My Antonia Essay: Importance of Setting

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The Importance of Setting in My Antonia          The setting of the story has tremendous impact on the characters and themes in the novel "My Antonia" by Willa Cather. Cather's delicately crafted naturalistic style is evident not only in her colorfully detailed depictions of the Nebraska frontier, but also in her characters’ relationship with the land on which they live. The common naturalist theme of man being controlled by nature appears many times throughout the novel, particularly in the chapters containing the first winter.     The Burden's and the Shimerda's, try as they might, cannot fight the harsh climate of the Nebraska prairie. Rather than attempt to control the…show more content…
It isn't difficult to see how the changing climates affect the characters’ moods as well. Many of the squabbles between Jim and Antonia and hardships faced by the two families occur in the fall or winter, whereas the author focuses on the more pleasant aspects of life and the prairie when the weather is glowing. The very lives of the men and women on the frontier are almost entirely dictated by the world surrounding them. They learn to live by the months and the weather, and develop symbiotic relationships with the land they till. As proved in the novel through the characters, the more work man puts into the earth, the greater reward he will receive.     A particularly good example of nature's impact on the characters in the novel occurs when Antonia's father, overcome with grief and despair for his distant homeland, kills himself in the midst of a blizzard. The gray, dead appearance of the land in winter surely accounted for much of Mr. Shimerda's pain, and the rolling plains of "sheet metal" could not begin to compare with his own beloved country. Man must learn to live with Nature, to work with it and still survive. Cather presses this theme time and again, not only in this novel but in 0, Pioneers! and One of Ours as well. Her own childhood on the Nebraska frontier is responsible for this humble attitude towards the natural world.     Cather's story takes place at a turning point in American history,

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