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Essay Question

 :: 2 :: My Antonia

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Essay Question

Post  katyreb on February 12th 2009, 1:59 pm

Cather uses the seasons in this novel to symbolize life itself, using them to great effect in painting scenes. Each of these scenes show how the endless cycle of spring-summer-fall-winter reflects and symbolizes the character's up-an-down struggles through life on the prairie. Describe the use of each season in the novel and what it symbolizes, using examples to support each symbol.
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Post  Admin on February 13th 2009, 1:56 pm

In My Antonia, Cather uses the seasons as symbols for the lives of Jim and Antonia.
Cather begins the novel in autumn. For both Jim and Antonia, the innocence of summer has figuratively come to an end. Jimís parents are dead and Antonia has been uprooted. The protective warmth of summer is beginning to fade. However, on the Nebraska plains, fall is the time for harvest. It is the time to reap the hard work which was sewn. And this aspect of fall comes to represent the children more than the typical journey to death metaphor. The children are ripe with youth and find each otherís company comforting.
When winter sweeps across Nebraskaís fields, its cold wind brings loss into the lives of the Burdens and Shimerdas. Pavelís sudden death deals an irreparable blow to Mr. Shimerdaís spirit. The departure of Peter only increases his sadness. These losses trigger Mr. Shimerdaís spiral into depression, and his eventual suicide.
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Re: Essay Question

Post  Meghan43 on February 13th 2009, 1:58 pm

Have you ever noticed the change in a personís attitude when winter is over and spring is beginning; the fresh step, the beautiful smile, the energetic and wistful nature of oneís being. I myself have noticed significant changes in my loved ones and myself when the weather is beginning to get nice. Willa Cather seems to represent these feelings of seasons and attitudes well in My Antonia. Throughout Book 1 we experience the harmony of fall, the distress of winter, and a short glimpse at the tension of spring.
As young Jim Burden arrives in Nebraska the feeling of the novel is very calm. This child has come to a new place and is meeting new people, all the while with a happy, youthful approach. A delightful scene in the third chapter of this novel gives way to the friendship in bloom between Antonia and Jim. From Jimís point of view we read, ďWhen we reached the level and could see the gold tree-tops, I pointed toward them, and Antonia laughed and squeezed my hand as if to tell me how glad she was I had come,Ē (p.26) this happiness that is experienced atop a hill is a great representative of the nature of autumn. Cather is able to establish a playful and friendly nature between the boy and girl. This scene can often draw a reader to remember a time when say their own friends gathered together, raked the magnificently colored leaves into one giant pile, and one by one took turns falling freely into the expression of color. Sadly though, these memories of fall are drawn to an end as the lives of Jim and Antonia begin another piece of the cycle, winter.
Catherís interpretation of winter in My Antonia is rather harsh. Winter is the unexpected, unwelcome visitor. Dropping in suddenly, winter is used by Cather to turn the lives of each character, in a completely new direction. One very evident feature of winter, and a connection brought by Cather into the story, is that with death. Winter is hard on each of the families, but the Shimerdaís experience a new pain, worse than that of being in the new country. The loss of Mr. Shimerda during one of the coldest times of winter calls to light the dark and desolate energy of this season. Along with the loss of the Shimerdaís father comes that of Pavel and of Peter. Pavelís disease filled life was intensified and put to rest with the arrival of this cold, nasty winter. With this death came a need for poor, Russian Peter to leave the part of town and start anew. It is possible that these losses caused the new found tension in the relationships between the Burdenís and the Shimerdaís. With the highly anticipated arrival of spring came a roller-coaster of changes for these neighbors.
Willa Cather uses the small bit of spring in Book 1 to draw to conclusion the small conflicts developed in winter. Throughout the winter many changes occur to the landscape, the trees have lost their leaves, the soil is but mud frozen up and unfrozen to create a sloppy mess. With spring around the corner there are small blooming flowers, a fresh smell to the air. Spring should bring around happiness but Willa Catherís characters are in for some worse times. With the arrival of spring comes a new growth in the character of Antonia, her life is now lived as a young manís. She feels responsible to do just as much work as her brother and this change brings worry to Jim. There is tension between the families and their once good old-fashioned neighborly conduct has seemingly disappeared. The sense of hope that lingers in spring is only found in the beautifully strong and simple character of Grandfather. Hope is found in spring, the cycle of life is continuing and by the end of the novel, Willa Cather will be able to truly draw on the beautiful connection of life and the seasons.
Life is a struggle in itself. All men and women experience upís and downís; Willa Catherís characters being no exception. In one cycle of autumn, winter, and spring we can see the way lives can change. In Nebraska the seasons, especially that of winter, bring about harsh changes and Cather develops these well. Simply moving from the beauty and free-spirit of fall to the desolate air of winter signifies the move from life to death, from harmony to hardships. The seasonal cycle between that of winter and spring are significant in the overall changes seen in peopleís lives. Spring is a time of renewal and re-birthing. It is possible we will continue to experience this in Willa Catherís My Antonia.
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