by Willa Cather
My Ántonia Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
The quiet was delightful, and the ticking clock was the most pleasant of companions. I got "Robinson Crusoe" and tried to read, but his life on the island seemed dull compared with ours. (1.14.26)
Jim does portray himself as a sort of American Hero, engaged in adventure in dangerous territory. His highly romanticized way of looking at his past only contributes to this sort of exaggeration.
I never came upon the place without emotion, and in all that country it was the spot most dear to me. I loved the dim superstition, the propitiatory intent, that had put the grave there; and still more I loved the spirit that could not carry out the sentence-- the error from the surveyed lines, the clemency of the soft earth roads along which the home-coming wagons rattled after sunset. Never a tired driver passed the wooden cross, I am sure, without wishing well to the sleeper. (1.16.13)
This is a reminder that the "portrait of America" we see painted in this novel is decidedly color by Jim's attitude of romanticized nostalgia. The whole vision has a rose-colored veneer to it. In this passage, for example, Jim finds a sublime beauty even in Mr. Shimerda's death.
I thought my oration very good. It stated with fervour a great many things I had lately discovered. Mrs. Harling came to the Opera House to hear the Commencement exercises, and I looked at her most of the time while I made my speech. Her keen, intelligent eyes never left my face. Afterward she came back to the dressing-room where we stood, with our diplomas in our hands, walked up to me, and said heartily: "You surprised me, Jim. I didn't believe you could do as well as that. You didn't get that speech out of books." (2.13.19)
Cather gave a similar speech at her own graduation. Details such as this one show how much of her own life Cather has chosen to insert into this vision of America.