Notes on My Antonia Themes

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My Antonia Topic Tracking: Isolationism

Isolationism 1: An adult Jim Burden travels often on business. He feels lonely and isolated, as he has a rather unhappy and loveless marriage and a busy job that takes him away on business often. Jim's life is very different from his friend Antonia Shimerda Cuzak's life; Antonia is surrounded by her large family and farm.

Isolationism 2: When Jim first arrives in the tiny but flat and wide prairie town of Black Hawk, he is not the only one to feel as if he is a mere figure in a large world. The Shimerdas, the Bohemian family who has immigrated to America, also feel even more confused and scared in a world and place so different from the country they had left behind.

Isolationism 3: Jim is terribly frightened by the wideness of the land. He feels as if he is the only person for miles and miles around. The absence of human life on the prairie discombobulates him. Jim feels isolated from those around him as he looks around his surroundings on the prairie.

Isolationism 4: Like Mr. Shimerda, Russian Peter and Pavel also feel isolated. The three of them miss their native countries and they ache to return there. Their friendship cannot bring them back to the rich language and culture of the countries they had left behind.

Isolationism 5: Ever since the very first moment Jim met Mr. Shimerda, he sees that the old man aches to return to Bohemia. Antonia's father is sad about the hard life he and his family must endure. Jim recognizes the sadness and the heartache in Mr. Shimerda, who is the only one of the Shimerdas to feel as such. Mr. Shimerda feels alone in this new world.

Isolationism 6: After Pavel dies and Peter moves away, Mr. Shimerda feels even more isolated. He takes the loss of his two friends hard. Without the Russians to talk to, he feels as if he has no one to turn to. His Antonia may be the light of his life, but not even Antonia can bring him back to Bohemia.

Isolationism 7: The Shimerdas' hard life on the farm disheartens them all, but their poverty especially affects Mr. Shimerda. When Antonia's father visits the Burdens' at Christmas, Jim notices that he had not seen Mr. Shimerda look so content and happy until he was sitting with them in the kitchen. Jim feels sad that Mr. Shimerda does not get the peace and happiness he so rightfully deserves.

Isolationism 8: Antonia tells Jim that she knows her father is terribly sad and alone in the new country. It was her mother who made the family move, so that Ambrosch could become wealthy. Mr. Shimerda feels so isolated in America that he cannot bring himself to play music on his beloved fiddle, which he had loved playing in Bohemia.

Isolationism 9: Mr. Shimerda's death hits Antonia hard. Mrs. Burden says in dismay and sadness, "He's left her alone in a hard world". Now that her father has killed himself, Antonia herself must feel alone. With her complaining and surly mother and brother, Antonia has no one in the family whom she loved as much as she loved her father.

Isolationism 10: Jim feels that Mr. Shimerda's spirit is probably with the Burdens in their kitchen, as it is the only place where he ever felt happy and content. He knows that homesickness is what killed Mr. Shimerda; the old man simply could not live in isolation any longer.

Isolationism 11: Mr. Shimerda is buried on a corner of the Shimerdas' property, where one day two roads will cross in an intersection. Later, an adult Jim finds that there are two roads now crossing each other, but Mr. Shimerda's grave is made into a little island between the two roads. Even in death, the poor old man is isolated from others.

Isolationism 12: While in town, Lena helps her younger brother, Chris, shop for presents for the family. As she and Jim watch Chris leave town for the Lingards' farm in the country, Lena cries. She misses her family and the life she left behind for the chance to work in town. As with the other hired girls, Lena finds that she feels alone in town, with no family to turn to or no farm to live on.

Isolationism 13: A beaming and glowing Antonia tells Jim that she can never be lonely on the farm she lovingly created with the help of her husband and children. Now that she has achieved her dream, she finds that she has everything she wanted and more: a large farm, animals, a barn, orchards and gardens.

Isolationism 14: Antonia's husband, Cuzak, admits that he feared isolation and loneliness on the farm, but Antonia's caring, understanding heart made him happier than he could have ever thought he would be. Their brood of children and their large farm have made Cuzak a blessed man, a man who could never be lonely as long as he has Antonia by his side.

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