My Antonia: Character Profiles
Blind d’Arnault is an old African-American piano player who gives a concert at a Black Hawk hotel.
Ole Benson is an old Norwegian sailor who takes an interest in Lena Lingard, to the annoyance of his wife.
Crazy Mary Benson
Crazy Mary Benson is Ole Benson’s wife, who is put in an asylum, only to escape. She begins chasing and threatening Lena Lingard when she learns of her husband’s interest in the young woman.
Jim Burden is the narrator and main character. The only surviving son of his Virginia parents, he is sent to Nebraska at the age of ten to live with his grandparents. He is bright but quiet, and most of his family and friends seem surprised when he gives an excellent speech at his high school graduation. He attends the University of Nebraska and is befriended by his Latin teacher, Gaston Cleric, who widens his interests in art and culture. He goes on study law at Harvard and becomes rich and successful, although his marriage is unhappy. Jim has a secret affection for Ántonia for most of his life, though she seems to know about it and to push him aside in a sisterly way.
Grandmother (Emmeline) Burden
Grandmother (Emmeline) Burden is the wife of Josiah, and a formidable woman with considerable clout in the community. She and Josiah have the only wood house in the area around Black Hawk, and she is a sensible housekeeper with a strong sense of community and the need to care for her neighbors.
Grandfather (Josiah) Burden
Grandfather (Josiah) Burden is the terse and pious head of the Burden household, who manages to remain neutral in his family’s dispute with the Shimerdas, and suspends judgment about the strange religious views of some of his immigrant neighbors. He is a prosperous and intelligent farmer, though he when he gets old he gives up the farm to move to town.
Wick Cutter is the wicked Black Hawk moneylender who swindles Peter, and who tries to take advantage of Ántonia when she goes to work for him. He tells her to stay the night in the bedroom while he and his wife are away, but he returns home early with the intention of seducing her, only to find Jim, who has been sent there by his grandmother, in the bed instead of Ántonia. Eventually, he kills his wife and then himself.
Mrs. Cutter is the harassed and angry wife of Wick Cutter. They constantly feud but remain together until he murders her.
Cuzak is a Bohemian immigrant and a farmer. A steady, reliable man, he marries Ántonia and proves to be a good husband to her.
Larry Donovan is the passenger train conductor who deceives Ántonia out of her money when he lures her to Denver with a false promise of marriage. He also fathers Ántonia’s first child, but deserts her while she is pregnant and goes to Mexico.
Otto Fuchs is an Austrian immigrant who has lived an adventurous life as a prospector, cowboy, and many other things. He is an excellent singer, and a skilled carpenter. He has several different practical skills, making him a useful member of the Burden household. When the Burdens leave their farm for a house in town, he moves back West to seek his fortune as a silver miner.
Mrs. Gardener is the manager of the hotel that Tiny Soderball works at. She is the ultimate model of business success that inspires Tiny to accomplish a similar feat.
Johnnie Gardener is the husband of Mrs. Gardener. He makes a feeble attempt to control the dancing at Blind d’Arnault’s concert in his wife’s absence.
Mr. Christian Harling
Mr. Christian Harling is the head of the Harling family. He is the owner of a successful grain elevator business in Black Hawk. He is a stern father who expects his wife to wait on him when he is home. He also expects his children to be quiet and well-behaved.
Mrs. Harling is the wife of a prominent Black Hawk businessman. She has several children, and lives next door to the Burdens. She is devoted to her family and takes an interest in Ántonia, whom she employs as household help, but later quarrels with her over the dances that Ántonia attends. Eventually Mrs. Harling sends Ántonia away.
Charley Harling is the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Harling. He is a little older than Jim and bound for the Navy.
Frances Harling is the oldest Harling, with a gift for management . He also has a thorough knowledge of the people and relations among the farmers of Black Hawk.
Julia Harling is the “musical” Harling child who practices the most and takes her music the most seriously.
Sally Harling is a little younger than Jim. She is a tomboy.
