While many American immigrant narratives concentrate on the culture shock that awaits those who arrive from the more rural Old World to live in a city for the first time, Willa Cather's immigrants, often coming from urban European settings, face the vast and empty land of the plains. Guy Reynolds notes that "the massive outburst of America westwards was in part powered by the explosion of immigrants through the eastern seaboard and across the continent. Ethnic diversity was at the heart of America's drive westwards" (63). The land and land ownership shape the lives of these newcomers in powerful ways, giving them an immigrant experience that is in some ways quite unique. In "Neighbor Rosicky," 0 Pioneers!, and My Antonia, Cather presents vivid characters and situations that serve to describe the urban-rural conflict in America, and as John H. Randall III notes, "'there is no doubt in the author's mind as to whether the country or city is the real America" (272).
In "Neighbor Rosicky", the notion of land ownership as a fundamental feature of the American Dream is most clearly set forth. Anton Rosicky is a Czech who experienced life as an immigrant both in London and New York City and found both lacking. Only in his life on the farm in Nebraska does he find peace and fulfillment.
Rosicky had been a tailor in the Old Country and had immigrated first to London, where he was miserable and poor. At age twenty he left London for New York, and for a time he was happy there, becoming "a good workman" (Cather, "'Neighbor Rosicky" 241) and experiencing the cultural life of the city, including opera and the ballet. As time goes on, however, he ...
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...at owning land brings are a substantial part of the American Dream immigrants come to the United States hoping to achieve.
Cather, Willa. My Antonia. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1995.
---. "Neighbor Rosicky." Collected Stories. New York. Vintage Classics, 1992. 231-261
---. 0 Pioneers. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1995.
McFarland, Dorothy Tuck. Willa Cather. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1972.
Randall, III, John H. "Interpretation of My Antonia." Willa Cather and Her Critics. Ed. James Schroeter. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967. 272-322.
Reynolds, Guy. Willa Cather in Context. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Woodness, James. "Willa Cather: American Experience and European Tradition." The Art of Willa Cather. Ed. Bernice Slote and Virginia Faulkner. Lincoln: 1974. 43-64.
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