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Cather’s view of immigration encompasses a perspective that points out foreign distinctions of immigrants but also upholds an overarching sentiment of empathy and admiration. There are evident cultural differences, challenges of societal integration, financial struggles, unfortunate pasts, and brutal suicides. Conversely, there are also numerous fond memories and successes for immigrant characters. Cather’s portrayal of immigrants in this manner highlights their contributions and significance in society but does not represent their multitude of struggles adequately.

Cather shows admiration for immigrants by creating strong relationships between immigrant and American families. For example, Jim states: “Sometimes I went south to visit our German neighbors and to admire their catalpa grove” (Cather 65). This neighborly relation between the Burdens and Shimerdas is one of quid pro quo ideals, and essentially of equality.

Cather creates significant sympathy towards immigrants in the novel. Many of their difficulties are recognized, as Jim notes that they “knew that things were hard for our Bohemian neighbors, but the two girls were light-hearted and never complained” (Cather 67). Rather than criticizing the differences of his immigrant neighbors, Jim acknowledges their hardships and empathizes with them. Additionally, sympathy towards immigrants is portrayed in other aspects of their lives. For instance, Jim goes to school, while Ántonia, Lena, Peter, and Pavel all have to work. While the reason for this is not blatantly exploited in the text, this is likely because of a lack of immigrant educational opportunities and greater immigrant financial pressures. Throughout the narrative, other immigrants struggle with language barriers, cultural differences, homesickness, and a constricting social hierarchy in Black Hawk. Cather undermines many of these challenges and is very subtle in addressing them because she wants to prove that immigrants are no different than Americans in terms of equality. By focusing on their struggles Cather feels that she may evoke dehumanizing and inferior sentiments.

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Immigrants in the novel are also viewed as distinctly foreign and strange. For example, Jim states:

Russia seemed to me more remote than any other country – farther away from China, almost as far as the North Pole. Of all the strange, uprooted people among the first settlers, those two men were the strangest and the most aloof. Their last names were unpronounceable, so they were called Pavel and Peter. They went about making signs to people, and until the Shimerdas came they had no friends (Cather 67).

While the cultural differences of immigrants, especially Russians, are not blatantly defamed in the text, there are instances in which immigrants do provoke negative connotations. One example is when Mrs. Shimerda visits the Burdens’ home with Ántonia for the first time. While in the kitchen, she remarks that there are many kitchen utensils by saying “‘You [Burdens] got many, Shimerdas no got” (Cather 98). In response, Jim’s grandmother gives Mrs. Shimerda a pot, which Jim finds “weak-minded” (Cather 98). After dinner, Mrs. Shimerda makes another passive-aggressive comment about the plethora of kitchen utensils in the Burden household. Following this, Jim goes on to describe her as “a conceited, boastful old thing” that “even misfortune could not humble” (Cather 98). Moreover, he is so annoyed that he even feels anger towards Ántonia, and listens unsympathetically when Mrs. Shimerda speaks of her ill father.

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