My Antonia Essay: The Role of Men in My Antonia

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The Role of Men in My Antonia       

Gloria Steinem once wrote that "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Clearly she is attempting to assert women's independence and further the liberation movement. However, her analogy is not quite complete. A bicycle has absolutely no place in a fish's life, but whether she needs him or not, men are very much present in a women's life. While a women can survive without a male influence, his influence shapes much of her personality. This role of man manifests itself in the lives of the women of Black Hawk but most vividly in the form of the working girls.

While working in Black Hawk, the hired girls assert their independence from men in
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In the country, the girls' manner could be described as open and hospitable to others, including boys. In the town, this same attitude of causality is interpreted as being "easy". Their "positive carriage and freedom of movement... made them conspicuous among Black Hawk women" (172). The very maturity that enables the girls to converse with the town boys without blushing is the same thing that labels them. It this atmosphere, they cannot help but fall into the place assigned to them by society. They become dependent upon the social scene, to the point of Antonia leaving the Harlings so that she will have more time for dances. They begin to see themselves as the men see them. The actions of men leave an indelible mark that can be seen even in their youth.

In their later years, new marks surface in the lives of the working girls. As they grow apart, each molds their lives in response to the actions of the men they once knew. Tony marries Cuzak not because she truly loves him but to provide a male figure for her children. She never had a father figure, only her tyrannical older brother and she did not want this for her children. Lena's choice in lifestyle also stems from men. She was relegated to the typical role of the frontier woman all her

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