Free Essays - Criticism of My Antonia

Free Essays - Criticism of My Antonia

Length: 850 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Criticism of My Antonia



My Antonia by Willa Cather is a novel based on the memories of the protagonist, Jim Burden. Many critics have criticized this novel, and have focused on such literary elements as symbolism, motif, and characterization. The strongest argument however is the one that states that the foundation of every element in the book is based on the personal memories of Willa Cather.


Many critics have discussed the symbolism in this novel. One symbol that some critics have discussed is the plow. It was said that the plow suggests a way of life that not only helps the land to flourish but the individual as well (Brown). Another symbol that many critics discuss is Marek Shimerda. The fact that Marek has webbed hands and feet sets him apart from the other "normal" children who seem to represent creativity and innocence (Shaw). The road that Jim Burden travels on is another symbol that critics focus on quite a bit. It is said that the road symbolizes the "road to destiny" that America itself takes. (Brown). Critics have also pointed out that the red dust that covers everything, the intense heat, the burning wind, the wilting oak groves, and the stifling vegetation represent oppression, paralysis, submergence, and loss of vitality (as in the old ways of life) as opposed to the alternatives of the new world such as discovery and recovery (Holmes).


One thing that many critics have discussed is that the plot of My Antonia revolves around the ideas of childhood and the fact that the structure of the novel is centered around scenes that have to do with children. This shows up in the beginning of the book as ten year old Jim is riding the train from Virginia to Nebraska; and at the end of the book when all of Antonia's children are around (Shaw). A contrasting motif to that of childhood is adulthood. Throughout the book, Cather describes how adulthood has many hardships as compared to the carefreeness of childhood.


Another element of the novel that critics spent a lot of time discussing is characterization. One critic pointed out the fact that many of the characters in My Antonia have imperfections in their physical appearance that seem to bring out the imperfections of society that exist, and put the ideas of "social perfection" on the back-burner (Randall).

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Free Essays - Criticism of My Antonia." 18 Nov 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

My Antonia Essay: Psychoanalytic Criticism

- Psychoanalytic Criticism of My Antonia             Abstract: This essay uses psychoanalysis as the strategy of interpretation to read Willa Cather's My Antonia.  Freud's well-known theory--the Oedipus complex--and Lacan's theory of the Mirror Stage are used as the modes of approaching the novel.   I use psychoanalytic criticism as a means of interpreting Willa Cather's My Antonia because I find some similarities between My Antonia and Peter Pan, between that and The Awakening when reading Keith Green's Critical Theory and Practice: A Coursebook....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Research Papers
1867 words (5.3 pages)

Free My Antonia Essays: The Character of Antonia Shimerda

- The Character of Antonia Shimerda in My Antonia Antonia Shimerda spends her whole life fighting, yet she is not known to be belligerent. She is constantly being battered, but still has no visible scars. Antonia is a girl who suffers all through her life, and somehow manages to keep an optimistic outlook. She is one of those rare people who gain character, rather than resentment, by enduring hardship. Throughout the book, MY ANTONIA, the strength and perseverance of this girl definitely portray her as "battered but not diminished." The symbol of freedom, courage and hardship, the country seems to invite all to come and settle, but not without a struggle....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
759 words (2.2 pages)

Free My Antonia Essays: An Analysis

- My Antonia I think that My Antonia, written in 1918, is one of Cather's finest works. Critic H. L. Mencken thought it to be the most accomplished, and shortly after it was published in 1919 he wrote, "Her style has lost self-consciousness; her feeling for form has become instinctive. And she has got such a grip upon her materials...I know of no novel that makes the remote folk of the Western praries more real...and I know of none that makes them seem better worth knowing." One of the high points in the story is the tragic case of Mr....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
745 words (2.1 pages)

Free My Antonia Essays: The Growth of Jim Burden

- The Growth of Jim Burden in My Antonia "The movement from possession to loss, from union to separation, is the deep and central pattern of Jim Burden's experience in My Antonia." (Fisher-Wirth) I believe that this quote given by the critic Fisher-Wirth somewhat explains the life of Jim Burden and that although he went through both gains and losses throughout his life; he learned the meaning and purpose of his life with Antonia. In the beginning of the novel, Jim had a family but was soon abandoned by them do to both of their deaths....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
434 words (1.2 pages)

Free My Antonia Essays: Struggle with the Land

- Struggle with the Land in My Antonia In Willa Cather’s novel My Antonia a major theme that is addressed is the struggle with the land. In this essay, I will discuss this theme in relation to the text, the characters & the events they face, & the setting. The text is largely influenced by this theme of mans relationship to the land. Cather describes the land where the land where the Shimerda’s & the Burdens lived as the beautiful – the slow rolling hill covered in a sea of red grass, the circle of open sky above & land below....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
433 words (1.2 pages)

Free My Antonia Essays: Female Roles

- Female Roles in My Antonia "THERE was a curious social situation in black hawk. All the young men felt the attraction of the fine, well-set-up country girls who had come to town to earn a living, and, in nearly every case, to help their fathers struggle out of debt, or to make it possible for the younger children of the family to go to school." (Page 127) This was the way of life for most girls around the 1920s. The book My Antonia by Willa Cather, Refreshingly creates female roles and strong personalities....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
547 words (1.6 pages)

Free My Antonia Essays: Importance of Landscape

- 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....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
1035 words (3 pages)

My Antonia Essay - Stages of Life

- Stages of Life in My Antonia In the past, critics have demoralized and brutalized every writer they could get their pen on. This is seen from criticisms of Henry Adams to William Butler Yeats. These critics critique everything about the writer and his/her works. For instance, many critics criticize Willa Cather's novel, My Antonia. Their criticisms lie on the basis that My Antonia is based on cyclical themes with no structure holding each of My Antonia's books. In other words, as a collection of five different accounts remembered by the main character, Jim Burden, My Antonia is characterized by a loose plot structure, yet common themes are expressed through the cyclical nature, inc...   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
1576 words (4.5 pages)

Essay about Pursuing the American Dream in My Antonia by Willa Cather

- Pursuing the American Dream in My Antonia by Willa Cather In the novel, My Antonia, by Willa Cather, everyone seems to be trying to pursue the American Dream. While they all have different ideas of just exactly what the American Dream is, they all know precisely what they want. For some, the American Dream sounds so enticing that they have traveled across the world to achieve their goal. They work hard to fit in and succeed, but, as in the case of Mr. Shimerda, are not always successful....   [tags: My Antonia]

Research Papers
539 words (1.5 pages)

My Antonia Essay: The Spirit of Antonia

- The Spirit of Antonia in My Antonia        The life of Antonia Shimerdas, the main character in Willa Cather's My Antonia, could easily be judged a failure. Perhaps measures of wealth, career, beauty and love fall short when held next to Antonia. If one could categorize life by that unnamable light or spirit which Antonia never loses, she would surpass all who belittle her achievements in other areas.   Where the spirit comes from, no one can say. “Perhaps an ethereal or god-like being takes residence in the person's heart”(Helmick 46)....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Research Papers
1247 words (3.6 pages)

Related Searches

Some examples of these imperfections are the scar on Otto Fuchs' cheek, Marek Shimerda's webbed fingers, the fact that Anton Cuzak had one shoulder that was higher than the other, and Antonia's teeth that made her face appear swollen most of the time. These character traits seem to tie in with the adulthood motif; with all of the imperfections and hardships that appear like those that appear in adulthood.


Another part of the characterization that is discussed by the critics is that as children, Antonia and Jim were blind to the imperfections of society, for example greed and jealousy, and they thought that everyone was all in all good (Randall). This characterization ties into the childhood motif, which emphasizes the innocence of children.


The strongest criticism is the one that states that Willa Cather uses memories over and over again throughout many of her novels to represent many different things. It seems that ideas for characters, settings, and plots all come from personal memories from Cather. One critic said that memory has a few different functions in My Antonia. For example, the memories help the reader to "discover and imagine an almost endless number of ways in which memory inspires and terrifies, comforts and haunts, sustains and shocks not only individuals but also communities, cultures, and nations" (Lucenti). Throughout My Antonia Willa Cather does not just focus on the memories that Jim has but why and how he remembers these specific events. The memories that Jim has are key elements to the novel because they reveal that Jim has not forgotten about his childhood, and the way his life was before he became a successful lawyer. The fact that Jim remembers the good memories as well as the bad enhances the childhood and adulthood motifs. For example, the good memories that Jim has are mostly about he and Antonia as children, and the fun times that they would have; whereas the "bad" memories are of Jim after he and Antonia had lost touch.


Many critics have criticized My Antonia on all of the basic literary elements; however the one critic that made the strongest argument was the one that said that all of the elements tie together into one motif.


Work Cited


Brown, E.K. Willa Cather: A Critical Biography. New York, 1993


Holmes, Catherine D. "Jim Burden's Lost Worlds." Twentieth Century Literature. Fall 99


Lucenti, Lisa Marie. "Willa Cather's My Antonia: Haunting the Houses of Memory." Academic Search Elite. Summer 2000


Randall, John H. III. The Landscape and the Looking Glass: Willa Cather's Search For Value. Boston, 1960


Shaw, Patrick. "Marek Shimerda in My Antonia: A Noteworthy Medical Etiology." Academic Search Elite. Winter 2000


Palmer, Scott. "The Train of Thought." Studies in American Fiction. Autumn 2001: pp. 239-248


Return to