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A Psychoanalytical Look at Jim Burden in My Antonia Essay

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   A psychoanalytical look at the characters of My Antonia provides a better understanding of action vs. intent of each individual, particularly Jim Burden.  The introduction prepares the reader by laying out a profile of Jim.  Without the understanding of the origin of the novel the reader would not be able to assess the true meaning of the novel nor would they really grasp the concepts and issues that are being discussed through the story itself.  So, with this essay I will bring together the importance of the introduction and how it correlates to Jim's search for a parental role. 

            Jim Burden is one of the more complex characters that any one reader will ever encounter.  His abandonment issues and just his whole childhood read like a case study that a psychologist would write up on an extremely troubled child.  Jim Burden also has a mother-like lover, Antonia, and finally comes to take his sexualized and gendered identity in this world. In the view of Lacan's Mirror Stage, like Edna Pontellier who wishes to return to her childhood memory, to return to the world of the Imaginary, in which "sometimes I feel this summer as if I were walking through the green meadow again; idly, aimlessly, unthinking and unguided" (Chopin 520), Jim Burden recollects his boyhood living in the great midland plain of North America where he feels he and Nature are one, but, unlike Edna who goes back and does not come back, Jim goes into the realm of the Imaginary and comes back to the Symbolic, experiencing the process of the Mirror Stage. These are the reasons why I try to apply psychoanalysis in the interpretation of the novel.

 

              Willa Cather's My Antonia begins with Jim Burden's "an interminable journey acr...


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...p with Antonia and also the significance of the introduction to this novel. The introduction is set up as to provide some insight into what the psychological state of Jim Burden is.  Conclusively one can see that Jim Burden used Antonia as a mother figure throughout his life and with the information given by the introduction we can better correlate the actions of the Jim character in the novel and his unconscious feelings and emotions about Antonia.  

 

Works Cited

Cather, Willa. My Antonia. Boston: Hougton Mifflin, 1988.

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 3rd ed. New York: Norton, 1989. 508-598.

Green, Keith, and Jill Lebihan. Critical Theory & Practice: A Coursebook. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Wright, Elizabeth. Psychoanalytic Criticism: Theory in Practice. New York: Methuen,1984.


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