My Ántonia can be considered a novel of historical fiction (see "Genre") in that it paints a portrait of the culture of a specific time and place: the American West around the turn of the 19th century. Social issues like racism, immigration, gender roles, and classism, are explored through a fictionalized story that is based on the author's own real experiences. Cather paints of a portrait of a time in America that is both romanticized and nostalgic, imbued with the longing for youth and the beauty of the natural landscape. The novel is noted for its lush, evocative physical descriptions of the prairie, and so this vision of America is as much rooted in physical, outdoor settings as it is in a social climate.
Cather's portrait of the American West is that of a land of sacrifice and suffering.
Cather's portrait of the American West is that of a land of pride and victory.