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American literature

Trivia quiz on Willa Cather, “The Song of the Lark” & “My Ántonia”

Trivia Quiz for Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark (1915) and My Ántonia (1918)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 3/27/22

1. Women’s work. Cather’s novels provide a glimpse of the paths available for girls growing up in the rural heartland of the USA in the early 1900s. Which one of the following careers is not portrayed as a possibility for women, in the two works we read?

a. Opera singer                       

b. Wife and mother                

c. Teacher

d. Attorney                             

e. Seamstress                         

f. Real estate investor

g. Maid                                   

h. Church pianist                   

i. Boarding house owner

j. Laundress                            

k. Cook/Housekeeper

2. Overcoming adversity. The two heroines—Thea Kronberg and Ántonia Shimerda (later Cuzak)—undergo many hardships before finding success. Which one of the following obstacles does not adversely affect them, over the long run?

a. unplanned pregnancy         

b. poverty                   

c. familial hostility    

d. foreign languages

e. lassitude / lack of will power                     

f. growing up in rural isolation

3. Social satire. Although her tone is kinder than some writers we’ve read, Willa Cather does ridicule social convention. Of the following passages, which one is written by Cather?

a. “No matter in what straits the Pennsylvanian or Virginian found himself, he would not let his daughters go out in service. Unless his girls could teach a country school, they sat at home in poverty.”

b. “Left-wing people are always sad because they mind dreadfully about their causes, and the causes are always going so badly.”

c. “To a feather-brained school girl, nothing is sacred.”

d. “There were two classes of charitable people; one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.”

4. On Love with or without Marriage (and vice versa). It may surprise modern readers to discover multiple critiques of marriage in Cather’s work, given its early time period. Which one of the following is not by Cather?

a. “’I don’t see why anybody wants to marry an artist anyhow. … You might have kept me in misery for a while, perhaps. … I have to think well of myself, to work. You could have made it hard.”

b. “Loverless and inexpectant of love, I was as safe from spies in my heart-poverty, as the beggar from thieves.”

c. “She is handsome, energetic, executive, but to me she seems … temperamentally incapable of enthusiasm. … She has her own fortune and lives her own life. For some reason, she wishes to remain Mrs. X.”

d. “Men are all right for friends, but as soon as you marry them they turn into cranky old fathers, even the wild ones. They begin to tell you what’s sensible and what’s foolish, and want you to stick at home all the time.”

5. Maxims. Life lessons run through both books. Which one of the following is not by Cather?

a. “Living’s too much trouble unless one can get something big out of it.”

b. “The children you don’t especially need, you have always with you, like the poor. But the bright ones get away from you.”

c. “Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed.”

d. “Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”

6. Humorous Asides. Cather’s portraits of unlikable characters provide some comic relief. Which one of the following lines is not by Cather?

a. “Her face had a kind of heavy, thoughtless beauty, like a pink peony just at the point of beginning to fade. … She gave the impression of wearing a cargo of splendid merchandise.”

b. “X was an intensely dreary girl … who had failed so far to marry, and seemed to have no biological reason for existing.”

c. “X [had a] very fat wife, who had a farm of her own, and who bossed her husband, I was delighted to hear.”

d. “It was excruciating to sit there day after day and hear her; there was something shameless and indecent about not singing true.”

7. On Nature. Which of the following lines is not from Cather’s works?

a. “This earth seemed to her young and fresh and kindly, a place where refugees from old, sad countries were given another chance. … a naïve, generous country.”

b. [About apple trees in an orchard]: “’I love them as if they were people,’ she said, rubbing her hand over the bark. ‘There wasn’t a tree here when we first came. We planted every one.’”

c. X was “drinking her coffee and forcing open the petals of the roses with an ardent and rather rude hand.”

d. “Through the screaming wind they heard things crashing and things hurtling and dashing with unbelievable velocity. A baby rabbit, terror ridden, squirmed through a hole in the floor.”

8-10. Finding beauty in an imperfect world. Match the quote to the character. Characters include: a. Thea Kronberg; b. Ántonia Cuzak; c. Lena Lingard

8. “She laughed her mellow, easy laugh, that was either very artless or very comprehending, one never knew quite which. … I caught a faint odor of violet sachet.”

9. “She could lie there hour after hour in the sun and listen to the strident whir of the big locusts, and to the light, ironical laughter of the quaking asps. … her power to think seemed converted into a power of sustained sensation.”

10. “A stalwart, brown woman, flat-chested, her curly, brown hair a little grizzled … She was there, in the full vigor of her personality, battered but not diminished.”

11. An origin tale. Although it details the lives of many immigrants, My Ántonia claims to be narrated by a person who was born in the USA. What state is their birthplace?

a. Oklahoma  

b. Indiana       

c. Iowa           

d. Nebraska                 .

ANSWERS

1. d.

2. e.

3. a.

4. b. (That quote is from Villette by Charlotte Brontë.)

5. c. (That quote is from The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde.)

6. b. (That quote is from The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.)

7. d. (That quote is from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.)

8. c.

9. a.

10. b

11. d.