by Willa Cather
My Ántonia Visions of America Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
While the train flashed through never-ending miles of ripe wheat, by country towns and bright-flowered pastures and oak groves wilting in the sun, we sat in the observation car, where the woodwork was hot to the touch and red dust lay deep over everything. The dust and heat, the burning wind, reminded us of many things. We were talking about what it is like to spend one's childhood in little towns like these, buried in wheat and corn, under stimulating extremes of climate: burning summers when the world lies green and billowy beneath a brilliant sky, when one is fairly stifled in vegetation, in the color and smell of strong weeds and heavy harvests; blustery winters with little snow, when the whole country is stripped bare and gray as sheet-iron. (Introduction.1)
Cather's vision of America is strongly rooted in physical setting. It is this setting that determines the lives of the characters, that tests their determination and limits. To be in America in the West is a unique experience in this novel.
Jim is still able to lose himself in those big Western dreams. Though he is over forty now, he meets new people and new enterprises with the impulsiveness by which his boyhood friends remember him. He never seems to me to grow older. His fresh color and sandy hair and quick-changing blue eyes are those of a young man, and his sympathetic, solicitous interest in women is as youthful as it is Western and American. (Introduction. 4)
It's interesting that Jim represents America to the narrator, just as Ántonia represents to Jim the will and beauty of the American West.
One morning the two big bulls, Gladstone and Brigham Young, thought spring had come, and they began to tease and butt at each other across the barbed wire that separated them (1.13.13)
The cow, Brigham Young, is humorously named after the Mormon leader who helped the pioneer movement out West. The cultural references in Cather's novel help to firmly root the story in its very American setting.