My Antonia Analysis

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In My Antonia, Willa Cather pens a nostalgic story focused on a two people with a unique connection. Jim Burden narrates the story of Antonia Shimerda, the girl next door who happens to be a Bohemian emigrant. Jim moves to his grandparents’ house after his parents die; Antonia arrives in the United States with her family and little else. The two are vastly different, but bond quickly on the Nebraska prairie. Most people who study the novel acknowledge the obvious impact that Antonia has on Jim and see Antonia as “in one way or another, the center of the novel” (Lucenti). With this interpretation, the focus is Antonia’s lasting effect on Jim- with not as much thought of how the latter affects his older neighbor. Throughout My Antonia, Antonia’s life is shaped by her relationship with Jim. When the Shimerdas first move to the Nebraskan prairies, Jim has just moved in with his grandparents. Jim and Antonia become friends immediately, and it seems as though all will go well for the young girl. Along with being a friend, Jim fulfills Mr. Shimerda’s request of being a teacher to his new neighbor, helping Antonia learn English. This creates a positive tone, as Antonia is thriving in her new country. However, the mood shifts abruptly from joyful to somber with a harsh winter and the death of Antonia’s father. These events cause the two kids to drift apart, and the effects on Antonia are evident as she withdraws from Jim and his family. Jim notes that “before the spring was
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