Anson Kirkpatrick is a salesman for Marshall Field who opens the doors to discover the girls dancing nearby, thus starting the dance.
Peter Krajiek is the cunning trader who swindles the Shimerdas on their land and much of their supplies. He takes advantage of numerous other immigrant families as well.
Lena Lingard is an attractive and complex Norwegian woman who seems to attract male admirers without openly encouraging them. She sets seemingly simple goals and achieves them, ignoring the distractions—men—that everyone thinks will get the better of her. She and Jim Burden become quite close friends. Lena finds success as a designer and becomes the owner of a dress shop in San Francisco.
Jake Marpole is a hired hand who works for Jim’s parents, then helps Jim travel across the continent to Nebraska where he works for Jim’s grandparents for several years. He follows Otto Fuchs to Colorado after they leave the Burden family farm. He often acts like an older brother to Jim Burden.
Mr. Ordinsky is the Polish violin teacher who lives across from Lena Lingard in Lincoln.
Pavel and Peter
Pavel and Peter are a pair of immigrants from Russia who work odd jobs for farmers in Black Hawk. They have fled Russia after a horrible incident at a wedding in which the entire wedding party was eaten by wolves. They were the only two to escape. Pavel dies of sickness, and Peter goes bankrupt soon after and leaves town.
Ambrosch Shimerda is Ántonia’s older brother and the head of the household after Mr. Shimerda’s death. He has selfish habits that are similar to his mother, such as the trick he tries with the horse collar on Jake. He has a momentary change of heart when he gives Ántonia a substantial gift for her wedding (that never happens), and he sometimes shows kindness.
Ántonia Shimerda is the title character. She is a young immigrant girl, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Shimerda, who arrive in Nebraska from Bohemia. She soon becomes friends with Jim Burden from a neighboring farm, and he teaches her English. After her father’s death she works in the fields, but then is placed as a hired girl at the Harleys’ home in Black Hawk. She is betrayed by Larry Donovan, who seduces and then deserts her. She has her illegitimate child in Black Hawk. Later, her life improves. She marries Cuzak, a respectable farmer, and has many more children. She emerges as a woman of great strength and integrity.
Marek Shimerda is the unusual Shimerda boy, who runs in the snow with no shoes. He eventually turns violent and has to be institutionalized.
Yulka Shimerda is the youngest Shimerda child, often favored by Ántonia.
Mrs. Shimerda is Ántonia’s mother. She is a peasant woman from Bohemia who marries the upper-class Mr. Shimerda. Ambrosch is her favorite child, and she persuades her husband to move the family to the United States to try to help Ambrosch get his start in the world. She and Ambrosch are usually in sympathy, and she has selfish, materialistic habits that work toward that goal.
Mr. Shimerda is a well educated and genteel musician from Bohemia, who comes to the United States after his wife persuades him. Ántonia is his favorite child, and he protects her from his wife’s lack of concern for her. He struggles as a farmer in Nebraska, with no real practical sense of how to make his farm successful. Eventually, he loses hope of happiness and kills himself with his gun.
Tiny Soderball is a former farm girl who gets a job working at a hotel in Black Hawk, and who becomes friends with Lena Lingard and Ántonia. She eventually becomes a very wealthy and successful business person, first moving to Seattle, where she runs a boarding house, and then to Alaska, where she opens a hotel. Using money willed to her by a Swedish man, she becomes wealthy through the mining industry. She moves to San Francisco, where Jim Burden meets her.
My Antonia Study GuideChoose to Continue
- My Antonia
- Novel Summary
- Book 1, Parts 1-4
- Book 1, Parts 5-8
- Book 1, Parts 9-12
- Book 1, Parts 13-16
- Book 1, Parts 17-19
- Book 2, Parts 1-3
- Book 2, Parts 4-7
- Book 2, Parts 8-12
- Book 3, Parts 1-4
- Book 2, Parts 13-15
- Book 4, Parts 1-4
- Book 5, Parts 1-3
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Willa Cather
- Essay Q&A