My Ántonia is as much a coming of age story as any other genre. Protagonist Jim Burden begins the novel as a ten-year-old boy and the story follows his character through adolescence, college, and into adulthood. As readers we watch Jim grow up on the prairie in more ways than one, and the general tone toward youth seems to be one of nostalgia. Jim develops ideas about manhood and learns what it means to suffer and withstand. He learns about friendship and later about romance. Cather seems to parallel Jim's own coming of age with that of the country. In fact Jim notes when the novel begins that the plains of Nebraska are the stuff of which countries are made. It's likely that Cather modeled Jim's fictional youth on her own youth in Nebraska. She bases many of the characters and places in the story on real-life models from her own experiences.
Jim's character is never typical of his age group throughout the novel.
Jim's coming-of-age is made parallel with the country's own coming-of-age with regard to the American West.