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My Ántonia

My Ántonia

by Willa Cather

Man and the Natural World Theme

The natural landscape and the weather both play a large part in setting the atmosphere and depicting the actions and mindsets of the characters in My Ántonia. Because the characters we meet are farmers, they are dependent on the natural world for their livelihood and therefore greatly affected by its changes. A harsh winter, for example, leads (perhaps indirectly, but still), to suicidal despair. The vast Nebraskan landscape is tied up with the novel's themes of youth and coming-of-age. (See "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" for more on this.) The relationship between man and the natural world is both humbling and awe-inspiring for the characters, which respect and admire the beauty of the prairie landscape.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Cather spends a lot of time just describing what the landscape looks like. What is her point behind this lengthy description?
  2. How does the physical setting of Jim's location – country, town, etc. – impact the development of his character?
  3. What is the relationship, in Jim's mind, between Ántonia and the natural landscape?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Jim belongs in the country, not in the town.

Jim belongs in the town, not in the country.

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