Manifest destiny- this is what we have been discussing in class for the past month. On the very first day, we were shown an image; “American Progress” they call it, a painting by John Gast in 1872. Why this date, what does my Antonia have to do with it and how can we relate the painting to the novel? The words “Manifest destiny” bring magic to your ears, and for that reason, it is exactly why these two precise words were chosen to title a very important part of American history. Manifest destiny arose during the 19th century, and was the belief that the United States of America was divinely mandated to expand across the continent. It gave the Americans a sense of obligation concerning the preservation of their virtue and their institutions by enlarging their country and giving the whole world a new beginning. This was now the Americans’ duty. Not only were they convinced by the new and improved worldwide image they were granting America, but they strongly believed that it was their destiny under God to do so. This idea was infact first suggested by a journalist by the name of Jon L Sullivan in the 19th century. The legislation following the manifest destiny idea stated that any man or woman over the age of 21 would be granted the right to 160 acres of land, and that the land was theirs to keep if they lived on it for at least 5 years and paid 18 dollars. This was without a doubt an extravagant offer, and people, just like the Shimerdas in “my Antonia”, were ready to take that offer. “My Antonia” is a novel published in 1918 by Willa Cather, during the practice of the manifest destiny. Families from all over America and Europe were eager to move into the west. This novel is considered one of the greatest at the time because it turns the abstract idea of manifest destiny into concrete. It plays out Sullivan’s concept and throughout the first part of it (book 1) describes the hard life of the Shimerda family who has decided to immigrate towards...
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