My Antonia Essay: Theme of Separation

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Theme of Separation in My Antonia


My Antonia, by Willa Cather, is a book tracing the story of a young man, Jim Burden, and his relationship with a young woman, Antonia Shimerda. Jim narrates the entire story in first person, relating accounts and memories of his childhood with Antonia. He traces his journey to the Nebraska where he and Antonia meet and grow up. Jim looks back on all of his childhood scenes with Antonia with nearly heartbreaking nostalgia. My Antonia, is a book that makes many parallels to the sadness and frailty, but also the quiet beauty in life, and leaves the reader with a sense of profound sorrow. One of the main ways Cather is able to invoke these emotions in the reader is through the ongoing theme of
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She describes the beautiful relationship of her father and a trombone player and how much her father had cried and pleaded with Antonia's mother to stay in the old country. (A quote would be useful here.)  Out of love and duty, Antonia's father had given up everything he loved for his family. This builds the reader up to hoping that maybe the father can again be happy in America, that maybe everything will be fine. Then he kills himself, an abrupt and incredibly sad and poignant parting. The trend of parting is beginning to be associated with the finality of death.


            Another way Cather expresses the inevitability of these separations is through the changing seasons. In summer everyone in the story is happy and Cather uses beautiful, descriptive imagery that brings to life a world that is alive and wonderful. (A quote from the novel would be useful here.) Inevitably though, summer is followed by the sobering fact of winter. Winter, in Cather's narration becomes synonymous with death, sickness and separation. The characters in the story always loathe winter, but most of them also find a beauty in it. This suggests that in the inevitability of the sadness and partings of life, there is some meaning.


In the course of the story, the two Russians come and go, telling their own tale of sadness. Otto and Jake leave as
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