by Willa Cather
My Ántonia Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
Beyond the pond, on the slope that climbed to the cornfield, there was, faintly marked in the grass, a great circle where the Indians used to ride. Jake and Otto were sure that when they galloped round that ring the Indians tortured prisoners, bound to a stake in the centre; but grandfather thought they merely ran races or trained horses there. […] The old figure stirred me as it had never done before. (1.9.2)
While narrator-Jim is nostalgic for his childhood past, the character-Jim harbors a similarly romanticized view of the past belonging to the natural landscape. Days gone by always seem better than the present.
"I don't know, something has." Ántonia tossed her head and set her jaw. "A girl like me has got to take her good times when she can. Maybe there won't be any tent next year." (2.10.5)
Ántonia, like Jim, has grasped the central conflict summed up in the novel's epigraph – "the best days are the first to flee." There is a constant sense of transience possessed by all the young people in this novel, a sense that these good days simply will not last.
I knew that I should never be a scholar. I could never lose myself for long among impersonal things. Mental excitement was apt to send me with a rush back to my own naked land and the figures scattered upon it. […] I suddenly found myself thinking of the places and people of my own infinitesimal past. They stood out strengthened and simplified now, like the image of the plough against the sun. […] All those early friends […] were so much alive in me that I scarcely stopped to wonder whether they were alive anywhere else, or how. (3.1.8)
Jim gives hints during the course of the novel as to why he is writing this memoir in the first place. The act of composing the memoir is in itself a process of recovering the past, which, interestingly, Jim claims is incommunicable.