Harsh Feelings Toward The Shimerdas?

I never like you no more, Jake and Jim Burden,’ Antonia panted. ‘No friends any more!’

Jake stopped and turned his horse for a second. ‘Well, you’re a damned ungrateful lot, the whole pack of you,’ he shouted back. ‘I guess the Burdens can get along without you. You’ve been a sight of trouble to them, anyhow!’

‘They ain’t the same, Jimmy,’ he kept saying in a hurt tone. ‘These foreigners ain’t the same. You can’t trust ’em to be fair. It’s dirty to kick a feller. You heard how the women turned on you– and after all we went through on account of ’em last winter! They ain’t to be trusted. I don’t want to see you get too thick with any of ’em.’

This last part of the chapter made me mad! If I was Jim or Jim’s Grandfather I wouldn’t have helped them with their horse that had colic. I don’t know why this made me mad, maybe because the Shimerdas were ungrateful and the Burdens had done so much for them already. I felt it wasn’t the Shimerdas place to become so petty and envious because they were new to the land and the Burdens had brought them all that food and helped them. Antonia also didn’t want the Burdens to have a better season than her family because she started to become too confident in her land and skills, but she and her family still didn’t have the experience that the Jim’s grandparents had. How did it make you all feel reading the end of chapter 18 and a little bit of chap.19? Would you have been forgiving like Jim’s grandfather, or let them be on their own since that’s how they treated you?

By: Anita Smith


8 thoughts on “Harsh Feelings Toward The Shimerdas?

  1. I have to wonder if I’m the only one who is consistently surprised that the oldest man of the household is always the most accepting of the Shimerda’s behavior. Granted, this is long before our time, where most of our grandfathers probably fought in some war, and hold certain prejudices toward anyone that is remotely different from them, but still. Normally I would associate grandfathers with tradition and normalcy, but Mr. Burden is quite nice to the Shimerdas, on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, I personally would have behaved like a less violent Jake in that situation, but I have to say, in the end I would side with Grandpa Burden’s attitude. While he never says much, he shows the Shimerdas a certain kindness that they needed in order to survive on the prairie. I think the fact that they were all so new to the area (remember, the snake Jim killed had been there longer), and the notion of conquering the West so fresh, led people like Mr. Burden to have a certain respect towards his fellow man. When I was reading, I always felt a certain pity for the Shimerdas, because even though the way they carried themselves could be considered rude to most, they were far worse off than the Burdens, and Jim’s Grandpa understood that.

  2. The last part of the chapter made me mad at first, and honestly I don’t know how I would react if I was in this situation, but based on Jim’s Grandpa’s character I understand why he forgave them like he did and respect him for it. Jim’s grandfather, as we’ve seen throughout the book so far, is a devout Protestant Christian man. The “Golden Rule” is “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you,” therefore, even though the Shimerdas have been ungrateful towards the Burden’s, when he realizes that they are in trouble, and that he has the means to help them out, he cannot, as a man of faith, deny helping them. In fact, it would have been highly out of character (or at least based on what we’ve read so far) if Jim’s grandfather had NOT gone to help them. It would have been almost hypocritical had he not As angry as it might make us as a reader, it’s something that had to be done.

  3. I don’t feel that the Shimerdas are ungreatful. I believe that their situation has forced them to behave like this. It’s human Nature. They have to survive on foriegn land without a large support group.

  4. Good points. It might be those very necessities of survival that Mr. Burden knows will, eventually, at some point, come to make all who co-exist out there need each other in some way. Given that, best to hold onto good relations even if it costs you something. This strikes me as especially true given the reading for today in which we learn that there’s still a great deal of social mobility out there and that, eventually, these Scandanavian and Bohemian families will be running the show.

  5. Evan, I agree with your observation– it is quite interesting that Cather chose an older, Christian male to represent American liberal mindedness in the 19th century. While it does play into a kind of paternal wisdom, older generations typically cling most to conservative and prejudicial ideas. I think that Mr. Burden understands that the Shimerdas’ actions stem (not from sheer ingratitude) but from cultural differences and fear– the Shimerdas don’t ‘know’ the Burdens’ cultural cues and language innuendo– When operating vis a vis a different culture, things like showing gratitude and establishing trust are not intuitive experiences. I agree with Carolyn, the Shimerdas are merely trying to survive in a completely foreign place.

  6. I was also frustrated by the grandfather’s response. I felt that the Shimeradas were constantly getting away with their rudeness and ungratitude. I think that Cather is holding the grandpa up as the ideal, as we have seen her do with many other characters. Though his response would not be the normal response, I think she deems it the best, or “Christian” response. He is the picture of acceptance and charity even when it is not deserved. Though I was frustrated by his response, I was also a bit amazed and impressed. I think that is how Cather would have us, as readers, react. She is painting the ideal America and what it would look like if we were all accepting of other’s differences and generous to our neighbor’s even when they don’t deserve it.

    ~ Christina

  7. I agree with what you said, the Shimerdas always seemed to be rude. While I thought it was bad for the Burdens to reject a gift from them, the Shimerdas are by far much worse. They are constantly doing mean things, and acting like they don’t owe anyone else anything. I understand standing up for your family, but Antonia should have found out what really happened before she said she wouldn’t be friends with Jim anymore.

    -Savanna Beach

  8. I was once told that your true friends are the ones that you fight with from time to time. In fact, someone went as far to say that someone is not really a close friend until you have a fight and are able to resolve it. Although this theory definetly has its limits, I believe it to be true for the most part. For this reason, I hold no ill will towards the immigrant family and their behavior towards the Burden’s in spots. Several times in the novel, Jim mentions that he is angry with Antonia and will not speak to her again, this incident included. However, in the end, he is drawn back to Antonia because of the common past they will always share. Jealousy is a natural human emotion and even though their are two whole commandments dedicated to forbidding it, it is a part of our lives and our culture. Sad as it sounds, envy is what drives us to succeed. We see someone with nicer clothes, or a nicer car, and we wish that we could possess such amenities as well. The Shimerda’s envious nature, although rude, probably saved their lives those first couple of years. In time, they will surely become more gracious. For Mr. Burden, forgiveness, after all, is divine and his willingness to move on makes him a quietly heroic figure in my opinion.


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