Cather’s MY ÁNTONIA
"Optima dies ... prima fugit."
My Ántonia, by Willa Cather, is a modernist novel that recounts and celebrates the past through the relationship of man and the natural world. Cather incorporates an epigraph at the start of the novel from Virgil’s Georgics that means “The best days…are the first to flee,” which is integrated by many elements throughout the story as it is the epicenter in which the themes of the novel revolve. For those who aren’t familiar Georgics consists of 4 books and is seen as“…Virgil’s praise of inherent value, despite great hardship of humankind’s labor” (Krstovic, 200). Cather includes pastoral imagery and sprinkles many biographical undertones, such as the setting, throughout to keep the connection to the epigraph at the start of the novel intact. “My Ántonia particularly, with its close relationship to Willa Cather's own life, is an accurate and realistic picture of life on the prairie, but like Virgil's poem it transcends mere local color by emphasizing the eternal beauty of creative life on the rich earth” (Dahl, 45).
For instance, Curtis Dahl states “the first of these inextricably fused themes is Cather's desire to celebrate in her novels her own Nebraskan patria” (45). We see this detail vividly in the way she describes the land and can almost feel the connection she has through the images she portrays in the novel. Take how she describes machinery sitting off in the distance, for example: On some upland farm, a plough had been left standing in the field. The sun was sinking just behind it. Magnified across the distance by the horizontal light, it stood out against the sun, was exactly contained within the circle of the disk; the handles, the tongue, the share¬¬¬¬¬---black against the molten red. There it was, heroic in size, a picture writing on the sun. (Cather, 193-194) We get the symbolic importance of the plough by the portrayal and description she colorfully provides the reader. “She emphasizes the...
Bibliography: Cather, Willa. My Antonia. New York: Bantam Books, 1994
Dahl, Curtis. "An American Georgic: Willa Cather 's My Antonia." Comparative Literature 7.1
(1955): 43-51. JSTOR. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.
Krstovic, Jelena. “Georgics by Vergil.” Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism. (2008): 200-358. Literature Criticism Online. Web. 15 Feb 2012.
Witalec, Janet. “Willa Cather (1873-1947).” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. (2003): 110-157. Literature Criticism Online. Web. 15 Feb 2012.
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