by Willa Cather
My Ántonia Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
Wash-day was interesting, never dreary, at the Harlings'. Preserving-time was a prolonged festival, and house-cleaning was like a revolution. When Mrs. Harling made garden that spring, we could feel the stir of her undertaking through the willow hedge that separated our place from hers. (2.2.2)
The Harlings represent a typical life in town in the American West. Cather uses them to show her readers what life was like in this specific time and place.
The pale, cold light of the winter sunset did not beautify--it was like the light of truth itself. When the smoky clouds hung low in the west and the red sun went down behind them, leaving a pink flush on the snowy roofs and the blue drifts, then the wind sprang up afresh, with a kind of bitter song, as if it said: "This is reality, whether you like it or not. All those frivolities of summer, the light and shadow, the living mask of green that trembled over everything, they were lies, and this is what was underneath. This is the truth." It was as if we were being punished for loving the loveliness of summer. (2.6.2)
In Cather's vision of America, the physical landscape and the weather play an important role in determining the lives, moods, and actions of the populace. Even after Jim and Ántonia have moved into the town, the natural elements still dominate.
I thought the attitude of the town people toward these girls very stupid. If I told my schoolmates that Lena Lingard's grandfather was a clergyman, and much respected in Norway, they looked at me blankly. What did it matter? All foreigners were ignorant people who couldn't speak English. There was not a man in Black Hawk who had the intelligence or cultivation, much less the personal distinction, of Ántonia's father. Yet people saw no difference between her and the three Marys; they were all "hired girls" (2.9.5).
Social issues regarding immigrants is one of the focuses of Cather's portrait of America. She presents the situation as objectively as possible – the portrait is descriptive and not prescriptive.