In My Antonia by Willa Cather, there are many dark overtones that pervade the novel. It is through the use of symbolism and contrast these overtones are made real. The prairie is the predominant setting of the novel. It may be shaped, and it conforms to the desires of those working it. The prairie¹s loneliness, shown by the wide open spaces, is a brilliant way of revealing internal conflict by using a setting. Also, it brings out the characters true meaning. Cather shows through the character of Lena Lengard that society¹s next generation would not be as good, or quite as noble as that of Cather¹s childhood. The primary inscription on the first page states that the best days are the first to flee. Cather contrasts these ideas with Antonia¹s personality, which is always bright. This contributes to the dreariness of the novel.
In the novel the prairie is a metaphor for internal conflict. Cather brilliantly demonstrates the prairie as a representation for internal conflict being portrayed by a setting (Kelley, Sean). It symbolizes loneliness and depression. When Jim, one of the main characters, was young, the prairie was uncultivated and there were not as many settlers; it was a lonely place. Being isolated from society with little or no human contact could drive anyone insane. Despair, bad luck, greed, and self-absorbtion make one lose hope also, but it is mostly the lack, or the underuse of, imagination (Kelley, Sean). The prairie was a desolate strip of land that continued as far as could be seen. In the beginning of the novel, Jim Burden states about the land:
There seemed to be nothing to see, no fences, no creek or trees, no hills or fields. I had thefeeling that the world was left behind, that we had gone over the edge of it.... If we never arrived anywhere, it did not matter. Between that earth, and that sky, I felt erased, blotted out. (3 - 4)