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Importance of Landscape in My Antonia
In the book, My Antonia, the landscape along with Jim's reactions to it help us to feel all the emotions of the scene. His feelings of lonliness, sadness, awe and happiness are felt through his words and we can form a picture from the descriptions, adding to what we already know. He feels these emotions in the first few scenes. All because he wants a place to call home.
The feelings we get when Jim arrives are awe with hints if lonliness. He pulls into town and is being taken to his grandparent's house. He is riding in a wagon and since he is having trouble sleeping and tries to look at the land and sees nothing. This can be seen in the lines:
"There was nothing but land: not a country at all but the material out of which countries are made...I had the feeling that the world was left behind, that we had got over the edge of it, and were outside man's jurisdiction. I had never before looked up and at the sky when there was not a familiar mountain ridge against it...I did not believe that my father and mother were watching me from up there; they would still be looking for me at the sheepfold down by the creek, ... I had left their spirits behind me... I did not say my prayers that night: here, I felt, what would be would be."(pgs 11-12)
We see that Jim is a state of awe. He does not see this place as land or a country, but the building blocks for such things. He thinks he is in the heavens, not on the planet. He feels like he is in his own universe. The landscape adds a sense of lonliness as well. He looks at the land and there is nothing he can hold onto so he will know where he is, no mountains or anything. The feelings of awe can also be read as lonliness. He is looking in wonder at this new land, but he feels so alone. He is in the middle of nowhere.
He also believes that the spirits of his parents will not be there for him. I'm sure the fact that his parents died upset Jim, but he also think that they will no longer be there for him since he has left.
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The next time we see Jim he is at his grandparent's house. After awakening he decides to explore the house. The scene is set up as a forshadowing of the landscape to come. The sadness is lifting and he is around family and has friends. You can see his mood start to lift in the lines:
"It was pleasant in the kitchen.The sun shone into my bath-water through the west half window... my grandmother busied herself in the dining room until I called anxiously, 'Grandmother, I'm afraid the cakes are burning!' Then she came laughing, waving her apron before her as if she was shooing chickens."(pg 14)
You feel the darkness and sadness start to break. The sun is shining and it is a new day. Jim is getting a new start in his life and the reader is happy for him.
The next morning , Jim descides to go outside and view his new home. He looks out and is pleasantly surprised by what he sees. The scene serves to totally throw away the dark and cold of the prior night. You can feel his emotions in the lines:
"I had not been told that ours was the only wooden house west of Black Hawk ... Our white frame house, with a storey and half-storey, above the basement, stood at the east end of what I might call the farmland, with the windmill close by the kitchen door ... The road from the post-office came directly by our door, crossed the farmland, and curved round this little pond, beyond which it began to climb the gentle swell of unbroken praire to the west... Everywhere, as far as the eye could reach, there was nothing butrough, shaggy, red grass, most of it as tall as I." (pgs 16-17)
Jim finally finds what he is looking for. He has his beacon in this vast field, be it darkness or red grass, that he can hold on to. He is no longer alone, thanks to his family and new friends and there will be more of them to come. Jim can also travel into this grass and have somewhere to return to. It doesn't matter how big the field is, he has a place to call home. He has the town of Black Hawk to hold onto as well. Although it is not known to Jim how important the town will bw in his future, the only thing he is concerned with is that he has his island or two in the middle of the sea of red grass. He is finally happy and the reader can now relax a little and see how Jim grows up.
The emotions of lonliness, sadness, awe, and happiness are felt through out the story, but most strongly within the first few scenes. The descriptions of landscape help to add and put you in the character's place, seeing what they see and feeling what they feel. It seems that when the Jim or some of the other characters in different sitiuations are in a good or bad mood, the weather can be sunny and bright or rainy and overcast. If the rest of them knew this, they would have a reliable way to predict what kin of day it would be.
My Antonia First Vintage Classics Edition, 1994