My Antonia Setting Essay

My Antonia Essay: Importance Of Setting

The Importance of Setting in My Antonia       

The setting of the story has tremendous impact on the characters and themes in the novel "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. Cather's delicately crafted naturalistic style is evident not only in her colorfully detailed depictions of the Nebraska frontier, but also in her characters’ relationship with the land on which they live. The common naturalist theme of man being controlled by nature appears many times throughout the novel, particularly in the chapters containing the first winter.

    The Burden's and the Shimerda's, try as they might, cannot fight the harsh climate of the Nebraska prairie. Rather than attempt to control the environment around them, they must learn to work with it and adjust to make do with what they have. Jim learns this his first winter, as well as the Shimerda's, for they are both newcomers to a strange place. They realize that trying to fight the wind and snow will do more harm than good, and adapt themselves to work when weather permits and hope nature is kind in the end.

    The spring and summer months, however, are far more enjoyable and easy-going for the families. It isn't difficult to see how the changing climates affect the characters’ moods as well. Many of the squabbles between Jim and Antonia and hardships faced by the two families occur in the fall or winter, whereas the author focuses on the more pleasant aspects of life and the prairie when the weather is glowing. The very lives of the men and women on the frontier are almost entirely dictated by the world surrounding...

Loading: Checking Spelling

0%

Read more

My Antonia Essay: Psychoanalytic Criticism

1950 words - 8 pages 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...

Invisible Man Essay: Importance of Setting

1128 words - 5 pages The Importance of Setting in Invisible Man       The Liberty Paint Factory in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man provides the setting for a very significant chain of events in the novel.  In addition, it provides many symbols which will influence a reader's interpretation.  Some of those symbols are associated with the structure itself, with Mr. Kimbro, and with Mr. Lucius Brockway.                    The first of many instances in...

An essay book review of My Antonia, by Willa Cather.

782 words - 3 pages My AntoniaIn the beginning of this novel we meet a successful railroad lawyer named

My Antonia Essay: The Character of Lena Lingard

1827 words - 7 pages The Character of Lena Lingard in My Antonia            Lena Lingard is the best example of a non-domestic central character which appears amidst the domesticity of My Ántonia. Often the sections which feature Lena instead of Ántonia are seen as confusing divergences from the plot line of a novel that purports to be about the woman named in the title. However, since Lena appears in the novel almost as often as Ántonia, and more often than...

My Antonia Essay: Independence and Belonging

676 words - 3 pages Independence and Belonging in My Antonia   In My Antonia there are two types of women, those who want to have a man and those who don¹t. The key word is want, at no point does a woman need a man in the entire course of the novel. From the Hired Girls to Tiny Soderball and Lena Lingard women are capable of self sufficiency and happiness. The majority of the truly contented people are either alone or living without the opposite...

My Antonia Essay - An American Tale

747 words - 3 pages My Antonia – An American Tale At the beginning of this century, ships docked in American ports with their steerages filled with European immigrants.  Willa Cather’s My Antonia, contains characters that immigrate to the country of America in search of hope and a new future in the Midwest prarie.  This novel can be considered an American tale because it holds the American concept of the “melting pot,” the ideal of America as...

Importance of Setting Goals

600 words - 2 pages The Importance of Setting Goals Setting goals is the most important thing you can do in your life. Without goal's you are going to have no direction, no ambition to be successful, no drive to stay in school, and trouble finding a career that will provide for you. Without these three things, achieving your goals is going to be one of the toughest tasks in the years to come. When setting direction to success you must make good choices on the path...

My Antonia: A Landscape Of Emotions

488 words - 2 pages A Landscape of Emotions      Being consumed by one’s surroundings results in an impressionable experience. Taking a deep breath of fresh air, admiring a breathtaking view, and watching the sizzling sunset evoke emotions. Willa Cather effectively evokes emotions in the reader, in order to relate to the characters’ feelings, by providing vivid descriptions of the setting, as well as through the reactions of Jim. ...

The Importance of Goal Setting

889 words - 4 pages Anybody who has taken a long car trip to Disney Land with young kids can understand the importance of having a vision and setting goals for reaching that vision. Kids see the vision, Disney Land, Mickey Mouse, Space Mountain, games, and fun. However, kids do not recognize the goals and objectives necessary to reaching that vision. In other words, kids do not recognize the things that must happen between leaving the house and arriving at Disney...

The Beauty of the Lack of Structure in My Antonia

1593 words - 6 pages     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...

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

1927 words - 8 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...

(Click the map infographic to download.)

Black Hawk, Nebraska and the surrounding prairie; roughly 1880-1910

The fictional town of Black Hawk Nebraska is based on the real-life Red Cloud, Nebraska, where Cather grew up. Many of her other prairie novels – such as O Pioneers!, are also based on her experiences in Red Cloud. Cather even takes the names of many of the real people she grew up with for use in her novel.

As we discuss in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory," the physical setting of My Ántonia is important in deciding the lives, actions, and moods of the various characters. In fact, Cather's evocative descriptions of the natural landscape are one of the reasons the novel is so famous. There is a reverence for nature and a respect for its beauty, power, and size. More than once Jim admits to feeling "blotted out" by the magnificence of the grand American West (1.1.10). The changing of the seasons is often used as a tool in the novel's structuring, marking tonal shifts and thematic changes.

Two micro-settings in particular are contrasted in the novel: the countryside, where Jim and Ántonia spend their childhood, and the town, where they move when they are adolescents. This is a great example of a change in setting being used to mark a larger shift in the novel's focus. As Jim moves from childhood to adulthood, he moves from the country to the town. Later in the novel, the characters are classified as either farm people or city people. Ántonia, for example, admits she is happier on a farm, whereas her husband, Cuzak, prefers the town. It's interesting to think about where Jim belongs, since he harbors a romanticized love for the country yet is now a big-time lawyer in New York city.

My Ántonia is important as historical fiction because it shows the reader a slice of life in a particular period of American history. During this time period, many immigrants were coming to America from countries all over Europe. My Ántonia specifically features immigrants from Bohemia (a part of the Czech Republic), Austria, Sweden, and Russia. America was seen as the land of opportunity, and immigrants thought they could make better lives for themselves in this new country. The American West was still developing, so places like Nebraska with relatively low populations and plenty of land were prime targets for settlement. The immigrants, like Ántonia's family would make their living by farming.

In the novel, we see how many immigrants face prejudice, which was certainly the case in the American West in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Americans were so concerned about increased immigration that Congress ended up passing The Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which limited the number of immigrants allowed to come to America, particularly those from eastern and southern Europe. You can read more about immigration in Shmoop History's guides "Immigration: Era of Open Borders (1787-1882)" and "Immigration: Era of Restriction (1882-1954)."

Another important concept linked to My Ántonia is the idea of Manifest Destiny. This is the idea that America was somehow divinely mandated to expand across the continent to the Pacific. This expansion was necessary and unavoidable according to Manifest Destiny. The term was written in an 1839 journal article by columnist John O'Sullivan arguing to annex Texas. Notice that My Ántonia begins with Jim Burden heading West to Nebraska from his home in Virginia. Jim is playing out the concept of Manifest Destiny by moving West. On his way, Jim sees how untamed and raw the earth is, commenting that it is not yet a country, but rather the material that countries are made of. This way of looking at the land is very much in the spirit of Manifest Destiny.

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *