AP English, hour 7
5 March 2012
In Willa Cather’s My Antonia, the Nebraska prairie is much more than the setting of the story. The country landscape impacts the characters’ actions, mood and overall way of life. The setting either creates the pioneers’ personality or becomes a physical representation of their emotions. The land also serves as a constant source of nostalgia for the main characters.
The land and weather of the prairie embodies the emotions of the pioneers. During the big blizzard, Cather focuses on how the animals are dependent on the Burdens for food and water. The Shimerdas would be able to identify with the animals growing “resentful of their captivity” (Cather 61). The family feels hopeless in their new environment and, like the animals, they would be lost without the kindness of their neighbors. When Mr. Shimerda dies, a “fine, sleety snow beg[ins] to fall” (Cather 75). The weather reflects how the Burdens and the Shimerdas feel about the passing of their loved one, but it also represents how Mr. Shimerda felt about being away from his homeland. He could not appreciate the beauty of Nebraska because he had already fallen in love with a different land, and "it was homesickness that killed” him (Cather 66). But the setting doesn’t always feed negative emotions. After Jim kills the big “rattler,” he claims that “the great land had never looked… so big and free” (Cather 33). In that joyous state, Jim felt as if the land was inviting him to have more adventures. The relationship between the land and the pioneers can be seen through the “plough [that sinks] back to its own littleness somewhere on the prairie” (Cather 156). Man can dominate small parts of the country, but nature will always be “outside man's jurisdiction” (Cather 8).
Nostalgia is a reoccurring feeling throughout My Antonia. The land is a lasting reminder of the past. For Antonia, certain things remind her of Bohemia. When her and Jim...