life and i don 't care for it” (114). Lena knew what her mom’s life was like, a constant state of stress and based solely on providing for her kids. Lena did not want a life like this she “want[ed] to be [able to] help [her] mother and the children at home, and not have to ask lief of anybody”(114). Lena is establishing that she would like to assume the role of provider for her family like a father would for his family. She wants to use her own success to benefit her loved ones and only have to answer to herself. Lena is directly going against the gender role at the time of women who were only supposed to clean, cook, and mother while their husbands were hard at work. Cather views Lena’s choice to not marry and be self-reliant as a positive. Lena is rewarded for her determination and uncharacteristic behavior by achieving her dream of being a successful dress …show more content…
Lena describes to Jim that with all the money she has saved from her success in business she’s “going to build the house for [her] mother [she’s] talked about so long”(175). Lena has literally become the person she talked about being earlier in the book. A woman who can provide for her mom and siblings. Lena has extra money that she gets to chose what she wants to do with it. Jim comments that Lena was “so smooth and sunny and well cared for, and [he] thought of how she used to run barefoot over the prairie”(175). Jim is acknowledging that Lena has broken free of prairie life and made something of herself. Jim feels that “she had no one to thank but herself”(175). Again Cather is rewarding Lena’s self-reliant behavior by revealing Jim’s respect for Lena’s effort and success. Lena is not seen as the other but rather someone who escaped gender roles and was able to achieve success and gain the ability to support her family, much like a man

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