What Does The Snake Symbolize In My Antonia

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In My Antonia, Cather uses symbols from nature to express the essential aspects of the lives of the characters. Three of these symbols include the prairie, the sunset and rattlesnakes. The characters’ lives and relationships are formed through these symbols.
The prairie is vast and was a difficult place to live. The weather is harsh and growing crops was back breaking work. The people who settled there had to be tough and learn to rely on themselves and their neighbors to survive. Antonia’s life was all about the country and the prairie and working the land, "I'm a country girl...and I doubt if I'll be able to manage so well for him in a city. I was counting on keeping chickens, and maybe a cow.” Jim’s life was about growing up with the people of the prairie and moving to the city to
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“That snake hung on our corral fence for several days; some of the neighbors came to see it and agreed that it was the biggest rattler ever killed in those parts. This was enough for Antonia. She liked me better from that time on, and she never took a supercilious air with me again. I had killed a big snake — I was now a big fellow.” This snake can represent the natural dangers of living on the prairie. It can also represent greedy dishonest people, like Krajiek, who took advantage of the immigrants, like the snake that preyed on the prairie dogs. “The Bohemian family, grandmother told me as we drove along, had bought the homestead of a fellow-countryman, Peter Krajiek, and had paid him more than it was worth.” He also cheated the Russians, Peter and Pavel. “They hated Krajiek, but they clung to him because he was the only human being with whom they could talk or from whom they could get information.” Antonia’s family “kept him in their hole and fed him for the same reason that the prairie dogs and the brown owls housed the rattlesnakes — because they did not know how to get rid of
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