In the novel, My Antonia, by Willa Cather, everyone seems to be trying to pursue the American Dream. While they all have different ideas of just exactly what the American Dream is, they all know precisely what they want. For some, the American Dream sounds so enticing that they have traveled across the world to achieve their goal. They work hard to fit in and succeed, but, as in the case of Mr. Shimerda, are not always successful. One girl who was chasing the American Dream was Lena Lingard, a small farm girl from a poverty-stricken family.
Lena had one thing n her mind: money. To her the American Dream was wealth. She wanted freedom from worry about where her next meal would come from, or how she would pay for a new dress. Lena began her journey to wealth by becoming one of the many hired girls in the town of Black Hawk. There she was apprentice to a dressmaker and before long began to show great potential. She soon began making money with her newfound talent, and used this money not to help herself, but to benefit her family.
Lena spent her free time buying clothes for them, and paid some of their ills. She also went to many dances over the summer months. With all of her beautiful dresses, many of the young men began to notice her as they never had before. Soon Lena began to get a reputation that many hired girls got, that of a brazen hussy. Everyone thought that she would wind up marrying the wrong man and ruin her life, but Lena had different plans. She did not listen to anything that they said about her. As soon as she could, she got her own dress shop in Lincoln and thrived with it.
After a while she moved to San Francisco and did ven better. She did not let the stereotype of the hired girls get in her way of the American Dream. She was determined to reach her goal and with all of her hard work she did just that. Some families traveled a great many miles to try to win the American Dream. The Shimerdas came all the way from Bohemia and gambled everything they had to make it in America. Antonia, the oldest daughter, knew that to succeed in raising her very own family she needed to learn the customs of this new country.
With this in mind, he asked for the help of Jim Burden, her closest neighbor. Every day she learned a little bit more from him. He taught her farming methods and other practices of farm life. As she picked up the language, she began to do very well in her new surroundings. She helped out with all of the farm work and did an excellent job. She worked in Black Hawk for a respectable family that taught her everything she needed to know about raising a good family. Antonia knew in her heart what a good mother she would be and could not wait to be married.
When she thought that she had finally found a good husband, he left her at the altar with a baby to care for, but this did not keep her down for long. She found another man that suited her as a husband and together they had nine children, all well behaved. Antonia’s American Dream of having her own beautiful family had finally come true. While Antonia was eager to be Americanized, her father was a little bit wary of the idea. At first he was open minded about starting a new life in America, but soon he grew homesick and tired of farming.
All that was familiar to him was left back in Bohemia. He did not have one thing in America that pleased him as much as things he had back home. He was lonesome and miserable most of the time, but tried to keep it to himself so that the rest of his family would think that everything was fine. It all just kept building up inside of him and one day the burden got to be too much to carry. Mr. Shimerda shot himself to end the pain of not being able to be close to the things he loved. He did not want to Americanize. He wanted to be back in his homeland again with his own people.