By: Megan Gavin
Author: Willa Cather
Genre: Historical Fiction
In the book My Ántonia, there is a definite relationship between literature and place. The main story line is set in Black Hawk, Nebraska. Jim Burden moves from Virginia to Black Hawk to live with his grandparents when he is around ten years old. This book is divided into five books within one book. In the first book, Jim describes the prairie as he plays with his new neighbors, the Shimerdas. He is very good friends with one of the daughters, Ántonia. They go on adventures all over their land. The tall, red grasses are of great fascination to him, and he describes the plains as a magical place where a person can be free and get away from anything. He frequently talks about what he called the “Dog World”, which was a large area where prairie dogs were frequently seen. One time Jim saved Ántonia and himself from being attacked by a six-foot snake. Later in the story, Jim and his family move into town. He discusses the differences between living in town versus living in the country. The farm the Shimerdas lived on was only about four miles outside of town.
Another essential question that is reflected is how does literature shape or reflect society. In that time, it was common for immigrant families to move to the Midwest or the plains while they were trying to claim land. Life was very rough on farms. After a while, Ántonia’s father couldn’t handle the trying life. He committed suicide, which was much more common than one would have like to think. Ántonia became the man of the house in a sense, which became more and more common as time went along. She did much of the farm work and helped her mother raise all of her brothers and sisters.
Later in the book, also relating the relationship between literature and place, Jim went off to college in Lincoln, Nebraska. He described how similar and different it was from Black Hawk all at the same time. It was ironic that while he was in Lincoln at college he ran into and ended up spending a lot of time with Lena Lingard. Lena was a childhood friend of Ántonia’s. Jim goes back to Black Hawk to visit his “hometown” so to say and goes to visit Ántonia on the farm. Both of these essential questions are very much highlighted throughout the book, My Ántonia.