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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. Shimerda's death. In this character Cather shows an almost obsessive longing of hers for the past. A cultered man, Antonia's father cannot handle the hardships he encounters in Nebraska, and longs for his life back in Bohemia. He clings to his Old World wardrobe and foods..."a knitted grey vest, and, instead of a collar, a silk scarf of a dark bronze-green, carefully crossed and held together by a red coral pin." Homesick for his native land Mr. Shimerda shoots himself. Some critics find Cather's recurring preoccupation with the past destructive, T. K. Whipple said that there was an element of passion in the theme. "To have cared intensely about anything, is not to have lived in vain." I think that the theme of the immigrants longing for the past was very fitting. Many of the settlers of the mid-west praries were immigrants, and most did desperately try to cling to their past while building a new life in the melting pot of America. The hardships of the immigrants were not uncommon. Many were forced to go into town to become a "hired girl" as Antonia did before she returned to the farm labor that she enjoyed, where she discovered city life in the dance clubs.
My favorite part about reading My Antonia is the beautiful descriptions of the land and other small details. In this story Jim Burden is not only a narrator for Cather, but for the land. Throughout the story his descriptions bring an eloquent style to her writing and capture the reader into the story. "Everywhere, as far as the eye could reach, there was nothing but rough, shaggy red grass, most as tall as I." In a phrase that is now on Cather's tombstone, he comes to accept the power of the land over him, saying, "That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.
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- ... They were big and warm and full of light, like the sun shining on brown pools in the wood.” pg. 17. This is Jim’s description of Antonia. Her family has encountered many hardships. They immigrated from Bohemia, which uprooted them from their past lives. After they reached America, Antonia’s father committed suicide, leaving her family in poverty. Antonia is forced to work as a servant, but she somehow retains the independence and eternal cheerfulness that makes her stand out as a character. Through the story, Jim grows to love Antonia, although she can only love him as a friend.... [tags: story analysis]
1283 words (3.7 pages)
- ... They were big and warm and full of light, like the sun shining on brown pools in the wood.” pg. 17 Antonia’s family has encountered many hardships. They immigrated to America from Bohemia, uprooting them from their past lives. After they reached America, Antonia’s father committed suicide, leaving her family in poverty. Antonia is forced to work as a servant, but she somehow retains the independence and eternal cheerfulness that makes her stand out as a character. As the story develops, Jim grows to love Antonia, although she can only love him as a friend.... [tags: characters, theme, language, view]
1373 words (3.9 pages)
- 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]
759 words (2.2 pages)
- 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,]
1939 words (5.5 pages)
- 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.... [tags: My Antonia Essays]
850 words (2.4 pages)
- 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]
434 words (1.2 pages)
- 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]
433 words (1.2 pages)
- 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]
547 words (1.6 pages)
- 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]
1035 words (3 pages)
- 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]
539 words (1.5 pages)
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One of my favorite passages in the book is right after Mr. Shimerda's suicide, wrapping up the tragic moment into a beautiful and capturing scene:
Years afterward, when the open-grazing days were over, and the red grass had been ploughed under and under until it had almost disappeared from the prairie; when all the fields were under fence, and the roads no longer ran about like wild things, but followed the surveyed section-lines, Mr. Shimerda's grave was still there, with a sagging wire fence around it, and an unpainted wooden cross. As grandfather had predicted, Mrs. Shimerda never saw the roads going over his head. The road from the north curved a little to the east just there, and the road from the west swung out a little to the south; so that the grave, with its tall red grass that was never mowed, was like a little island; and at twilight, under a new moon or the clear evening star, the dusty roads used to look like soft grey rivers flowing past it. I never came upon the place without emotion, and in all that country it was the spot most dear to me. I loved the dim superstition, the propitiatory intent, that had put the grave there; and still more I loved the spirit that could not carry out the sentence - the error from the surveyed lines, the clemency of the soft earth roads along which the home-coming wagons rattled after sunset. Never a tired driver passed the wooden cross, I am sure, without wishing well to the sleeper.
A story about how the people who risked their lives and fortunes in a harsh new land, My Antonia is one of Willa Cather's finer novels, and a must for everyone to read to get a taste of Cather's enchanting writing style, and the beautiful praries of the mid-west. From the Foreword by Kathleen Norris, "In many ways the world of My Antonia is still with us, a neglected but significant part of America."