Willa Cather's novel My Ántonia dramatizes the effect the frontier has on both native-born people and immigrants that come to the West in search of new beginnings. The story centers around two families living in a remote area of Nebraska from completely diverse backgrounds. This tale suggests that regardless of where a person comes from, the trials and tribulations of living under such tough conditions will ultimately impact his/her future existence. Cather's characters, no matter the age or heritage, are continuously re-defined, as if reborn, into a new life by surviving the harsh realities of the frontier. Much of the creation of these characters takes place in the very first book of the story, with the middle books only showing the individuals sense of disconnection from the land from which they've come to make their living. They either love the frontier life, or they seek to escape it and create a new life for themselves elsewhere. The final book reunites the two main characters, Jim and Ántonia, and brings them full circle: back to the place where it all began.
Jim Burden's trip at ten years old embarks, due to the death of his mother and father, from Virginia to Nebraska and marks a turning point in his life. Jim's journey takes him on a very long train ride in which he notices "The only thing very noticeable about Nebraska was that it was still, all day long, Nebraska" (6). He is utterly engulfed in this new landscape and the vastness of it. He goes on to say that "there was nothing but land; not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made" (7). This statement leads us to wonder if Cather is also referring to the...
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... have been brought into in the great frontier.
Cather, Willa. My Ántonia. Bosten, MA and New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995
Miller, James E., Jr. " "My Ántonia": A Froniter Drama of Time." Modern Critical Views Willa Cather. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985. 51-59
Pickle, Linda S. "Foreigh-Born Immigrants on the Great Plains Frontier in Fiction and Nonfiction." Desert, Garden, Margin, Range Literature on the American Frontier. Ed. Eric Heyne. New York, NY: Twayne, 1992. 70-89
Randall III, John H. "Intrepretation of My Antonia." Willa Cather and Her Critics. Ed. James Schroeter. New York: Cornell University Press, 1967. 272-323.
Wells, Kim. "My Antonia: A Survey of Critical Attitudes." August 23, 1999. Online Internet. November 4, 1998.
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