The Stories of Antonia

According to Walter Benjamin’s “The Storyteller,” storytellers are a dying breed, and the novel only contributes to the death of storytelling. If that is true, then Willa Cather’s My Antonia is a fan fueling flames on the somber coals of storytelling. Cather uses various instances of narrative that mirror oral storytelling. These instances attempt to “keep [the] story free from explanation” and leave the reader to “interpret things the way he understands them” (Benjamin 89).

When Jim Burden kills the large snake in the prairie-dog town, the major source of pride for him is not just personal satisfaction. His contentment stems from the ability to show off his kill, the ability to tell that story. As a storyteller, he takes pride in his narrative, and enjoys the ability of his tale to inspire admiration in his listeners. Antonia is a witness to his account, and “Her exultation was contagious” (Cather 33) for Jim. That is because he is receiving contentment and pleasure from sharing his narrative. Antonia then also receives satisfaction from standing “in the middle of the floor, telling the story with a great deal of colour” (Cather 34). The story continues to pass on; instead of discarding the snake after the kill, they drag it...

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