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Vocabulary in My Ántonia

Vocabulary Examples in My Ántonia:

Book I - Chapter V

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"trundled..."   (Book I - Chapter V)

The noun “trundled” means to be transported by a wheeled object, like a wheelbarrow. Peter and Pavel, despite being relatively isolated from the rest of the community, have carved out a living for themselves on the frontier. Peter’s pride at being able to own a cow speaks to the reason why so many people decided to migrate west: it was hard living but there was opportunities for upward mobility and the pursuit of the “American Dream” that didn’t exist in the more established areas of the east.

"stag's head on the cock...."   (Book I - Chapter VI)

To have a “stag’s head on the cock” means that the gun had a carving of a deer’s head on its hammer. The ornateness of the gun and Mr. Shimerda’s story about receiving it in return for playing at a rich man’s wedding indicate the loss of status that the Shimerdas have experienced. Despite moving to the United States for a “better life,” Mr. Shimerda has been forced to give up his career and social connections, resulting in his increasing depression.

"Protestantizing..."   (Book I - Chapter XII)

To “Protestantize” something is to make something more aligned with Protestant beliefs. The Shimerdas are Catholic, whereas the Burdens are Protestant. Catholicism and Protestantism have a torrid history and served as a point of continuous conflict and cultural distance between different immigrant communities.

"deferred..."   (Book I - Chapter XIII)

The verb “to defer” means to submit or accept another’s will or authority. Traditionally, the oldest male in a household was seen as the leader of the family. Eldest sons were typically given the best opportunities and were privileged above other siblings. Ambrosch, as the oldest son and the reason the Shimerdas moved to America, is thus deferred to by the other siblings and his mother.

"perfunctory..."   (Book II - Chapter II)

The adjective “perfunctory” refers to an action carried out without interest or effort. Mrs. Harling cannot do anything perfunctorily, characterizing her as someone who does everything with thought and intentionality. Throughout the novel, she is portrayed as a charismatic and energetic woman who ends up leaving a lasting impact on both Jim and Antonia.

"amour-propre...."   (Book III - Chapter IV)

In French, amour-propre literally translates to “self-esteem.” It is also a concept in the philosophical writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau and refers to the idea that self-esteem depends on the regard of others.

"noblesse oblige,”..."   (Book III - Chapter IV)

The French expression noblesse oblige translates to “the obligations of the nobility.” Its historical roots lie in the belief that those with status and wealth have an obligation to help the poor. However, in the context of the conversation between Jim and Ordinsky, the implication seems to be more that Ordinsky expects Jim to behave nobly towards Lena since he has claimed his intentions are noble. The situation with Ordinsky and the Colonel echoes what happened with Ole Benson when Lena was younger. Her looks and easygoing manner are attractive to men, and her general indifference towards how people view her suggests that she does not bother to discourage the attraction.

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