Impressions of My Antonia

Impressions of My Antonia

Length: 1044 words (3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

Impressions of My Antonia



        My Antonia has been called nostalgic and elegiac because it

celebrates the past.  The inscription on the title page of My Antonia is a

quotation from Virgil: "Optima dies... prima fugit." This sentence, meaning

"the best days are first to flee", helps incorporate all the elements of

the novel I would like to discuss.  It not only makes clear that Willa

Cather will deal with memories of a glorious past, but also allows suitable

basis to show how nature can change and affect a relationship.  It also

hints at the Hellenic, to a large extent pastoral tone the novel will be

set in.  A pastoral work retreats to an ideal rural setting.  Jim Burden

not only goes back to the prairie, but more importantly, he retreats to the

innocent days of his very first memories.  While this reflects on the focus

of the paper, I will use two characters, Jim and Antonia, to illustrate

these issues, and show why they make this book such a delightful work of



        My Antonia is told from the point of view of Willa Cather's

fictional friend, Jim Burden.  He writes in the first person, and his use

of the pronoun "I" makes you feel his personal involvement.  The point of

view is immediate and subjective.  Looking back on his memories, he knows

what is eventually going to happen to the characters.  He persuades you to

sympathize with all of them.  His perception, being broad and persuasive,

sets the tone for the whole book.  What is the purpose of having the story

told by Jim Burden thirty years later?  From that perspective he can

present with great clarity and tenderness the highlights of his memories.

A man of the world, he is reinvestigating his values.  Jim Burden sets down

everything the name of Antonia brings back to him.  Antonia represents to

him the most fundamental, traditional way to lead one's life, including the

virtues of hard work, charity, love, optimism, pride, and sympathy with



      The prairie makes one think of the forces of nature--immense,

cyclical, and unpredictable.  When Jim Burden arrives on his grandparents'

farms, he is awed by the sight of "nothing but land."  His parents are both

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Impressions of My Antonia." 18 Feb 2020

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

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)

Antonia's Adulthood in Book V of Willa Cather's "My Antonia" Essay

- In "Book V" of Willa Cather's My Antonia, Jim Burden's memoirs come full circle and present interesting insights into the underlying tone as it relates to prominent themes from the novel. The revelation of Antonia Shimerda's adulthood as satisfying and fulfilling contrasts significantly with the nostalgic emptiness and longing for reconnection expressed by Jim. Furthermore, the ever-present effects of life's earliest memories and experiences are highlighted repeatedly as the context in which all subsequent experiences will be examined....   [tags: Willa Cather, My Antonia,]

Research Papers
1939 words (5.5 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)

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)

My Antonia Essay: The Role of Men in My Antonia

- The Role of Men in My Antonia Gloria Steinem once wrote that "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." Clearly she is attempting to assert women's independence and further the liberation movement. However, her analogy is not quite complete. A bicycle has absolutely no place in a fish's life, but whether she needs him or not, men are very much present in a women's life. While a women can survive without a male influence, his influence shapes much of her personality. This role of man manifests itself in the lives of the women of Black Hawk but most vividly in the form of the working girls....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Research Papers
814 words (2.3 pages)

The Powerful Character of My Antonia Essay

- The Powerful Character of My Antonia "Ántonia is a natural born mother." (Page 253) This was how everybody thought of Ántonia; she was a girl who would always leave a remarkable memory in everybody's mind through her strong, incredible strength. When she first came to Black Hawk, she was still a fourteen year old girl who ran in the field bare-footed and romping from place to place with Jim Burden. Her cheerfulness lessened when her father committed suicide and she had to take care of her family by coming to town and working as a hired girl for the Harlings....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Free Essays
662 words (1.9 pages)

The Beauty of the Lack of Structure in My Antonia Essay

-     According to James E. Miller Jr.'s, "My Antonia; A Frontier Drama of Time," Willa Cather's novel, one of her most important and perhaps most popular works, is "defective in structure" (Bloom, 21).  He quotes E. K. Brown, who defends that: " 'Everything in the book is there to convey a feeling, not to tell a story, not to establish a social philosophy, not even to animate a group of characters'" (21).  The reader undoubtedly feels the impact of the story of Antonia and Jim as Cather intended, but critics blind themselves to the essence of My Antonia, by looking for a "consistent central action of unbroken character portrayal" (21).  The structure bases itself on the narrative of Jim Burde...   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Research Papers
1584 words (4.5 pages)

