My Antonia Essay, Research Paper
Welcome to Nebraska, the land of plentiful plains and endless adventure. or in
Willa Cather?s case, the setting in which she introduces her readers to the two main
characters of her novel, My Antonia. The compelling relationship between Jim
Burden and Antonia Shimerda makes it impossible for their similarities and
differences to go unnoticed. Both move to Nebraska, but their outlooks of the
situation differ drastically. The roles that Jim and Antonia play in each others lives
help them grow immensely throughout the story but the ways that they view each
other remain nothing alike. As the two characters grow, they become distracted at
times by the opposite sex, these different scenarios teach them both similar lessons
and bring them to see each other again.
Jim and Antonia moving to Nebraska gave the author the opportunity to
show their characters on the same level, both starting over simultaneously. Here
Cather allows us to see the difference in how the two perceive the new start as well
as life in general. Jim feels as though he has been uprooted and has deserted
everything that he knows to be real, even the memory of his parents, ?I have left
even their spirits behind me. The wagon jolted on, carrying me I knew not wither?.
(8) This shows us that Jim feels alone and is uncertain of what to expect. Antonia on
the other hand view the move as a new opportunity. Although she fears the impact it
will have on her fathers health she see it as a chance for her and her family to prevail
in a new land.
When the characters are introduced Jim immediately begins to develop and
infatuation with Antonia that strengthens throughout the story. At first Antonia
does not treat Jim as someone on her own level which Jim resents. Eventually Jim
proves to her that is mature regardless of their age difference by killing a snake. ? I
never know you was so brave, Jim,? she went on comfortingly. ? You is just like big
mans; you wait for him lift his head and then you go for him. Ain?t you feel scared a
bit? Now we take that snake home and show everybody.?(32) This is the main
turning point in the way Antonia treats Jim, she now respects him more and views
him as more of and adult. Jim goes on to express his feelings on her reaction, ?She
went on in this strain until I began to think that I had longed for this opportunity,
and had hailed it with joy.? (32) Throughout the story Antonia and Jim become
closer, Jim continues to reflect back to Antonia showing that he looks at her as the
ideal woman, she is his crutch. Her strong morals and values remain intriguing to
Jim and encourage him in everything that he pursues. In turn Jim assists Antonia in
adjusting to the many changes she endures. Although Jim?s dependency on Antonia
is indirect it is still very comparable to the role he plays in her life.
Eventually Antonia and Jim grow up and begin to pursue their goals.
Antonia stays in the country while Jim goes of to the big city to attend Harvard
University. Antonia has fallen for Larry Donovan, a train conductor. In spite of the
fact that everyone else can see that Larry is misleading Antonia she remains
oblivious. Eventually Larry moves to Denver and brings Antonia, promising her
marriage. He soon spends all of her money and gets her pregnant leaving her, only
to return to Nebraska and have her baby. Antonia returns to her old hard working
ways and refrains from dwelling on the situation. Meanwhile, studying at Harvard
Jim is reunited with an old friend from Nebraska, Lena Lingard. Lena and Jim
become romantically involved which begins to distract Jim from his studies. Jim
realizes soon enough that despite her kindness Lena is the reason for his distance
from his schooling and decides to end their affair. Before they say their good-byes
Jim tells Lena how well she has treated him,?You?ve been just awfully good to me,
Lena,? I blurted. ?I don?t think about much else. I shall never think about much else
while I?m with you. I?ll never settle down and grind if I stay here. You know
that.?(187) Quite some time passes , before Antonia and Jim are reunited but it is
apparent that their experiences have affected them.
A story of two friends, so much alike yet with noticeable differences as well.
They start over together but from there they begin to grow, grow together, grow
distant, grow fond, and grow stronger with each other.