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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. But Cather also describes the land as something powerful-a force strong enough to break even the strongest man.
The land also plays a huge part in the lives of the main characters, & in many cases, determines what kind of events that they will face. Antonia & her family are new to America - new to the land, new to the language, new to the customs, & new to farming. From the beginning of the novel, Antonia & her family fought with the land. They did not know how to farm at first, but slowly learned with the help for the Burden family. Once they learned the basics of farming, Antonia & her brother had to establish and maintain the farm all by themselves. It was not just the Shimerda’s who faced the land head-to-head each day. The Burdens fought the same battle too. But because the Burdens had more knowledge of the land & farming it, their battle was won more easily. For example, while each day Antonia & her oldest brother went out & plowed fields, the Burdens were able to do other things with the land, since they had already established fields in which to plant things.
In some ways, this theme of the man’s relationship to the land is the setting. The land where the story takes place determined many of the events which occurred – if the land had not been so harsh and brutal, Mr. Shimerda may not have given up hope like he did.
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In My Antonia, the major theme of the man’s struggle with the land had a strong relationship with the text, the characters, the events, and the setting. I hope this essay has given you more insight into this theme.