My Antonia Essay: The Role of Women

- The Role of Women in My Antonia        In her novel, My Antonia, Cather represents the frontier as a new nation. Blanche Gelfant notes that Cather "creat[ed] images of strong and resourceful women upon whom the fate of a new country depended" . This responsibility, along with the "economic productivity" Gilbert and Gubar cite (173), reinforces the sense that women hold a different place in this frontier community than they would in the more settled areas of America.        One manner in which this unusual place can be seen is in the women's privileged relationship to the land in the text....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Research Papers
2160 words (6.2 pages)

My Antonia Essay: Theme of Separation

- Theme of Separation in My Antonia My Antonia, by Willa Cather, is a book tracing the story of a young man, Jim Burden, and his relationship with a young woman, Antonia Shimerda. Jim narrates the entire story in first person, relating accounts and memories of his childhood with Antonia. He traces his journey to the Nebraska where he and Antonia meet and grow up. Jim looks back on all of his childhood scenes with Antonia with nearly heartbreaking nostalgia. My Antonia, is a book that makes many parallels to the sadness and frailty, but also the quiet beauty in life, and leaves the reader with a sense of profound sorrow....   [tags: My Antonia Essays]

Research Papers
996 words (2.8 pages)

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)

Related Searches

recently dead, and he's starting life over again.  The huge, impersonal

land makes him feel that he has left all that's familiar.  The boundless

setting gives him a new perspective on his own identity.  "Between that

earth and that sky I felt erased, blotted out."  He adopts the attitude

that life will take its own identity.  "Between that earth and that sky I

felt erased, blotted out."  He adopts the attitude that life will take its

own course here on the prairie.  Attracted to this idea of the vast

universe absorbing him, he feels at one with the landscape.


        Sometimes the author lets her meanings become clear through the

symbols rather than direct explanations.  Cather includes various uses of

natural as well as practical symbolism throughout the book. The image of

the plough magnifed against the sun at the end of Book II and on the cover,

symbolizes cultivation and civilization -- the ultimate domination of the

uncultivated land through the toil of people like Antonia and her husband.

The red prairie grass symbolizes freedom, the children's shadows represent

the passing of childhood, and Antonia arguably symbolizes the hard work and

fruitfulness of the pioneers.


        As stated before, the past is what My Antonia focuses around.

Although the memories emanate from many years ago, each scene seems

immediate and vivid, as if time has been suspended.  Jim's memories from a

child to when he matures are all described with lucid detail.  The

childhood days were best for Jim Burden, as he discovers when he leaves

home.  Jim's carefree childhood is flavored by the land.  He will always

associate his time in the country with happiness and with Antonia, his

playmate.  After he has become successful professionally, but personally

disappointed, Jim returns to Black Hawk to try to regain some of the warm

feelings of the past.  He finds Antonia with her own family, continuing a

kind of life he himself has lost.  He feels he can become a child again by

playing with her children.  Moved by her assuredness as well as her love

for the land, Jim suddenly confesses his feelings for her; he thinks of her

more than anyone else from his youth.  Her personality continues to

influence h im.  "I'd have liked to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife,

or my mother or my sister--anything that a woman can be to a man.  The idea

of you is part of my mind."  What has prevented Jim from asking Antonia to

marry him?  Several barriers have unknowingly stood in their way:  Antonia

is four years older, they're from different social classes, and Jim is now

far more educated than she is.  Nearing the end of the book, the past is

further explored as Jim spends a disappointing day in Black Hawk, where

very few of the people from his youth remain.  Walking out to the edge of

town, he finds a half-mile stretch of the old wagon-road "which used to run

like a wild thing across the open prairie."  Out there he experiences once

again the beauty of sunset and autumn.  The memory of his first ride over

that road comes to him strongly.  Now he feels that this road has brought

him and Antonia back together.  It is "the road of Destiny" along which

their lives have traveled.  "I had the sense of coming home to mysel f,"

Jim says, "and of realizing, in the context of the vast prairie, what a

little circle man's experience is."


        Looking back on it all, Jim believes, "Whatever we had missed, we

possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past."  However, Jim's

memories seem to contradict his own last sentence.  Full of nostalgia,

Jim's memories vividly evoke the places, people, emotions of his past, and

notably, Antonia.  As Jim tells his story, his gaze may sometimes be drawn

away from her--Antonia sometimes disappears for long sections--but he comes

back to her with a richer sense of what she means to him.
Return to