Symbolism In My Antonia

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In My Antonia, Nebraska’s western, seasonal environment serves to reflect the mood and events of Jim Burden’s childhood and coming-of-age. Willa Cather’s use of pathetic fallacy, as well as imagery and symbolism, throughout “The Shimerdas,” “The Hired Girls,” “Lena Lingard,” “A Pioneer Woman’s Story,” and “Cuzak’s Boys” illustrates a strong relationship between Jim Burden, Antonia, and the land. Besides marking the points of major transition and reconciliation in Jim’s life, primarily at the start or end of “books,” the environment conveys the turbulent cycle of connection and disconnection between Jim and Antonia as they grow together and then apart. The fluctuating western environment of America is modeled in My Antonia to reflect Jim Burden’s various moments of birth, death, and rebirth as he grows up, often in time with the seasons. Jim arrives in Nebraska in the fall, reborn into a strange new world, where “there was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.” (7) Like a fresh slate, Nebraska’s landscape offered a place for Jim to first experience “the fresh, easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide,” (11) much like the hide Jim was first wrapped in when he got off the train. In the summer, which concludes “The Shimerdas,” the incoming storm symbolises and personifies change that is to come in both Jim and Antonia’s lives: the move to town and the inevitable
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