Notes on My Antonia Themes

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My Antonia Topic Tracking: Landscape

Landscape 1: The introduction of the novel foreshadows the connection between the characters and the country. As adults, Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda are reminded of their childhood days when walking about the prairie. Jim immediately connects Antonia to the land. He recounts his life with Antonia in a portfolio.

Landscape 2: The sight of the wide, rolling prairie frightens Jim. He feels as if he can be suffocated in the land. Having only known the land of his parents' home in Virginia, he cannot imagine the expansive land stretching out for miles and miles with no sign of people or activity.

Landscape 3: Although the prairie scares him at first, Jim soon enjoys playing in it after he spends time in his grandmother's garden. The garden, to Jim, is a haven; he experiences feelings of happiness and content in the garden that he had never felt before. For the first time, Jim feels connected to the land which he had abhorred so much. The well-preserved garden, full of flowers and vegetables, assures him that humans, when they die, become a part of something whole - Nature.

Landscape 4: Jim enjoys spending time in the country even more when he is with Antonia. The two children spend glorious autumn afternoons playing together. The autumn season affects the land, giving it a warmer, a more loving feel to the land, and the two of them especially enjoy playing in the late afternoon sun. Jim and Antonia feel the same way about the country as the season and sun do.

Landscape 5: The summer season lifts Antonia's depressed and saddened spirits. After the death of her father last winter, Antonia is cheered by the land reworking itself for the threshing of crops and harvesting. Antonia truly is connected to the land; she is never happier than when she is outside, in the country. Jim and his grandmother are happy to see a joyful and blissful Antonia enjoying herself on the prairie after the hard winter she had just survived.

Landscape 6: Jim spends an afternoon with the hired girls, picnicking on the countryside. Antonia sees plants that were grown in her native Bohemia by the river bank, and starts to cry, remembering her old life and country. Jim and Antonia remember how much her father missed his old country, and Antonia declares that she can never forget her native country or her father, no matter how much she changes. Antonia and her father are connected to the land, which they loved so much.

Landscape 7: The image of the plough against the sunset is magnificent to Jim and the hired girls. They are totally mesmerized and spellbound by the sight of the plough in the field nearby. What the plough represents touches each one of them, even Jim, but most of all the hired girls. A plough is the old, hand-held machine farm families used for threshing wheat. Looking at the plough against the horizon brings back memories of the lives spent on their families' farms, which they had all left to work in town.

Landscape 8: Jim visits the Widow Steavens, who rents the Burdens' farm when they move to town, to learn the story of Antonia's desertion and the birth of her baby. The country which had been wild and undisturbed is now an orderly, healthy, and vital community. What used to be small dugouts are wooden houses, the wild fields have turned into fields plentiful with crops, and farms and orchards permeate the land. Jim is genuinely happy about the change in the land since he left. To him, an orderly, healthy land means happy people.

Landscape 9: Jim visits Antonia after he talks with Widow Steavens. They are both reminded of their childhood by the landscape that has become so familiar to them, the land in which they played as children. The trees, the river, the shucks of wheat, and the fields immediately bring their state of minds to a time of friendship and innocence. The land will always remind them of each other, no matter how far apart they are.

Landscape 10: Antonia and Cuzak's farm is large and plentiful. The farm boasts several orchards, a barn, a windmill, and a fruit cellar. Continuing the idea that a healthy, orderly farm means a healthy, happy community, Antonia shows the goodness of her family and her farm. Jim is extremely proud of Antonia for overcoming public shame and humiliation to fulfill her destiny of motherhood. She lovingly cares for the land as if it is her child. In turn, the land rewards her with all that it can. Antonia knows she can never be as happy anywhere outside of the country.

Landscape 11: Jim returns to Black Hawk. The familiar landscape again draws him to remember his childhood spent on the prairie. He knows that the land will always connect him to Antonia, even though they lead different lives and are miles apart. The land had brought him and Antonia together, and it will continue to bring them together in the future.

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