My Antonia: Living Forces

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My Ántonia:
Living forces
Anne Bradstreet once wrote, – “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” Have your emotions been affected by the changing seasons? Have you reacted according to the weather conditions? Sometimes, the surroundings have a stronger effect than what people may think. They affect human beings’ behaviors and actions in such a way that most of what people do and feel goes accordingly to them. This can be overwhelming, so imagine how it was like for pioneers who came to America during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Seasonal circumstances captivated Willa Cather’s imagination and motivated the creation of the master piece My Ántonia. Almost overnight, pioneers populated the West after a long and strenuous journey overseas. People from Europe came to America and struggled with the unknown seasonal conditions; conditions that shaped the way they lived and experienced life as Cather witnessed it. Willa Cather's My Ántonia conveys how the symbolic seasons of fall, winter, spring and summer create a variety of forcings throughout the dramatic action which progressively unfolds a character's traits, namely of Antonia, Jim, and Mr. & Mrs. Burden. During fall, the characters of My Ántonia experience change and fulfillment. Fall is known as the season of changing leaves. Different alterations will occur in the characters’ life throughout this period. This is seen in Ántonia's life, when an autumn day, Lena comes to visit her while Tony was working for the Harlings. “It was a crisp autumn evening . . . A plump, fair skinned girl was standing in the doorway . . . Lena Lingard . . ." (103) . She introduces Ántonia to a more liberal life which was about to start that fall. It was because of Lena that Tony starts going to the dances, which she fell in love with. Clearly, this is a change that fulfilled Ántonia’s life and that she was willing to fight for. In Jim's case, one of the biggest changes in his life occurred one fall day. He started a new life by moving to Nebraska after his parents' death. He left everything what he knew in Virginia to live with his grandparents. He had just lost both of his parents; so, he starts a new life in the unknown prairie. This also allows him to meet Ántonia, “I first heard of Ántonia on what seemed to me an interminable journey across the great midland plains of North America . . .” (5). She becomes one of the most relevant friends in his life and fulfills him in many different ways. For Mr. and Mrs. Burden, the fact that Jim was coming to Nebraska that fall day represented a big change for them as well. Now they have the responsibility of raising a child. They have to start a new family. Having Jim with them is a fulfilling event for them too. He reminds them of their son. This is shown when Mrs. Burden sits at the foot of Jim’s bed, “My, how you do look like your father” (9). Also, according to Jimmy, his father “had been her little boy . . .” (9), so having Jim with them clearly makes them happy. Therefore, the fall brings changes to the characters and with these changes come different experiences that fulfill their lives given the symbolic representation of fall. Throughout winter, however, death and isolation are forcings that the characters have to face. This season controls and transforms people's surroundings against their will. This is a time of the year that comes with extreme changes in weather such a freezing temperatures that can cause roads to ice over and make transportation difficult – not to mention communication during the 1800s. People from all walks of life had to adapt their life style to these extreme seasonal conditions. "Winter is presented mainly as a harsh, unaesthetic, threatening side to the frontier landscape, something to be overcome and to hide from-at least temporarily” (Dillman, 31). Ántonia, for instance, has her most difficult times during this...
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